Dissociative Identity Disorder

Topics: Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociation, Sexual abuse Pages: 6 (2372 words) Published: March 14, 2006
Dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, is one of the most intriguing and least understood of mental disorders. "Dissociative identity disorder is characterized by the presence of "...at least two separate ego states, or alters, different modes of being and feeling and acting that exist independently of each other, coming forth and being in control at different times" (Davison and Neale, pg180). "Each personality is fully integrated and a complex unit with unique memories, behavior patterns, and social relationships that determine the nature of the individual's acts when that personality is dominant" (Breiner, pg 149). While psychologists now recognize childhood abuse as a precipitant of DID, the general public is, for the most part, unaware of the strong, almost universal connection. "The vast majority (as many as 98 to 99%) of DID individuals have documented histories of repetitive, overwhelming, and often life-threatening trauma at a sensitive developmental stage of childhood." (DID (MPD) pg2). The two main types of abuse that occur are sexual, involving incest, rape, molestation, and sodomy, and physical, involving beating, burning, cutting, and hanging. Neglect and verbal abuse are also contributing factors. DID is more common among women, probably because females are more frequently subjected to sexual abuse than males. This disorder is often referred to by professionals as; "Emergency defense system. As a child dissociates, or breaks the connection between his/her thoughts, feelings, and his/her very identity, he/she becomes like a ‘hidden observer who does not have to deal with the pain or fear of the attack. (Alexander, pg 94) All thoughts and memories of the abuse are psychologically separated from the child. After repeated abuse, this dissociation becomes reinforced. If the child is good at it, he/she will use it as a defense mechanism in any situation that he/she perceives as threatening, and different personalities begin to develop. "Trance-like behavior in children has been found to be the single best predictor of childhood dissociative identity disorder." (Carlson, pg118) It has been documented that dissociative identity disorder can only develop during childhood, usually between the ages of 3 and 9. There is no "adult onset" dissociative identity disorder, due to the fact that "Only children have sufficient flexibility (and vulnerability) to respond to trauma by breaking their self into different, dissociated parts." (Rainbow House, pg 2) It has also been found that only children who are highly susceptible to hypnosis are able to accomplish dissociative behavior. This is because a hypnotic state is very similar to the trance-like states that the children enter into, so if the children can be easily hypnotized, they can also easily go into trances. Others respond to their abuse in a more typical fashion. Children with dissociative identity disorder may have several different alters or personalities, each with its own distinct characteristics and strengths. These alters become dominant at different times according to the outside stressors, but "...there are usually only 3 to 6 alters who are particularly active...on any given day." (Rainbow House, pg3) "When active, this alters May or may not be apparent to observers, in fact, the personality differences in children with dissociative identity disorder tend to be subtle and less in number than seen in adults suffering from this disorder." (Kluft, pg55) When alters are of different ages, talents, or temperaments, the distinctions between them become more obvious. It is also interesting to note that the same may be true for the dissociative identity disorder sufferer him/herself; that is, one personality may or may not be aware of the existence of another personality. In some cases, there may be an awareness of only one or two of many alter, in others, an awareness of all. Dissociative identity disorder individuals...

Cited: 1. Davison, Gerald, and John Neale. Abnormal Psychology. New York, Chichester, Brisbane, Toronto, Singapore: John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1996.
2. Carlson, et al. Split Minds, Split Brains. New York and London: New York University Press, 1986. Split Minds/Split
3. Coons, Philip. Child Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder. (April 13, 1997)
4. Rainbow House. The Collective Homepage of Rainbow House. (April 13,1997)
5. Breiner, Sander J. "Multiple Personality." Psychological Reports v76 (April 1995): 419-422.
6. Kluft, Expressive and Functional Therapies in the Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1993.
7. Kluft RP (1991), Clinical presentations of multiple personality disorder. Psychiatr Clin North Am 14:605-629
8. American Psychiatric Association (1994), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV). Washington, DC
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