Tag Archives: Dissociative Identity Disorder

Does Your Personality Feel ‘Fragmented’?

Some people who experienced significant childhood disorder go on to develop dissociative identity disorder (DID) which causes the different aspects of the person’s personality to be poorly integrated and fragmented which leads to them operating relatively independently of one another.

These fragmented aspects of the personality are often simply referred to as ‘parts’ by psychologists who treat those suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID).

These parts are often in conflict with each other and may not accept or even acknowledge one another but, nevertheless, influence one another to some degree. They are NOT separate personalities (though may feel like they are) but different facets of the person’s personality which have failed to mesh smoothly together into a cohesive, cooperative, whole personality system.

These different parts of the personality vary according to the particular individual suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) but usually have the same basic functions. According to the psychologist and expert in DID, Boon, a typical example of the fragmented parts the poorly integrated personality of person suffering from DID may be made up of are as follows :

   – the ‘daily functioning’ part
   – the ‘young’ part
   – the ‘helper’ part
   – the ‘angry’ part
   – the ‘ashamed’ part

Let’s briefly examine each of these five parts in turn :

The Daily Functioning Part:

This is often the main part of the personality that operates in order to allow one to function on a day-to-day basis.

The Young Part:

This part of the personality may be ‘stuck’ at stage of infant, toddler, child or adolescent. It contains traumatic memories and may experience feelings of dependence, intense need of protection, safety, security and comfort, distrust of others and extreme fear of abandonment and rejection.

This part may also be in conflict with other parts, which are repelled by its neediness and vulnerability.

The Helper Part :

This part attempts to sooth and calm the traumatized ‘inner child.’

The Angry Part :

This part developed at the time of the trauma for the purpose of self-defense and self-protection. Again, it is in conflict with other parts which find it unacceptable.

The Part That Imitates The Abuser :

This part behaves in similar ways to how one’s abuser used to behave towards one and often, like the ‘angry part’, expresses rage and hostility

The Ashamed Part :

This part comprises emotions and behaviours that the individual has labelled as ‘shameful’

NB It is theorized that these parts arose as a result of arrested emotional development and are -stuck in trauma-time.’

According to Boon, these relatively independent parts remain fragmented and dissociated as the they are in conflict with one another and some parts find other parts unacceptable.

The individual needs to come to an accommodation with each of these parts and empathize, in a self-compassionate way, with the reason why they developed (ie in response to early life trauma). Only then can these parts become reconciled with one another, amalgamated and healthily integrated into a cohesive personality and start to express themselves in helpful ways (prior to successful integration they can often generate unhelpful and self-destructive behaviours).

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

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Childhood Trauma: Does ‘Multiple-Personality Disorder’ Exist?

I have written other posts on DISSOCIATIVE DISORDERS of which one is DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER, commonly referred to as ‘MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. I will not repeat what I’ve already said in other posts, but, essentially, DISSOCIATIVE DISORDERS refer to the idea that, under enormous stress, some people will ‘cut off’ (dissociate) from unbearably painful reality (as they perceive it) as a psychological defense mechanism.

In the interests of fairness, I have decided, in this particular post, to look at arguments AGAINST one specific dissociative disorder, namely DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER (D.I.D), or, MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. My own position, for what it’s worth, is one of neutrality.

Although there is a sound and quite compelling theory behind why D.I.D should occur, together with research evidence which purports to support its existence and the idea it is often caused by severe childhood trauma, critics point out weaknesses in this ‘supportive’ research evidence. For example, whilst a correlation has been shown to exist between its reported existence and experiences of childhood trauma also reported by the sufferer, it has been pointed out that a correlation does not necessarily imply causality (as all beginner statisticians know). In other words, just because a person who has reported suffering from D.I.D and also reports having suffered severe childhood trauma, this does not prove that the latter has CAUSED the former.

Some critics go a step furter in their skepticism, and challenge the idea that D.I.D. exists at all. They draw our attention to the fact that much of the ‘evidence’ (I use inverted commas in representation of the critics’ stance) for its existence derives from patient self-reports, as does the ‘evidence’ that they’ve suffered severe childhood trauma. Often, such ‘evidence’ goes entirely uncorroborated.

