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Don’t Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder

All of the misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder bother me because they create barriers to diagnosis, treatment, and support. But there’s one myth that bothers me for more personal and, up until today, private reasons. And that’s the assumption that child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Trauma Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder

logical-fallacy2Like all of the mythology surrounding this diagnosis, the widespread belief that child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder is born from grains of truth. An overwhelming majority of adults with DID report chronic, severe childhood abuse; and a healthy portion of that majority report abuse at the hands of their parents. It’s also true that trauma is the single most consistent factor in the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Indeed, child abuse is a form of trauma. But it’s illogical to conclude that because:

  • trauma causes DID, and
  • child abuse is the form of trauma most people with DID report,
  • child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Or worse, all adults with DID have cruel, abusive parents who visited unspeakable horrors on their child. Yes, child abuse equals trauma. But that doesn’t mean trauma equals child abuse. And it’s unfair to talk about DID as if it does.

Assumptions Silence People

Not only is it unfair, it’s silencing. It’s not difficult for me to tell people I have Dissociative Identity Disorder; but it’s difficult knowing the assumptions people make about me and my family because of my diagnosis. I don’t care if people think I’m some bizarre aberration because I have DID. I don’t care if they think I’m an attention-seeking malingerer. But I care very much if they draw ugly conclusions about my family and pass judgment on my parents. And I know I’m not the only one who is troubled every time they hear someone matter-of-factly report that child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder. I know that more people might feel comfortable sharing their diagnosis if they felt assured that by doing so they weren’t involuntarily implicating members of their family of terrible crimes.

Assumptions Isolate People

Living with DID is isolating enough without the toxic rivalry among some of those who have it that stems in part, I firmly believe, from the assumption that child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder. From a reader:

I was born with a serious illness, in and out of the hospital since birth. My parents were always scared I’d die. They weren’t perfect, but they never abused me. I’ve learned not to expect compassion from so called support sites. They act like my DID is less real than theirs because they were abused and I wasn’t. It’s a twisted kind of arrogance and it makes me feel even more lonely.

Don’t Make Assumptions about What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder

“I have Dissociative Identity Disorder,” means simply and only, “I have Dissociative Identity Disorder.” It isn’t code for, “I was horribly abused.” Please don’t assume that a diagnosis gives you any insight into someone’s history or family of origin. It doesn’t.

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27 thoughts on “Don’t Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder”

  1. Hello,

    I have, what we know is, dissociative order not otherwise specified (ddnos) since birth. They said they can’t diagnose it any further until I’m older. I have lived with it for 17 years so far, but it’s getting worse and happening more often. I don’t remember a lot of what I do anymore. My parents say I talk different when I’m dissociating (like a toddler), have worse motter skills, etc. They say im like a different person, that I’m not myself. I’ve recently been in and dissociated at a residential treatment place and they said it’s not behavioral, but metabolic or genetic. Any suggestions for me and next steps? Hope you can help.


    Beck (pen name)

  2. I’m glad I came across this & read the entire thing. I was abused as a child but was never diagnosed with anything. I came across the term DID from a show I was watching & decided to read up on it. Because I was curious & wanted to educate myself on it. Trauma such as abuse can put people at a higher risk of developing a mental illness, but it’s not like it can stop you from living your life, especially with the right type of support I think. & by law jobs have to give everyone equal opportunities.

  3. Also, why does there always have to be a blame factor here? I am not in agreement with that point of view.

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