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Is Trauma Necessary for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

Is Trauma Necessary for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

Dissociative identity disorder has been called a trauma disorder. But what if you don't remember a trauma? Is a DID diagnosis without a trauma memory valid?

Even though dissociative identity disorder (DID) is considered a dissociative disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5, many people refer to it as a trauma disorder. Much like in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), people with DID often have a history of trauma and/or abuse. But is trauma always a requirement for DID?

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Gaslighting and Self-Doubt in Dissociative Identity Disorder

Gaslighting and Self-Doubt in Dissociative Identity Disorder

Life with dissociative identity disorder (DID) is often filled with self-doubt. People with DID doubt their memories and doubt themselves. It is especially difficult in the beginning of a DID diagnosis, when the urge to engage in denial is often the strongest. But the tendency towards self-doubt doesn’t stop there; it can continue for years. One cause of consistent self-doubt is related to a type of psychological abuse experienced by many with DID: gaslighting.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: State-Dependent Memory

Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: State-Dependent Memory

Soon after I began researching anything and everything related to Dissociative Identity Disorder, I came across the idea of state-dependent learning. And though the concept – that things learned or experienced under certain conditions, internal and/or external, are easiest to recall under those same conditions – made sense to me, it didn’t make much of an impression. But recently I had a profound personal experience that illustrated clearly to me both the power of state-dependent learning and the revelation of state-dependent memory recall.

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On Repressed and Recovered Memory in Dissociative Identity Disorder

On Repressed and Recovered Memory in Dissociative Identity Disorder

Repressed and recovered memory isn't as dramatic as you may think. But the memory repressed and recovered may be very dramatic. Learn about how memory can work.

The terms repressed memory and recovered memory gained popularity in the mid-1980’s along with the multiple personality disorder diagnosis. As a result, these terms are still strongly associated with dissociative identity disorder (DID) (the replacement label for MPD in the United States since 1994). They’re also strongly associated with unethical therapeutic practices, false memories of abuse, and lives destroyed by both. And while those associations have merit, repressed and recovered memories aren’t generally as dramatic and rare as their inflammatory connotations suggest. 

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 1: Dissociative Amnesia

Normalizing Dissociation Part 1: Dissociative Amnesia

Clarifying the distinction between relatively normal dissociation and relatively abnormal dissociation is important for a number of reasons, including: 1) understanding what Dissociative Identity Disorder is becomes easier when you can clearly identify what it is not, 2) describing symptoms like dissociative amnesia to others is less of a challenge when you start from a place they can relate to, and 3) those of us with DID could do with regular reminders that we aren’t aberrant life forms and, in fact, a good portion of our dissociative experiences aren’t as far-fetched to other people as we may believe.

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Losing Time: The Insidious Nature of Dissociative Amnesia

Losing Time: The Insidious Nature of Dissociative Amnesia

Losing time is a natural part of living with dissociative identity disorder. But it's not usually as dramatic as most people believe. Dissociative Living blog.

Nothing about dissociative identity disorder is quite what the most popular phrases used to describe it imply. “Losing time” is no exception. When we talk about losing time we’re talking about severe dissociative amnesia which, in a milder form, is something I believe everyone experiences. But the phrase “losing time” suggests a highly dramatic, easily recognizable aberration. In my experience, however, dissociative amnesia is startlingly surreptitious. It’s easy to be unaware that you’re losing time at all.

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My Dissociative Memory is a Problem

My Dissociative Memory is a Problem

Despite reminder tools and sheer determination, I keep forgetting to take my medication. I get up in the morning and think to myself, ‘Now don’t forget to take your medication!’ while heading to the bathroom where it’s waiting for me in a brightly colored container right there on the counter. And I repeatedly discover, much later in the day, those pills lying untouched in their little compartments. I have dissociative identity disorder and this is just one example of how my dissociative memory affects my everyday life. On its own it may not seem like a big deal. And if my memory problems were exclusive to forgetting medication or if they were irregular, here-and-there occurrences they probably wouldn’t be much of an issue. But what I just described is how my memory works all the time, with everything.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: My Dissociative Memory

Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: My Dissociative Memory

When I was in college I confided in a friend about an incident at a party that left me feeling taken advantage of. Initially I was taken aback by her outrage on my behalf. A few days later, I was equally shocked by her hostility towards me. It took many years before I understood that Dissociative Identity Disorder played such a large role in the party incident that I came away with an impression of it that wasn’t accurate at all. By reporting it to my friend, I essentially told a lie, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Today her wildly varying reactions make sense to me because I have a much better understanding of the potential pitfalls of my dissociative memory.

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Why The Courage to Heal Isn’t on My Recommended Reading List

Why The Courage to Heal Isn’t on My Recommended Reading List

The Courage to Heal is a self-help book – “A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” – that has enjoyed widespread popularity among both those living with Dissociative Identity Disorder and many of their treatment providers since its first publication in 1988. I first read it six years ago and found it helpful in some ways. But subsequent readings have illuminated for me the book’s biggest flaw: its reckless approach to traumatic memory.

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My Mental Health Warning Signs: 5 Common Red Flags

My Mental Health Warning Signs: 5 Common Red Flags

If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, recognizing when you’re on a downward spiral may be incredibly difficult. Dissociation separates us from our thoughts, feelings, and experiences and makes maintaining awareness of our very realities a monumental challenge. My hope is that by taking stock of my mental health warning signs, I can increase my chances of noticing the next decline in functioning at its inception, rather than coming out of a dissociative fog six months in and wondering what happened to my life.

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