Welcome to Dissocia

Artwork by Rachel Elise
Artwork by Rachel Elise

Ever arrived at a destination and thought to yourself, “How in the world did I get here?”  You may have heard this phenomena referred to as “highway hypnosis” or “hypnotic absorption.”  This “lost time experience” is a form of every-day dissociation and happens to all of us.

Imagine, for a moment, if you were to spend much of your life in this state of dissociation.  Such is the case for Lisa in The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson.

Dissociative Identity Disorder commonly stems from repetitive childhood abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) or trauma.  Dissociation in childhood can be considered adaptive because it reduces the overwhelming distress created by trauma.  When the original danger no longer exists, it can be maladaptive. 

An adult with DID may disconnect from potentially dangerous situations without placing them in context or determining if there is real danger.  The zone out and become unable to protect themselves from real danger.

Self regulation can take many forms: derealization, amnesia, identity confusion, and depersonalization.

This week the cast of Dissocia spoke with four guests about their work or personal experience with DID in order to better share Lisa’s story.


Monday evening, we spoke with Tracy Howard and Rachel Elise of the Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute.  Both speakers are involved in DID education and advocacy and live with Dissociative Disorders themselves.

Dissociative disorders are treatable, but so much of the work comes from the patient.    In treating DID, they said, the focus is self-knowledge.  When a person dissociates, their inner person divides into many “child parts,” each with characteristics and coping mechanisms for different situations.  The goal in psychotherapy is to unify those parts.  This is no easy task.  Tracy informed us, “Part of therapy is coming to grips with the trauma that occurred.  There is a lot of grieving in the healing process.”

Why is dissociative disorder not well known?

It only really started being written about in the 1980s.  Now it is gaining more attention because after September 11, 2001, the world started to recognize that PTSD is not restricted to military experience.  Trauma of any kind can cause a damaging response.

Is Dissociative Disorder a mental illness?

We refer to it as a trauma response.

Do we medicate DID patients?

Medication may be useful in treating the depression and anxiety that often comes with DID.  The disorder itself requires psychotherapy for any healing to take place.

When is DID usually diagnosed?

Unfortunately, DID is often misdiagnosed for years before it is recognized for what it is.  Partly, this is due to the fact that the patient may have blocked the memory of trauma.

One of the cast members asked, “What is one message you would like us to send our audience?”

“DID is preventable.  It’s about how we treat people.”


-Katie Ryan, Director of Education and Outreach