Don't Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder
Monday, August 29 2011 Holly Gray
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
Like 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.