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Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses?

Felicity Lee
Felicity Lee

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses? Empty Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses?

Post by felicity on 8/8/2014, 10:20 am

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses?

Jack, a successful business man for 25 years, began to experience symptoms that affected his ability to function at work and home.   His wife had noticed his bouts of depression and lack of interest in everyday life activities.  He often seemed confused, anxious and panic attacks had become more frequent.   She found herself reminding him of scheduling responsibilities.  Despite that he had a calendar; he was forgetful to the point of missing important events.  She was unaware of his thoughts of suicide or the more consistent evidence of self-harm he had inflicted on his body just to ‘make it through a day’.   Their sex life was nonexistent.  When she tried to talk to him, he was so distant as to be another person altogether, as if he didn’t recognize their 3 children.   One night, she found him in a corner covered with a blanket looking frightened, his eyes glazed as if he were seeing something she could not. 

Jack’s wife called an ambulance.   He was taken to the nearest emergency room and assigned a private room, told to undress and given a gown to wear.  After hours of waiting, a doctor examined him.  Because of the evidence of recent self-harm, he was moved the Behavior Health Unit (a new term for ‘psychiatric unit’) where he waiting even longer for a psychiatrist to evaluate him.  A social worker finally entered, introduced himself, and began asking questions, writing the answers on a form attached to a clipboard.

Jack’s wife was obviously concerned and Jack embarrassed to be answering such personal questions.  Once the interview was over, the social worker left the room.  The doctor would use the symptoms Jack was experiencing to diagnose and advise treatment:

  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Depression
  • Anxiety, panic attacks
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Delusions
  • Headaches
  • Flashbacks
  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality change
  • Loss of memory
  • Disorientation
  • De-realization
  • Dissociation
  • Depersonalization
  • Self-Injury
  • Time Loss
  • Confusion
  • History of Early Childhood Trauma

What Jack and his wife didn’t know was Jack was one of some 48 million child abuse survivors in the United States alone (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006), many of which hospitals and therapists see daily with common symptoms of a dissociative disorder, most probably dissociative identity disorder (DID).  Studies show that 1-3% of the general population suffer from symptoms of DID and 10% of the population have a dissociative disorder. (Maldonado etal, 2002).Jack and his wife were also unaware that few mental health clinicians are trained in the area of diagnosing dissociative disorders. “In fact, there is lack of a consensus among mental health professionals regarding views on diagnosis and treatment of DID.  Nearly one-third believe that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is more appropriate than DID. While most psychologists believe that DID is a valid diagnosis, 38% believe that DID either likely or definitely could be created through a therapist’s influence, and 15% indicate that DID could likely or definitely develop as a result of exposure to various forms of media” (Cormier & Thelen, 1998). 

The social worker turned the form over to the psychiatrist who skimmed the list of symptoms – the same symptoms that he saw literally hundreds of times a week.  He sighed, deciding before even entering Jack’s room that he probably had BPD, depression, was over-worked, looking to get drugs, or simply looking for attention.  He noted that Jack had never been in therapy, and mostly women read ‘Sybil’ or cared about ‘acting’ like they had multiple personality disorder.
The doctor entered Jack’s room rubbing his chin as if in deep thought.  Jack’s wife began explaining his recent symptoms.  The doctor looked toward Jack, but Jack didn’t say a word.  He looked embarrassed, intense, and confused.  Jack was not aware of his surroundings.  In fact, Jack had no clue where he was, how he got there, or who the man in the white coat was. 
“Just stay quiet.” A familiar voice inside his head kept repeating, a tactic he had learned worked quite well whenever he found himself in similar situations.

Once the doctor ascertained that Jack was not currently suicidal, he explained to his wife that he was suffering from anxiety (probably from situational stress), possibly depression, and most likely Borderline Personality Disorder.  He wrote a prescription for an antidepressant, set up an appointment for Jack to begin “dialectal behavior therapy” (DBT) for the treatment of chronically suicidal and self-injurious individuals with BPD, and shooed the couple out of the hospital, assuring Jack that he could return to work the next day. 

