Dissociative Personality Disorder, Overdose and Addiction

Dissociative Personality Disorder, Overdose and Addiction

Dissociation is a psychological phenomenon that involves detachment from reality (though not a complete absence from reality as in psychosis) and occurs on a continuum of varying degrees of severity. The low end of the dissociation continuum includes experiences that everyone has experienced at times such as daydreaming. Higher on the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness such as those induced by psychedelic drugs. At the high end of the continuum are dissociative disorders which are pathological and qualify as mental illness. These include depersonalization disorder (a feeling that one’s self or the world are unreal), dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue (forgetting one’s identity and/or assuming a new identity), and dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder, not to be confused with schizophrenia).

How Dissociation Relates to Substance Abuse and Addiction

There is a high correlation between dissociation and trauma, especially sexual abuse, suffered in childhood (a powerful depiction of this can be seen in the film Sybil starring Sally Field). There is also a strong correlation between the severity of the past abuse and the degree of dissociation. However, the presence of dissociation does not necessarily indicate having suffered abuse in childhood. Dissociation may be triggered by simple stress, substance abuse, or may have no discernible trigger.

Those who suffer from dissociative disorders often also display other symptoms including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, social dysfunction, self-harming behavior, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. It is likely that any of these symptoms co-occurring with dissocation stem from the same cause. However, the presence of other symptoms often leads the patient and physicians to conclude erroneously that the symptoms are the cause of the dissociative state rather than a result of a common cause such as childhood trauma or abuse.

In some cases a dissociative state may be induced by abuse of psychoactive drugs. However, in such cases the dissociation is non-pathological and is usually temporary, compared to a true pathological dissociative disorder, which tends to be chronic. Drugs that may induce a dissociative state include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • LSD
  • Peyote
  • Salvia
  • Psilocybin
  • Alcohol
  • Ketamine
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Dextromethorphan
  • PCP
  • Tiletamine
  • Methoxitamine
  • Muscimol
  • Atropine
  • Ibogaine

Overdosing or otherwise ingesting large doses of any of these drugs increases the risk of experiencing a dissociative reaction.

Treating Dissociation Coupled with Addiction

There are therapists who specialize in treating dissociative disorders. Treatment requirements vary depending on the individual; often therapy can help patients cope with their dissociative experiences so that they can continue to function at a normal level, and it can also help them address the underlying issues of the dissociation. In cases in which substance abuse or addiction is a co-occurring disorder, addiction treatment can help the patient quit abusing drugs while treatment for dissociation can help resolve the issues that initially caused the patient to seek relief in drug use. However, patients who cannot function on their own or who pose a danger to themselves or others may require hospitalization, in which case any addiction issues also will be treated.

Finding Treatment for Dissociation and Addiction

If you would like help finding a therapist who treats dissociative disorders, or if you have any questions about dissociative disorders, addiction and treatment, call our toll-free helpline. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and help you find the treatment you need.