The Effects of Substance Abuse on Dissociative Identity Disorder

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Alex Barbour
Mary Crocker Cook
Abnormal Psychology

The effects of substance abuse on Dissociative Identity Disorder

“For a variety of reasons there has been little dialogue among the disciplines that study patients with trauma and those that study and treat substance abuse. Little systematic investigation exists on the treatment of DID in general, and substance abuse in DID in particular” (1). Dissociative Identity Disorder is defined in Essentials of Abnormal Psychology as “a disorder in which as many as 100 personalities or fragments of personalities coexist within one body and mind” (Durand & Barlow, pg. 188). More commonly known as “multiple personality disorder,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, also known as The DSM-IV, changed the name to Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, for various reasons. One main reason being that a patients personality is the sum of identities, which may have split off in the past due to individual or multiple traumatic events. Patients believe they have multiple personalities which take on a life of their own within themselves. Professionals sometimes use the term “alters” to reference the multiple personalities associated with DID, and use the term “host” in reference to the patient. “How many personalities live inside one body is relatively unimportant. This change also corrects the notion that multiple people somehow live inside one body” (Durand & Barlow, pg. 189). Dissociative Identity Disorder is also defined as a disturbance in the normally integrative functions of memory, identity, and consciousness.

Mental illness can be brought on due to many different factors, as well as at any age, from childhood to adulthood. Factors included in causing mental illnesses are having a biological relative with a mental illness, stressful life situations, experiences in the womb, and the glue holding this entire paper together, childhood abuse and neglect as well as traumatic experiences.

Dissociative Identity Disorder mainly stems from repeated early childhood abuse, mostly sexual and occasionally physical. In Sybil, a made for television film that tells the true story of a woman suffering from DID, a few facts have been left out and a few names have been switched, but the movie does reference her childhood and for the most part sums up how being sexually abused by her mother more or less resulted in Dissociative Identity Disorder. Doctors and psychologists believe that DID originates in childhood because the child’s brain isn’t fully developed yet, resulting in the child’s ability to “escape” easily. “If the escape blunts the physical and emotional pain just for a minute, chances are you’ll escape again” (Durand & Barlow, pg. 192).

Childhood abuse seems to be the number one cause of Dissociative Identity Disorder, but there are few cases in which the disorder is brought on at a later point in life mainly due to a very traumatic event. Essentials of Abnormal Psychology offers the example of a young woman who witnessed both of her parents die in an explosion in a war-torn minefield. “In a heart-wrenching response, she tried to piece the bodies back together, bit by bit” (Durand & Barlow, pg. 192). Essentials of Abnormal Psychology also dives into the 1986 study Putnam conducted, in which Putnam and his colleagues studied 100 separate cases of dissociative identity disorder and found that a majority of cases did stem from abuse, often times as cruel as what Sybil had to endure. “Such observations have led to wide-ranging agreement that DID is rooted in a natural tendency to escape or ‘dissociate’ from the unremitting negative affect associated with severe abuse (Kluft, 1984, 1991)” (Durand & Barlow, pg. 192).

Dissociative Identity Disorder appears to be portrayed in the media as stigmatized by a number of hysterical symptoms. Symptoms of DID include a lapse in memory, finding yourself in places but not remembering how you got there, finding items but not...
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