Essay on Abnormal Psychology: Dissociative Identity Disorder

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Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dr. Donald Whitworth
Intro to Abnormal Psychology 280.02
November 26, 2013

Bradley Cloutier
Dr. Whitworth
PSYCH 280.02
26 November 2013
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as “Multiple Personality Disorder”, is one of the more complex disorders that can also be very closely related to child abuse. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, Dissociative Identity Disorder is a disorder in which the subject develops multiple personalities that they cycle through on a daily basis. (Sar, 1996) The multiple personalities that a person can have will differ either slightly from one another, or the personalities can be complete opposites. Each personality is described to have its’ own background and history; completely separate than the other personalities that the subject may have. According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the average number of personalities that somebody diagnosed with DID is 4.5. (Piper, 2004) From these results, one can draw the conclusion that it is very difficult to cope with this disorder.
This disorder is a highly controversial psychiatric diagnosis because many believe that it is purely pathological and can’t be diagnosed. Despite this controversy, there are symptoms and causes that can be shown in a subject that may appear to have this disorder. One of the major causes of this disorder appears to be severe childhood trauma. According to Bliss, other stressors that may trigger DID include: witnessing domestic violence, experiencing war, trauma, earthquakes, fire, flood, or death of a primary caretaker. She even claims that an “overly sensitive” individual can develop this disorder as a result of feeling “rejected in early childhood”. (Piper, 2004) Some of the major symptoms that are associated with this disorder are: suicidal tendencies, sudden change in mood swings or depression, and psychotic-like symptoms.
Not only is the disorder itself controversial, but diagnosing has been a controversy between mental health professionals for the past fifty years. In adults, the number of reported DID cases increased strikingly in the 1980s. More DID cases were discovered during the 5 years prior to 1986 than in the preceding 2 centuries. (Foote, 2006) By 1986, 6000 patients had been diagnosed in the US alone. As Piper explains, “If childhood maltreatment were in fact a major cause of DID, and if the increase in DID cases in the 1980s were genuine, then the incidence of traumatic events endured by North American children during that time should also have risen sharply. We know of no data documenting such an increase.” (Piper, 2004) Explanations for the sudden increase in the amount of cases have two general hypotheses. The first hypothesis implies that the number of genuine cases has not actually increased. Thus, Piper believes that, “patients with this condition have always existed but simply were not recognized until a paradigm developed that increased practitioner’s diagnostic sophistication.” (Piper, 2004) In other words, mental health experts that were evaluating patients after the upward shift in Dissociative Identity Disorder had initially misdiagnosed their patients. Piper claims that patients were misdiagnosed for on average 6.8 years before they received a correct diagnosis from a practitioner. The second hypothesis relates to whether the condition’s (DID) prevalence has actually increased, either because of a change in the biology of the disorder, or because our society has started to “abuse children even more”. (Friedl, 2000) It does not seem like children have been bizzarely mistreated in the past, thus the hypothesis that patients had been misdiagnosed until DID had become an alarming statistic seems like a more accurate depiction of the situation.
According to the American Journal of Psychotherapy, one treatment that has proven success in the past is called the