It’s the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 62nd Annual Mental Health Week. Events and activities are planned all around the country from May 6 to 12 to help raise awareness and support.
I have a mental illness. Actually I have two. As I state in my bio I have Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with a side of Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, wrapped up in some depression and topped with anxiety. The difference between Chronic PTSD and the PTSD you’re probably more familiar with is that acute PTSD usually occurs as a result of a horrific trauma like a car accident, or being engaged in warfare, or getting attacked, or being an officer of the law and having a violent encounter. Symptoms include avoidance of anything that reminds the sufferer of the trauma, nightmares, flashbacks of the trauma, high anxiety, constant vigilance to threat, changes in mood, sleeplessness, panic attacks. These symptoms are intrusive and pervasive and make it very difficult for the sufferer to lead a normal life.
Chronic or Complex PTSD occurs when there are a series of traumas, usually starting in childhood and experienced over and over again. This diagnosis is not formally recognized by the DSM-IV but is one that doctors will assign anyway. Complex PTSD can occur when there is a history of long-term systematic abuse, like survivors of concentration camps, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, long term domestic abuse, and being held prisoner. Whereas acute PTSD has a treatment protocol that can be quite successful, Complex PTSD is harder to treat because you’re integrating not one but sometimes many or years of trauma.
Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is a little tricky to explain, it’s confused with Dissociative Identity Disorder which is the proper name for the term ‘multiple personality disorder’, a condition so widely misunderstood that I won’t add to confusion by attempting to explain it. Sometimes people use the terms ‘split personality’ or ‘bipolar’ when they really mean someone who changes their mind or who shifts moods a lot. Sometimes people use the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to illustrate their point, even though that’s a short work of fiction and has nothing to do with real life.
To explain DDNOS, I’m borrowing from the googles.
Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is diagnosed when a person has certain symptoms of a dissociative disorder, but does not necessarily match the criteria completely for any one disorder. Dissociative Disorder NOS includes the loss of control over mental processes, awareness, memory, identity, personality, perception, physical connection to reality, et cetera.
Symptoms of Dissociative Disorder NOS:
- Disconnection from environment
- Disconnection from identity or personality
- Amnesiac states such as in Dissociative Amnesia
- A feeling of being in a dream like state or in a movie
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- May also exhibit mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder
- Out of ordinary wandering or traveling
- Loss of certain memories or awareness of self
- A sense of “absence”
Causes of Dissociative Disorder NOS
Because Dissociative Disorder NOS is not a fully encompassing diagnosis, it can be hard to determine where exactly the disorder came from. Most dissociative disorders are caused by traumatic experiences or overwhelming psychological stress. They can also run in families, but usually are the result of some difficult event that causes the affected person to dissociate as a kind of defense or coping mechanism. Often, dissociative disorders develop after child abuse, or experiencing/witnessing a horrible event. In this way, it becomes a tangential form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So this is my diagnosis, and the above symptoms are some of the symptoms I live with every day. Tomorrow I’d like to share with you how I got this diagnosis. I’d like to tell you how I went crazy.