Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) appear to be complex. Kluft states four factors in causing DID: (1) innate potential to dissociate (easily hypnotized), (2) early childhood personality development disturbed by trauma which may lead to greater potential of the brain dividing mental and emotional areas, (3) continual emotional and/or social deprivation which disturbs the chance of spontaneous recovery, (4) and, emotional/mental balancing that shapes the final presentation of DID (HP).
DID is usually created before the age of four (key developmental age). Severe traumas (physical and sexual abuse, etc.) repeat after the onset. The trauma can recur, overpower, and often become life-threatening. Children with extreme neglect or emotional abuse (without physical or sexual abuse), may have “parents who are frightening and unpredictable” (HP), or people with DID may have suffered a natural disaster, war, or accident. Also, a significant loss of a parental figure or prolonged periods of the child being in isolation due to illness may also be a factor. Though, “about 90% of the cases of DID, involve some history of abuse (CC).
Dissociative symptoms are then often caused by a psychological response to extreme environmental stress and extreme interpersonal stress. Some believe that Dissociative Disorders (DD) are a pathological response, but this is not necessarily the case (PCH). It is rather a healthy way to cope with an insane situation. To survive the extreme stress of the traumatic experience affecting the normal level of consciousness, the traumatized person whose personal identity is developing “switches” (through a normal brain function) and simply separates from his or her thoughts, feelings, actions, perceptions, and memories. “This allows a child to be able to function more normally” (PCH).
Dissociation may be affected by an “interruption of consciousness, awareness, identity, or memory” (PCH). One school of thought states that having “alternate personalities” is the experience of two or more people “talking and “living” inside of them” (HP), which may be confusing to an outsider. Dissociation “systems” or “families” are again, stemmed from coping mechanisms within the brain, although at the other end of the spectrum, dissociative symptoms may affect normal functioning, work, school, or interpersonal relationships.
People’s responses to trauma are different. Some people have traumatic experience and will become dissociative, and others will not become dissociative with the same experience. Some research state that males experiencing early-age trauma dissociate more than females. Other studies claim females dissociate more than males. Dissociation by any means, is breaking from an unsafe outer world and hurtful awareness of what has occurred. By constant dissociation from everyday thought processes, a person can live a relatively healthy level of functioning as if they hadn’t been hurt by the trauma (CC), though there is often an undercurrent of activity developed through living different and sometimes separate states.
Dissociative disorders are further categorized as dissociative amnesia and depersonalization disorder. “Dissociative amnesia is the inability to remember past experiences or personal information. Memory loss is more extensive than normal forgetfulness. Depersonalization disorder is a period where a person has the sensation they are outside of their body observing their own actions from a different vantage point. Depersonalization disorder can be associated with body image distortions and feelings that the world is “unreal” (PCH).
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) used to be called multiple personality disorder (MPD). Neither DID or schizophrenia is actually “split personality”- as a term often stated [archaic].
CC – Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/neurological_institute/center-for-behavioral-health/disease-conditions/hic-dissociative-identity-disorder
HP – Healthy Place. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from www.healthyplace.com
PCH – Psychological Care and Healing Center of Los Angeles. Retrieved September 29, 2016 www.pchtreatment.com