It has been suggested, even, that in order to support their own theoretical frame-works (which they may have a vested interest in preserving) some psychotherapists may put the idea of the condition into the patient’s head, especially if they use hypnosis as one of their therapeutic tools (the suspicion being the idea of the condition’s existence is given to the patient through suggestion – individuals tend to be, after all, particularly suggestible whilst under hypnosis.

Furthermore, it has been stated that the media must bear some responsibility; many novels and films, after all, have plot lines revolving around a character with ‘multiple personality disorder’. It is said that this does not only fuel the idea of its existence in the public’s imagination, but it may even give certain disturbed individuals ‘the idea’ and they may, in some sense at least, mimic the symptoms they have learned about from such media. Such critics have even suggested the individual purporting to have the condition is doing so in a desperate bid for attention.

I must stress again that my own position is neutral, and, in the interests of such neutrality, I shall conclude by pointing out that very recent research has supported the genuineness of the condition. These researchers have also clearly stated that D.I.D. is likely to serve an adaptive and protective function as a defense-mechanism against intolerable mental anguish, as suggested in my opening paragraph.

I hope you have found this post of interest.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Childhood Trauma, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociation.

childhood trauma

I have already written posts explaining the connection between childhood trauma and BPD. An important symptom of BPD is DISSOCIATION, which this post will examine in greater detail.

Dissociation is generally considered to be a COPING MECHANISM in response to severe trauma or stress. The phenomenon of dissociation can involve feeling disconnected from one’s emotions, one’s memories, one’s thoughts or even from reality itself. It is common in those suffering from BPD; BPD frequently occurs in individuals who have experienced childhood trauma.

Dissociation is, essentially, a way of ‘escaping’ from the stressful situation, or memory of the stressful situation, by changing one’s state of consciousness (this often occurs automatically and without intention); sometimes people report feeling ‘numb’. In situations of terror, one may dissociate, and, paradoxically, feel a detached state of calm. It may feel, too, that the traumatic event is not happening to oneself, but that one is ‘observing the traumatic event from outside of the body’, leading to passivity and emotional detachment.

Dissociative feelings of ‘being outside of oneself’ are described as DEPERSONALIZATION and dissociative feelings of being disconnected from reality are described as DEREALIZATION.

Some experts have described dissociation as working a bit like morphine – dampening down emotional and physical pain. However, it is yet to be properly explained what the exact biological mechanisms are that underpin the dissociative experience.

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The four main types of dissociation are:

1) DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA
2) DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER
3) DISSOCIATIVE FUGUE
4) DEPERSONALIZATION DISORDER

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1) Dissociative Amnesia: here, large parts of, or all, the traumatic event/s cannot be remembered.

2) Dissociative Identity Disorder: this is also known as MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Here, the person adopts two or more distinct, utterly different personas. The different personas talk in different voices, use different vocabularies etc (they can also actually differ in handedness). The different personas do not have access to ‘each others” memories, studies have shown, so they have distinct ‘personal histories’. It is likely that each persona represents a different strategy for coping with stress.

3) Dissociative Fugue: in this state, individuals can disconnect from their previous personalities, and, then, often, travel far from home to take on, and live under, a completely new persona. They may appear normal to others who have never met them before, even though they are living under a completely new identity, having left a whole life and set of memories behind.

4) Depersonalization Disorder: in this state, individuals can feel detached from their bodies or experiences. A phrase I read in a novel recently may aptly illustrate the sensation: ‘it’s like living in a dream underwater.’

A large number of people who have suffered extreme childhood trauma report experiencing such automatic dissociative states. Furthermore, they may often seek to induce dissociative states, deliberately and artificially, as a way of escaping the constant psychological pain resulting from the initial trauma by, for example, USING ALCOHOL TO EXCESS, USING NARCOTICS, SELF-HARMING or GAMBLING. The kinds of psychological state from which the individual is seeking to escape through dissociation include INSOMNIA, NIGHTMARES, FEELINGS OF RAGE and INTENSE ANXIETY.

LONG-TERM PROBLEMS OF DISSOCIATION:

Dissociation may be helpful (adaptive) in the short-term but problems develop when the state persists long after it has served any beneficial purpose. The psychologist ,Lifton, described prolonged states of ‘psychic numbing’ and ‘mental paralysis’ often resulting from a dissociative response to severe trauma. This can make even basic day-to-day functioning extremely problematic and requires professional intervention.

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David Hosier BSc (Hons); MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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