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Do Dissociative Disorders cause Drug Use?

by General Marketing

Research has shown that addiction and mental illness are commonly co-occurring in patients. People who struggle with undiagnosed mental health issues are also more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol, making comprehensive treatment vital and potentially life-saving. The connections between these two factors can help advance addiction science and addiction prevention in the future.

What are Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociative disorders are generally defined as disrupting the role of memory, identity, emotion, perception, sense of self, and behavioral regulation. Although the symptoms seem vague, this condition disrupts nearly every brain function, making day-to-day tasks difficult. People who suffer from dissociative disorder often describe it as breaking from reality or being detached or outside of themselves or their memories. These episodes can quickly alter someone’s emotional state and behavior, possibly endangering their safety and wellbeing.

3 Types of Dissociative Disorders:

  • Dissociative identity disorder: once called “multiple personality disorder,” revolves around several different self-identities with separate mannerisms, voices, and characteristics. Those with DID have long and short-term memory gaps.
  • Dissociative amnesia: sudden onset memory loss of personal information, usually involving details of traumatic events. Episodes can last for minutes, days, weeks, or even months.
  • Depersonalization disorder: most commonly entails feeling detached from the body and emotions, as though a person is watching their life play out before them like in a movie. Derealization can occur, making all things seem surreal. Most experience symptoms before the age of 20.


  • Memory loss, or blocking out specific people, times, or events
  • Emotional numbness or lack of reaction to emotional stimuli
  • Anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation
  • Low “sense of self” or regard for wellbeing

These disorders are frequently tied to traumatic experiences. About 90% of people with dissociative disorders were victims of abuse and neglect in their childhood. Others report trauma stemming from events such as combat, sexual assault, accident and injury, and many other instances that cause extreme emotional and physical distress. The disorders are usually a way the brain resorts to dealing with the traumatic experiences. Dissociating takes the person “away” from specific triggers or events mentally and emotionally to protect them, although it’s more aptly described as simply “shutting down” instinctual reactions.

Can Drug use cause Dissociative Disorder?

Unfortunately, for many people who live with an undiagnosed mental illness such as dissociative disorders, self-medication with substance misuse is a common coping mechanism. In turn, the spiral of addiction that often follows only makes symptoms worse and puts them at greater risk of encountering triggers.

While traumatic events from the past can cause dissociative disorders, substance misuse can intensify symptoms greatly. Certain drugs can produce symptoms similar to dissociation, or what is colloquially described as “black or brown-outs” where memory is hindered, as well as those that alter reality in the form of hallucinations. Additionally, those who struggle with addiction for an extended period of time have an increased risk of experiencing traumatic events such as violence, life-threatening medical events, sexual assault, homelessness, and other difficult circumstances.

HCRC provides evidence-based addiction treatment methods that have shown to increase patients’ chances of achieving long-lasting recovery greatly. Specialized medical providers who understand the science of substance use disorder attend to each patient’s overall wellness, including mental health. To learn more about outpatient medication-assisted treatment, message or call a local HCRC clinic today.


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General Marketing

General Marketing

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