Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders

Shirley J. Davis
4 min readDec 14, 2019

In Laymen’s Terms

There are many terms in psychology which, if you are not in the know, may seem obscure or strange. In my experience in speaking in public, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is one term that many folks have never heard or are find confusing and even something to be desired. More understanding of what DID is needs to be spread among the public so that movies and television programs that attempt to use the effects of dissociation to sell movie tickets and advertising spots, lose their flavor. Awareness is the driving force behind the writing of this explanation of dissociative identity disorder in layman’s terms.


All humans dissociate. Dissociation is a fancy word for “zoning out”. This is the human brain’s way of dealing with overwhelming circumstances, and boredom. However, this defense mechanism can be taken to the extreme, and then it becomes a life-changing obstacle. This problem is then called a dissociative disorder. There are four major types of dissociative disorders, with the most extreme expression of them being dissociative identity disorder.

Dissociation isn’t an unusual or unhealthy mental mechanism. A good example of a common dissociative incidence most people find familiar is felt in the movie theatre. Allow me to explain.

You go to the theater to see a movie you have been looking forward to for months. You sit down in an empty row with your popcorn and soda, and the movie begins. Soon, you get thoroughly engrossed in the film’s plot. After the movie ends, you are surprised at the late hour. Not only this, but you suddenly become aware that there are people sitting beside you that weren’t there when you began watching the movie and that you have eaten your popcorn and drank your soda. You have little recollection of the other people seating themselves beside you, or of your eating and drinking your treats.

This is a common form of dissociation.

With dissociative identity disorder, this human ability to dissociate, causes one to become disconnected from their thoughts, feelings, and memories. In this state, the survivor feels protected from what their mind has determined to be overwhelming circumstances. It is all done unconsciously, just as dissociating in the theatre was done.

Alternate Ego States



Shirley J. Davis

I am an author/speaker/grant writer in the U.S. My passion is authoring information about mental health disorders, especially dissociative identity disorder..