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Balancing the Controversy of Trauma and Dissociation: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Real or Fantasy? - article

Felicity Lee
Felicity Lee

Balancing the Controversy of Trauma and Dissociation: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Real or Fantasy? - article

Post by felicity on 8/31/2016, 1:02 pm

Patricia Goodwin wrote:

Balancing the Controversy of Trauma and Dissociation:

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Real or Fantasy?

A six-year-old child saunters between desks that clutter the classroom finally settling into his assigned seat in the far corner against the window.  He spends the day quietly staring at the sky unaware of other children, the teacher’s rambling, or the memory of being raped and beaten before the school day began. 

A fifteen-year-old child rolls her eyes and sighs, obviously disgusted, as she slumps into the leather stuffed sofa across from a thoughtful therapist - whom will never notice the recently self-inflicted wounds hidden beneath inappropriate clothing or acknowledge any possibility that her client spent the previous night ‘servicing’ men to feed her siblings. 

A forty-year-old nurse moves through the crowded emergency room with ease and efficiency, smiling, encouraging patients and peers, obedient only to her inner-drive for perfectionism and compliance effectively shrouding memories of her brutal childhood she may never recall. 

A twenty-year-old trauma survivor spends the evening on the computer sharing stories of Satanic torture, Mind Control, and childhood abuse memories with peers who all have ‘alters’ with names and personalities - obsessed with her need to find other like-minded people.

A 35-year-old psychiatrist prepares for her day of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating twenty-five recently admitted patients to her ward by shuffling quickly through case files, attaching pink sticky notes to the front of each, intuitively aware that her twenty-minute meetings will validate her sticky-note diagnosis and treatment – medication to control attention-seeking behavior. 

And, a fifty-year-old researcher spends another evening collecting data that further proves what he already knows – DID is not only a common, but also misunderstood effect of early childhood trauma.

All of these folks have one thing in common.  All are attempting to adapt to conditions that are out of balance, as if they are walking a tightrope that will eventually break bringing each crashing to the reality that is Earth.  This imbalance is the result of a culture unaware and uneducated of how trauma affects people’s behavior.  The question is right there, but never asked; is DID real or fantasy?

The problem remains that the general public, including most professionals and survivors of abuse are untrained and thus, ignorant of how child abuse affects people. 

For instance, the popular and well publicized ‘ACE Study’ only focuses on ten criteria and five behavioral aspects, totally ignoring the ‘real’ problem – the brutal torture that children survive and live with as adults.

 This study suggests that childhood trauma can be identified according to ten criteria:

“Growing up experiencing any of the following conditions in the household prior to age 18:

Recurrent physical abuse
Recurrent emotional abuse
Contact sexual abuse
An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
An incarcerated household member
Family member who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
Mother is treated violently
One or no parents
Physical neglect
Emotional neglect”

Accordingly, the idea is that the higher the ACE Score, the lower the ‘Resilience Score’, which is evaluated by five criteria:

1.The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
2.A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
3.Skills in communication and problem solving.
4.The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
Within this paradigm is also the ability to predict the future outcome based on the criteria.

Alternatively, there is valid and reliable research that suggests children often adapt to abusive situations through dissociation, derealization, and depersonalization.  They become adept at behaving normally in everyday life – hiding or burying their experiences within a shattered psyche.  When this happens, experts on trauma and dissociation recognize the disorder as ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’.  DID has been determined to affect between 7.5% to 10% of those in an inpatient setting (Ross, Duffy, & Ellason, 2002). DID was found to affect 6% of psychiatric inpatients in a Canadian hospital (Horen, Leichner, Lawson, 1995). In an American outpatient setting, it was found to affect 6% of the population (Foote et al., 2006). 

Consequently, the notion of ‘trauma-informed-care’ (based on the ACE Study) may be a worthless venture – wasting taxpayer money on programs that don’t recognize or provide funding to research DID as a valid disorder.  According to National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, there are 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in the United States alone.  Do the math!  The prevalence of folks who are struggling with DID is significant enough for the government to provide the means for further research and promotion of practicing evidence-based models – as widely as it has Ace Studies, which are based on how trauma affects employee’s work performance, nothing more.  This is beyond limits of generalization and should be seen as so. 

Accordingly, this continuous lack of attention to those children who have endured the most horrendous of abuse has led to another ‘trend’.  Survivors who have DID are feeling the strain of being misunderstood, misdiagnosed, drugged, mistreated, and invalidated.  Thousands of undiagnosed survivors flood the internet daily seeking out peers for support and knowledge.  They are also ignorant to actual symptoms of DID.  Well-intended, untrained clinicians, are following suit by asking clients’ ‘parts’ to come out and tell their stories.  From this mess, comes book after book – survivors’ memoirs, clinician’s books, articles, and workshops based only on information gained from clients’ behavior and stories.    

All of this brings public and professional awareness of the ‘possibility’ of such a strange disorder where a person can have different personalities acting out in strange ways, where therapists can ‘implant memories’, where survivors need to fear being programmed by simple hand gestures, where the sane become paranoid and behave erratically in a maze of misinformation and ignorance – all based on ‘beliefs’ rather than evidence. 

On the other hand, experts in the area of trauma and dissociation have spent their entire life researching and still don’t know it all.  How can any clinician or survivor pretend to be an expert in trauma without first reading the research and clearly understanding how trauma influences behavior?  Do folks with DID actually walk around talking baby talk and acting out in public as is portrayed in movies?  I have never seen this happen – yet, DID is a fairly common condition. 