Clearly, this doctor misdiagnosed Jack.  The symptoms of BPD are:

  • “Marked mood swings with periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days (but not in the context of a full-blown episode of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).
  • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger.
  • Impulsive behaviors that result in adverse outcomes and psychological distress, such as excessive spending, sexual encounters, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving or binge eating.
  • Recurring suicidal threats or non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, such as cutting or burning one’s self.
  • Unstable, intense personal relationships, sometimes alternating between “all good,” idealization, and “all bad,” devaluation.
  • Persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships and values.
  • Chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness.
  • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment”.  (Nami, 2013).

Though the doctor diagnosed Jack with BPD, he had reported only one overlapping symptoms, self-injury and in fact, had never threatened suicide or reported any of the other symptoms of BPD. 
As happens with so many survivors, Jack left the hospital misdiagnosed, mistreated and as advised by a doctor, returned to work the next day.   It would be several years later when Jack would again meet up with mental health professionals for the same symptoms.  Luckily, Jack found his way to a good hospital that specialized in trauma and dissociation and was properly diagnosed with DID.  

Jack was struggling enough, but once diagnosed, he fell deep into denial, his friends, family, and employer did not understand.  Jack, the successful businessman did not act anything like ‘Sybil’!  He fell into deeper depression until he lost everything and finally, decided to enter the long-term therapy he needed to recover and start his life again.  But, because of the prejudiced views of a public toward this condition, Jack’s life was forever changed. He was considered too ‘dangerous’ to see his children, he was ridiculed by friends and even neighbors.  He felt like a ‘freak’, rather than the intelligent businessman he had been before the diagnosis. 
Many will read this and know that Jack’s experience is one in millions. 

1.Some forty-two million child abuse survivors are experiencing symptoms with minimal mental health professionals educated or qualified to diagnose or treat them. 
2.    Our public is misinformed to believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder is not a ‘real’ condition.
3.Mental health practitioners are under educated and/or learn invalid information causing them to have prejudiced ‘beliefs’ – ultimately misdiagnosing and mistreating child abuse survivors.

This is a real problem in our society today.  You would think that our society’s adult survivors of child abuse would be treated with respect and compassion.  Not so.

Let’s take a quick view of a survivor’s life.  It begins somewhere – rape, beatings, neglect, torture, physical pain, emotional pain, etc. – abuse.  The child, too small to understand or associate the trauma with other memories either pushes it down or ‘pulls back’ fearing death and pushes another part of themselves forward to experience the abuse.  Btw, I might mention that everyone has parts of themselves.  It really is that simple.  The child’s body grows and may continue to be abused.  They may push more parts of themselves out to take on the pain, the grief, the fear, the humiliation, the shame, and on and on.  One part or more may remain immune, oblivious to the abuse, putting up walls between themselves and the other parts of self.  Often, no one ever suspects and thus, no one cares about them, no one supports them, no one nurtures or teaches them the love or appreciation that every child deserves.  The barriers, which are built between the parts of self (the difference between those who are DID and those who are not) create amnesia of abusive events that keeps the child safe and sane and thus, behaving as everyone else, often leading very successful lives.
It is a fact that abused children develop differently than non-abused children.  Any clinician will tell you that early childhood sets the stage for the rest of your life.  It is not what adult survivors of abuse ‘remember’, but what the symptoms are telling the clinician that they ‘experienced’ as children.

Despite this commonsensical fact, there are groups of people who are described as ‘false memory believers’.  These followers are influenced by highly influential researchers who have spent years trying to prove that all memories of abuse are ‘false’.  These ‘false memories’ are supposedly induced by therapists.  Most of the false memory followers also look to a group, The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) which was more active in the 90’s than now, but have quite a long history of influencing the public to believe that there is ‘no such thing’ as DID, that most abusers are innocent, that most survivors of child abuse are liars, and that therapists who treat DID are charlatans. 

