How Childhood Trauma Is Linked To ‘Personality Disintegration’

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We have seen in numerous other articles that I have published on this site that if we suffered severe and protracted trauma during childhood we are at significantly increased risk, as adults, as being diagnosed with extremely serious psychiatric conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD).

And, as childhood trauma survivors, if we have been diagnosed with such conditions (and even if we have not, but have still been affected by the kind of adverse childhood experiences which can lead to the development of such disorders)) we are also at increased risk of experiencing what is known as PERSONALITY DISINTEGRATION.

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Personality Disintegration‘?

In order to answer the question : ‘What is meant by personality disintegration?’ it is first useful to describe what is meant by an INTEGRATED PERSONALITY.

An integrated personality can be defined as a personality that has a chatacteristic set of behaviots, cognitions and emotional patterns that operate harmoniously and as a consistent whole ; different aspects of the integrated personality are congrous, well coordinated, compatible and in balance.

In contrast to an integrated personality, a disintegrated personality is one that is fragmented, inconsistent, unpredictable, unbalanced and is made up by different aspects which do not work in harmony with each other but are often in conflict ; as such, the person who has a disintegrated personality has a set of behaviors, attitudes, cognitions, beliefs, traits and emotional patterns that lack unification and are unpredictable.


In extreme cases, personality may disintegrate and fragment to such an extent that the individual develops distinct, separate and split identities / personality states and may receive a diagnosis of DISSOCIATIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER (previously this disorder was referred to as multiple personality disorder but renamed by the American Psychiatric Association in 1884). One hallmark feature of this disorder is that of large gaps in memory which cannot be accounted for in other ways (e,g. physical damage to the brain / extreme drug or alcohol misuse).

Individuals suffering from dissociative identity disorder may also suffer from conditions such as anxiety, depression and self-harming, as well as the disorders already mentioned above. Research suggests that about 90 per cent of those suffering from dissociative identity disorder have suffered severely abusive childhoods.

Finally, it should be re-emphasized that to be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder a person’s symptoms need to be quite extreme and, in fact, individuals are rarely given the diagnosis. As such, symptoms of a ‘split personality’ can be seen as existing on a spectrum with only those at an extreme end of this spectrum fulfilling the criteria for official diagnosis.


Unfortunately, in order to make as much money as possible, film makers have sensationalized and grotesquely distorted and misrepresented what it means to suffer from dissociative identity disorder, frequently portraying such individuals as murderous psychopaths. Films that feature characters purportedly suffering from a ‘split personality’ include : American Psycho, Jekyll And Hyde, Fight Club, Psycho, Shutter Island and The Shining.


Currently, the main treatments one is likely to be offered for the problems described above are counselling, psychotherapy, anti-depressants or a combination of these therapies.


Does Your Personality Feel Fragmented?

Identity Disturbance And Borderline Personality Disorder.

Identity Problems And Their Link To Childhood Trauma.

Childhood Trauma, Identity Problems And How To Tackle Them.



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

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

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

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