Everyday, transient, peri-traumatic (at the time of the trauma) or maladaptive dissociation can be experienced as one of five types.
Depersonalisation affects your sense of your body and/or the sense of yourself in relation to your body or part of it. It includes feeling that your body is unreal or alien, changing or dissolving; that it is invisible or ‘not your body’. It also includes out-of-body experiences, e.g. floating above your body looking down on it – you may not even recognise the body you see as yours- ; or seeing yourself and what you are doing as if watching a film. Other descriptors people use when describing a depersonalisation experience are: feels like I am acting a part; like I am a robot or a puppet or a cardboard cut-out, one dimensional; it seems like I am merely watching/hearing the flow of thoughts through my mind, rather than generating them, rather than actual thinking.
Derealisation is a type of dissociative experience that affects your perception of the environment around you. Thus, the world around you seems unreal and/or unfamiliar; objects seem distorted, seem smaller or bigger than they actually are; you feel spacey, as if looking at the world through a fog, feeling cut off from immediate surroundings; objects seem cartoon-like, two dimensional, dream-like, to shimmer; you don’t feel like you know familiar people; you feel as if you are in a glass bell jar – seeing but not being connected to the world around you.
Amnesia, when it has no organic cause and is more than ordinary forgetfulness is described as dissociative. It is experienced as not being able to remember significant incidents or experiences that happened at a particular time e.g. your wedding, a serious accident you had, childhood and other traumas; or not being able to recall important personal information e.g. your name, where you live, names of your children etc. You may experience ‘lost time’ – like suddenly its minutes, hours, days, (occasionally even longer) later than the time you think it is and you have no memory for the missing time.
Identity confusion is experienced as an uncertainty about who you are. You may feel puzzled or in conflict about who you are. It may feel like there is a constant struggle within to describe who you are; or define yourself a particular way.
Identity alteration includes not having a consistent sense of self; experiencing yourself as different ‘people’ or identities at different times; shifts or switches in the ‘you’ you believe yourself to be; there may be significant changes in your behaviour which could be observable by others e.g. speaking in different voice; using different vocabulary or even a different language; suddenly having a very different posture, sudden change in mood, using a different name; behaving in a child-like or adolescent way different from your actual age. Dissociative identity alteration is experienced as loss of control of yourself to someone else, which distinguishes it from the changing roles in life we all play at times e.g. being different at work than when at home; behaving differently in the parent role than you do as a wife or husband.