They actually filed and won hundreds of lawsuits against therapists who they ascertained where ‘implanting false memories’ in their clients brains.  One such lawsuit was recently filed against an eating disorder treatment center.  More interestingly, their main concern is to defend child abusers by using these decorated professionals as ‘expert witnesses’ declaring under oath that ‘false memories’ were implanted by the therapist despite that ‘false memory syndrome’ has never been proved and is not a ‘scientific term’. 

If you have not studied these people, you may take this as so ridiculous as to wonder what the heck is going on.  And, more likely wonder how the whole false memory syndrome notion has anything at all to do with DID.  It doesn’t, but the false memory syndrome believers also adamantly write journals and publicly dismiss the reality of the DID diagnosis – often poking fun at those who are diagnosed with or treat DID. 

Because of the vocal nature of these ‘false memory syndrome true believers’ (as many call them), the public opinion has been swayed to believe that child abuse is over reported, DID is not a real condition, and recovered memories are never true.  Because these professionals are also teachers and writers, mental health professionals are learning inaccurate information and thus, many remain untrained to appropriately diagnose or treat dissociative disorders.  Because ‘true believers’ put out so many invalid studies and books to back up these studies, survivors of child abuse are ridiculed, invalidated, misdiagnosed and mistreated to the point that they become silenced, ashamed, in denial of their own past, and finally, isolated. 

Within this nightmare that child abuse survivors live every day, there is a solution:   education, education, education!!
Survivors of child abuse need the proper information to understand that their childhood experiences are real and are the source of their symptoms.  Memories may be a bit illusive, but experiences can never change – they happened.  They must be aware that there are bad people out there who have an agenda to sway public opinion that silences them into believing that their memories are ‘false’. 

Clinicians need to seek out valid information and knowledge to ensure that their clients are properly diagnosed and treated.  They must understand that there is no such thing as ‘false memory syndrome’.  The term was coined by a group, whose focus was on defending perpetrators of child abuse, silencing survivors, and sending fear of lawsuits into the hearts of honest, intelligent clinicians who treat and research dissociation- hoping they would turn away survivors of abuse.    
Had Jack been properly diagnosed that first time he entered the emergency room, he would have been moved to a trauma hospital where he would have received appropriate care, been referred to a therapist knowledgeable in trauma and dissociation, and avoided the inevitable heartache that thousands of survivors experience. 

I am a survivor of child abuse whose story is nearly identical to Jack’s.  I did educate myself and am now an advocate for adult survivors of child abuse.  I found my voice, as have other survivors of child abuse.
There ‘are’ prominent therapists who spend all their time and effort providing valid information for other clinicians as well as appropriate therapeutic care for survivors of child abuse.   
Ivory Garden has put together a three day conference being held October 3rd -5th, 2014 where clinicians, survivors of abuse, supporters and families of abuse survivors are all invited to hear some of the foremost experts in the field of trauma and dissociation speak.  Enough information will be presented for clinicians to begin diagnosing and treating dissociative clients.  Survivors of child abuse will meet other survivors and realize that they are a part of 42 million people who are strong, vigilant, and respected.  Supporters will learn that their loved ones behave with symptoms based on early experiences; that they will heal with the love and nurturing they never received in childhood. 
We feel that this conference is a solution to a problem that should never have been, that if one person avoids Jack’s dilemma because of the information provided at this conference, it is worth the time spent to attend –

2014 Trauma and Dissociation Conference Information - http://igdid.org/

More information - http://igdid.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/2014-trauma-and-dissociation-conference-brochure.pdf 
All rights reserved.  Do not copy without permission.

© Felicity Lee, August, 2014

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses? Poly10Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses? Signat10
Lady Talos
1,000+ Posts
1,000+ Posts

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses? Empty Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder – Education or Ignorance – Who Wins, Who Loses?

Post by Lady Talos on 8/8/2014, 10:43 am

Hard read Felicity but I read it. it was some good info. I hope we get many T at our conference so that sort of thing doesn't happen.

thanks for the article

    Current date/time is 10/15/2019, 6:32 am