Dissociative disorders are characterized by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory. People from all age groups and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience a dissociative disorder.
It is estimated that 2% of people experience dissociative disorders, with women being more likely than men to be diagnosed. Almost half of adults in the United States experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode in their lives, with only 2% meeting the full criteria for chronic episodes.
Doctors diagnose dissociative disorders based on a review of symptoms and personal history. A doctor may perform tests to rule out physical conditions that can cause symptoms such as memory loss and a sense of unreality (for example, head injury, brain lesions or tumors, sleep deprivation or intoxication). If physical causes are ruled out, a mental health specialist is often consulted to make an evaluation.
An estimated 2000 children die each year of abuse. Head trauma is the most common cause of death from physical abuse. Intra-abdominal injuries from impacts are the second most common cause of death. Girls experience childhood sexual abuse more commonly than boys, with a female-to-male ratio of 10:1. Girls, more than boys, are most at risk for sexual abuse. In 1991, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System indicated that 24% of 838,232 reports were for physical abuse and that 7% of children who were abused were younger than 1 year, 27% were younger than 4 years, and 28% were aged 4-8 years. The rate of reports decreases for older children. Early age at onset was also correlated with a higher degree of dissociation.