So, the imbalance should be clear.  DID is a valid disorder.  Diagnosis, either self or by a clinician is nearly impossible except by trained professionals.   If the trend to sensationalize DID continues, the average person will never believe survivors’ outlandish stories, many professionals will continue to reject clients who need help without taking time to study scientific evidence that provides crucial information and proof that DID is a valid condition.  Millions of survivors will be affected by the lack of professional care available to them.  
The solution should be obvious by now.  Survivors of child abuse must be recognized as complex – beyond the criteria of ten questions, clinicians must reach out for training by experts in the field of trauma and dissociation, and the public must demand availability to valid and reliable research in the area of trauma and dissociation, including DID.  This will bring the balance that is needed.  Everyone deserves to have free access to all information available - each will decide what to ‘believe’.

Fantasy is when we read fantastic survivor stories that are simply unbelievable, when we believe unrealistic notions such as:  therapists can ‘implant’ memories in their clients’ brains; DID is a rare disorder; all people with DID have ‘parts’ that take over their body; people with DID have ‘false memories’; people who have DID are mentally unstable. 

Reality is when we come to know that childhood trauma affects children differently, that folks with DID behave normally, are intelligent and resourceful, and a functional part of society.  They are no more likely to seek out mental health care than any other person who becomes overwhelmed with life-circumstances.  You will not find them on a street corner or in a grocery store speaking baby talk with a friend or peer.  The hallmark of DID is ‘dissociation’ – the ability to ‘be’ oblivious, to behave absolutely normally, and to be unaware of themselves, their body and problems within their life.  They tend ‘not’ to seek out attention or believe that they are important or worthwhile.

Consequently, because of ignorance and misconceptions, most folks don’t recognize that abuse survivors who have learned to cope by dissociating (‘going away’) have also learned that the world is a bad place.  When dissociating doesn’t work for them, they become instinctively suicidal. 

Thus, it is evident that DID is a serious and misunderstood disorder that needs to be recognized as such.
Lastly, a fourteen-year-old wanders into a hospital unable to feel her body or hear the whispering of the people she bumps, or notice the pop machine she trips over, or see the ‘do not enter’ signs above doorways she passes through - looking for a face of someone she can trust – someone she can tell that she is being sold, beaten, raped, and drugged.  Finally, a man takes her hand and walks her into a room where he motions for her to take a seat.  No!  She can’t sit – he will hurt her, he won’t believe her, he will lock her up.  Shaking – not from the cold damp clothes that hang from her thin frame or the drugs that flow through her body or the fact that she feels so alone and ashamed, but from the fear of being rejected by the man.  Inside her head, she hears the voices warning her not to tell, the voices warning her that she can’t trust anyone, screaming for her to run.  But, she stands strong and whispers, “I need your help – please.”  He looks at her with disgust, seeing only the bruises, cuts, and track marks on her arms as he judges her to be just another ‘throw-away-kid’ who should be locked up.  She knows the drill, the look of disdain on his face, and the rejection she will soon endure.  She listens to the voices and runs out the door and into the street.  Why did she trust that in her darkest hour anyone would help her?

As with most teens who are in trouble, they reach out one time.   Once rejected, they never reach out again.  Those who believe that these children are the product of fantasy MUST take responsibility for their fate.  It is not the diagnosis of DID that is fantasy.  It is the inability to recognize the behavior of those who have DID that is the reality we contend with today. 

Finally, we won’t see a news report or even know of the fourteen-year-old girl whom was found in a dark alley raped and brutally beaten to death that same night.  She had tried asking for help, but no one listened.  She had DID and didn’t know how to trust.  She had never had anyone who took care of her or who even cared.  She was an innocent and knew that no safety net existed in the world for her.

DID – is it fantasy or reality?   Does it matter?  Our children are suffering; ask yourself why?  Adult survivors are dying and disappearing; ask yourself why.  If you don’t understand, ask a survivor how they feel when rejected by you, your beliefs and/or behavior toward them.  Survivors’ stories might seem like fantasy, their behavior outlandish, and their attitude and/or lifestyle beyond your understanding, but they are worth the time it takes to do a bit of research, learn from experts in the area of trauma and dissociation, and accept them as valid and reliable before they become nothing more than pop-culture in a society – ignorant, uneducated, and judgmental.  
Patricia Goodwin, MA
Copyright 2016
All rights reserved.  Do not copy this article in any form without permission.


Re: Balancing the Controversy of Trauma and Dissociation: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Real or Fantasy? - article

Post by krathyn on 8/31/2016, 2:58 pm

thank you for writing this.
it is so true that the "Trauma Informed Care" model stops short of actually getting help to those who need it most.
It is also true that it is rare for people with DID to be visibly different from their peers-talking in baby talk or "littlespeak" or making frequent changes in clothing and makeup during the day.
The amount and type of abuse perpetrated on children and teens is quite serious and few recognize how serious.
Lots of myths, not much real care.

wishing you well-
Krathyn, Sebastian, Strawberry, (Kathie 3-9), kathrynmarie
Krathyn of We5:    we accept all intentions of support--

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Re: Balancing the Controversy of Trauma and Dissociation: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Real or Fantasy? - article

Post by Rainbowoftears on 8/31/2016, 3:41 pm

VERY powerful post! I'm left without words. Thank you, just thank you.


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