Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Monday, March 14 2011 Holly Gray
Dissociative Identity Disorder is caused not just by trauma, but a number of factors that come together at just the right times, in just the right places, over and over again. I’ve discussed in some depth the factors that I believe contributed to my development of DID. But those factors might be different for you. Furthermore, each contributing factor carries its own weight. In other words, the causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder are unique to each person in both definition and size.
The Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder Are Unique in Definition
There’s a lot we don’t yet know about dissociative disorders. One thing we do know is that an overwhelming majority of adults with DID report chronic, severe childhood trauma. It’s safe to assume, as we currently do, that trauma is the most consistent factor. But it isn’t the only factor. To illustrate what I mean I created the word cloud to the right, representing the factors I believe contributed to my development of DID:
- Denial - If you live in the midst of a raging storm that no one ever acknowledges, your brain may develop a way to make you believe it isn't there.
- Trauma - As we already know, dissociation is a common way for human beings to cope with a wide range of emotional and physical traumas.
- Age - Our identities are highly malleable in early childhood. Subject a very young child to repeated trauma and the dissociation may begin to wear grooves, and eventually barriers into their psyche.
- Sensitivity - Someone with a low physiological threshold for sensation may experience more profound traumatic stress than their less sensitive peers.
- Comfort - Dissociation is a kind of self-hypnosis, and may become a source of soothing comfort for a child left to navigate traumatic situations on her own.
Aside from trauma, the causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder are many and varied. Therefore your word cloud would likely look much different from mine.
The Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder Are Unique in Size
My word cloud is a visual weighted list, meaning the size of each word represents how large of a role I believe each of these factors played in my development of DID. But every situation, every individual is unique. This exercise may produce something more like this for someone else:
For this person, trauma was the single most powerful factor in their development of DID. Fear, isolation, and age are noted as contributing factors, but their impact is cited as far less powerful than the impact of trauma.
Understanding the Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder Helps Us Understand DID Itself
I bring all of this up because I often hear things like, 'but I didn't suffer enough to have DID,' from people diagnosed with it. Those comments speak to a misunderstanding of the causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder - namely that it's caused by the most horrific trauma possible. In fact, many people grow up in nightmarish circumstances and never develop DID. As long as we continue to assume that the severity of trauma is not a subjective thing, and that severe trauma is the only contributing factor in the development of DID worth mentioning, confusion about the diagnosis will remain.
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