Dissociation is a disconnection between a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of who her or she is. This is a normal process that everyone has experienced. Examples of mild, common dissociation include daydreaming, highway hypnosis or "getting lost" in a book or movie, all of which involve "losing touch" with awareness of one's immediate surroundings. All dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. This aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that is too traumatic to integrate with their conscious self. Symptoms of these disorders are also seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Dissociative disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder. Some of these disorders are listed below:
Dissociative amnesia - characterized by blocking of critical personal information (amnesia)
Dissociative fugue - an individual suddenly and unexpectedly takes physical leave of their surroundings and sets off on a journey of some kind
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) - an individual suffering from DID has more than one distinct identity or personality state that surfaces in the individual on a recurring basis
Depersonalization disorder - the feeling of detachment or distance from one's own experience, body, or self