Term Paper: Dissociative Disorders

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Dissociative Disorders

In psychopathology, we deal with the study of various mental illness or mental distress. That illness can be "the manifestation of behaviours and experiences which may be indicative of mental illness of psychological impairment" (Wikipedia: 2008). In this field of study, medical professionals such as psychiatrists, neuroscientists, neuropsychiatrists, and clinical psychologists are commonly involved in the treatment of mental-related illness.

Even in the early times, mental illness is often referred to as being possessed by evil spirits. This is because of the unnatural, somewhat strange and weird behavior shown by the person inflected with the disease. The only way to help the persons suffering from mental illness during those days was to torture them in an attempt to drive out the demon. Other religious authorities performed exorcism as a way of releasing the evil spirits who caused the pathological behavior within the person. This process, however, did not guarantee to reinstate the person to his or her sanity. When the torturous methods failed, the mental patients were deemed to be possessed for life and they were placed to asylums or even put to death.

It was in the eighteenth century when a different view of mental illness was introduced. The old belief of evil possession eventually vanished and was replaced by the understanding that the unlikely behavior of a person was more of a disease that is beyond the control of the person. Those patients who were once "victims" of healing misconception served as prototypes for the different forms of medical treatment.

Oftentimes, we hear about the term psychopathy, and this should not be used interchangeably with psychopathology. The former pertains to a type of personality disorder, while the latter, also known as abnormal psychology, is characterized by maladaptive behaviors. Since psychopathology deals with the manifestation of mental or behavioral behavior, the origin, process, development and treatment of a particular mental disease is given attention. Let us focus on how this study is related to the dissociative disorders.

As defined by Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (2002), "dissociative disorders are a group of mental disorders that affect the consciousness defined as causing significant interference with the patient's general functioning, including social relationships and employment, the breakdown of one's perception of his/her surroundings, memory, identity, or consciousness." As the term "dissociative" imply, dissociation characterizes a mechanism that allows the mind to separate or group certain memories or thoughts from normal consciousness. Although these mental contents are split-off, they are not removed from the memory. They may come back on an impulse or be set off by bits and pieces of happenings around the person's surroundings.

Before a person is said to have a mental disorder, he needs to be diagnosed to determine the factors that contributed to his or her present condition and to properly administer the necessary treatment. Dissociative disorders vary in their seriousness and the unexpectedness of occurrence. The gravity of illness may vary, depending on the person's exposure to events that may have triggered such disorder. Certain factors such as traumatic experiences can cause moderate or severe forms of dissociation. These traumatic memories such as physical torture, sexual and emotional abuse, frightening event like accident, and other forms of harassment are stored in the human brain differently as compared to the normal memories.

As the person performs his/her daily activities, the normal memories are processed as it is; however, the traumatic memories are disintegrated and disassociated from the normal state of being. From these traumatic experiences, the person involuntarily forms an alternate personality as a way of escape from the distressing experiences. The person occasionally experiences interruption of consciousness in an inconsistent pattern.

As this condition persists, both the traumatic experiences and the normal experiences will co-exist but separately processed. According to the researches of Mayo Clinic (2007), "people with dissociative disorders chronically escape their reality in involuntary, unhealthy ways ranging from suppressing memories to assuming alternate identities. The patterns of disssociative disorders usually develop as a reaction to trauma and function to keep difficult memories at bay."

Probably, we are interested to know how people get these types of disorders. People who experience brief dissociative experiences are those who have skipped their sleep for a long period of time. If you will notice, those who have met accidents may also experience the same disorder. This also happens to those who are so focused in reading a book or watching a movie as they tend to neglect the passage of time. In these cases, the person's consciousness is temporarily altered. This gap in the patient's memory for long period of times requires serious attention. The patient may have the feeling of being unreal, that his or her body and the other this around is changing, or is dissolving.

It may even come to a point that the patient will act differently, answer in a different name, or appear confused with his or her surroundings (Real Mental Health.com). According to the Awareness Center, "the switching of personalities and the amnesic barriers between them frequently result in chaotic lives. Because the personalities often interact with each other, patients with dissociative identity disorder often report hearing inner conversations and voices of other personalities, which often comment on or address the patient. The voices are experienced as hallucinations."

Once a person shows one or more of the symptoms that we have mentioned above, it is best to seek professional help. As part of the diagnosis, personal history will be taken, together with a series of tests to check on the person's physical condition such as intoxication, head injuries, brain diseases, sleep deprivation and other factors that may affect the loss of memory and unconsciousness in the normal state. The person may be referred to a psychiatrist so that the symptoms and syndromes of mental illness may be described. A neuroscientist, on the other hand, may take charge on the brain changes related to mental illness. These professionals are psychopathologists, who aim to diagnose the individual patient's condition and to see whether the patient's experience fits any pre-existing classification.

At present, mental illness is classified according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). AllPsych Online has provided below, the different multiaxial or multidimensional approach to diagnosing that is used by the DSM. We will discuss it one by one, correlating it to each of the many dissociative disorders such as Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Fugue, Depersonalization Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In assessing the diagnoses, five dimensions are used: Axis I, Axis II, Axis III, Axis IV and Axis V.

Axis I covers the clinical syndromes, were the diagnosis stage is done. For Dissociative Amnesia, the patient experiences sudden loss of memory. The patient becomes unable to remember important personal information to a degree that is beyond explanation of normal forgetfulness. This is commonly associated by severe stress and the mind of the patient has been preoccupied with so much repeated anxiety. The patient sees amnesia as the solution so he or she actively forgets because remembering only brings so much mental pain. The amnesia may be localized or circumscribed, selective, generalized, or continuous.

Localized amnesia, as explained by health-cares.net, "is present in an individual who has no memory of specific events that took place, usually traumatic. The loss of memory is localized with a specific window of time." In the example presented, a survivor of a car wreck who has no memory of the experience until two days later is experiencing localized amnesia. Although the patient with dissociative amnesia may develop depersonalization or trance states a part of the disorder, they do not experience a change in identity. Circumscribed amnesia, on the other hand, is a dissociation of memory in patients whose medial temporal lobe or midline diencephalic brain structure has been damaged. Patients with circumscribed amnesia were observed to perform normally. (Trster: 175,210).

With regard to selective amnesia, American and French CNRS scientists conducted studies to be used to cure patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. They have shown that a memory of a traumatic event can be wiped out, although other, associated recollections remain intact. They further say that recalling an event stored in the long-term memory triggers a reprocessing phase: the recollection then becomes sensitive to pharmacological disturbances before being once more stored in the long-term memory. They used rats to test the effect on the neuronal activity, and found out that a memory can be modified or even wiped out at the cellular level, permanently and independently of other memories associated with it (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique: 2007).

People with generalized amnesia cannot recall who they are, including anything in their entire life. They are usually found by the police or taken by others to a hospital emergency room. Generalized amnesia may be lifelong or may extend from a period in the more recent past, such as six months or a year previously. In an article originally written in Japanese by Takahashi, there… [END OF PREVIEW]

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