Dissociative Disorders

Some of the most mystifying disorders are the rare Dissociative Disorders, in which a person appears to experience a sudden loss of memory or a change in their identity. Sometimes people become so overwhelmed with stress they are said to dissociate themselves from it. Their conscious awareness becomes separated from their painful memories, thoughts and feelings.

Temporary Protection

Certain symptoms of dissociation are not so rare. Occasionally people have a sense of being unreal, of being separated from their body or watching themselves as if they were seeing themselves in a movie. Sometimes people recall getting into their car and driving to some unintended place while their mind was preoccupied elsewhere. Sometimes the detachment may actually be a form of temporary protection from being overwhelmed by the trauma. When such experiences are severe and prolonged they suggest a Dissociative Disorder.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

When people are said to have two or more distinct personalities that alternately control the person’s behavior, with memory impairment across the different identities, they may be suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is generally massive dissociation of self from ordinary consciousness. The individual with this disorder may be prim and proper one moment and loud and flirtatious, even exhibitionistic the next. Each personality has its own voice and mannerisms, while the original person typically denies any awareness of the other.

Jekyll and Hyde

People who are diagnosed as having multiple personalities are rarely violent, but there have been cases of split personalities of good and bad, as in the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, some psychiatrists and psychologists say that dissociative personalities are simply more extreme versions of our normal selves. The discovery of multiple personalities is merely triggering role-playing by fantasy prone people.

Wacky American Fad

Skeptics find it questionable that the disorder became so popular in the late 20th century. During the period of the 1930s to1960s there were only 2 reported cases. There were more than 20,000 cases during the 1980s and the average number of identities went from 2 to 12 per patient (Goff & Simms, 1993). How could such a dramatic disorder have been unnoticed for so long? While the disorder is rare to nonexistent throughout most of the world, in Britain it was called “a wacky American fad” (Cohen, 1995).

Defense Mechanism

On the other hand, patients with dissociative symptoms are most dramatic after beginning therapy with hypnosis (Goff, 1993). Psychoanalysts view the disorder as a defense against an anxiety disorder brought about by a second personality. Others view dissociative disorders as a post traumatic disorder – a protective response to “histories of childhood trauma” (Putnam, 1995). One study of 12 murderers’ diagnoses did find that eleven of them had suffered severe tortuous child abuse (Lewis, 1987). Some believe traumatized individuals have developed multiple personalities in a desperate attempt to detach from a horrific existence.

Time will tell if this epidemic will end in the same way the Salem Witch craze ending, i.e., as manufactured. (McHugh, 1995).

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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