Cause & Effect: Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociated experiences can generally result in breaking conscious awareness.
Dissociative identity disorder is a mental illness characterized by two or more distinct personalities, each with their own unique history and interests as well as mannerisms and various other behaviours. This is caused by, generally, a traumatic event where the sufferer copes by initially creating a coexisting character(s). Trauma is initially a “...behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress…” as defined by Merriam Webster dictionary. Often, when dissociation has repeated the possibility of separating into a unique identity(s) rise. Dissociated experiences can generally result in breaking conscious awareness. Most often the cause of dissociation is a history of child abuse or sexual assault, the trauma impacts the individual by severely corrupting the sufferer's ability to function as a fully realized individual by alternating their sense of self. This can commonly be referred to conversion disorder where the individual who suffers a traumatic experience may suppress the pain and subconsciously alternate behavioural or physical attributions. For instance, if a woman witnesses a gruesome murder, then her subconsciousness might subliminally choose to ignore this and thusly affect her physical ability to see.
The most common amount of personalities that coexist with one another within one individual been reported to be between eight and thirteen. In one case, a woman, G.L., was sexually abused when she was three until she was eleven. Her dissociation caused her to split into six other personalities, all of which were girls besides one, a boy named Greg. With the help of psychotherapy, psychiatry, and cognitive behavioural therapy her symptoms, such as mood swings, anxiety, and impulsivity were managed.
In another case, Louis Vivet, a sufferer of DID, had ten distinct personalities. His story influenced Robert Louis Stevenson to write his novel, Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was one of the first individuals diagnosed with DID. Born February 12th, 1863, he was the son of a prostitute who neglected him and so he adopted a life of crime by the age of eight. Vivet had been arrested many times and lived in a correctional facility until he was eighteen.
In one last case, Trudi Chase allegedly had ninety-two personalities. She had claimed that she was sexually and physically abused from the age of two and experienced auditory hallucinations. She had wished that her personalities would not integrate because they had “been through so much together.”
As you can see, most of the cases involved with dissociative identity disorder had experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse at a young age. Most of these cases state that the symptoms appeared at an early age of nine years old, unlike Louis Vivet’s case whose symptoms appeared at the age of seventeen. Trauma can resurface in any individual in some form. Emotional pain registers as physical pain, and so trauma and stress and take its toll not just mentally but physically as well. Some individuals are more susceptible to pain, this is known as differential susceptibility. We must understand that what might trigger other individuals might not phase another individual, this is why we must not badger people for dealing with the pain that they are despite how little it may seem.
Severe emotional trauma has been known to affect the prefrontal cortex of the brain and its result in compromised functionality forms a lasting impression. A traumatic experience is multifaceted in the sense that many variables come into play when dealing with its symptoms. In conversion disorder, a traumatic experience may affect the prefrontal cortex responsible for thought processes and/or the Broca’s Area responsible for speech, the olfactory cortex responsible for smell, the auditory cortex responsible for hearing, and the visual cortex responsible for sight. This is excluding the Lymbic system responsible for emotions and the sensory cortex responsible for pain.