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Dissociation is an unconscious psychological mechanism, by which an intolerable emotional conflict is so cut off from the patient's consciousness that the patient becomes unaware of it.

If this mechanism is used excessively then it constitutes the central feature of dissociation hysteria, and takes the form of amnesias, trances, etc in which the patient is not only cut off from his psychological distress but from many other aspects of his experience.

Dissociative states are mental symptoms in the absence of organic brain disease, in which there is narrowing of the field of consciousness which may be limited to one area of experience. Examples are amnesia and fugue (wandering) states.

Last reviewed 01/2018