Making the science of trauma and dissociation more accessible
This site aims to fill a void of comprehensive yet accessible resources pertaining to trauma and dissociation. It serves to promote awareness and understanding of a variety of topics pertaining to dissociative identity disorder, other dissociative disorders, trauma, and trauma's effects as well as to present current research and validated sources to the general public in a more easily understandable form. A secondary aim of this website is to promote connecting dissociative trauma survivors to research studies in order to contribute to scientific progress on these subjects.
Dissociation is a disconnection between one’s conscious awareness and aspects of one’s environment, experiences, or perceptions. Dissociation is very common, so much so that some claim that it is the third most common mental health symptom. Individuals can experience dissociation for many reasons. Causes or triggers can vary from temporary stress to clinical anxiety to chronic childhood trauma. In some cases, dissociation can serve as a coping mechanism and buffer individuals from overwhelming life circumstances. However, when dissociation is severe or long lasting, it can be disabling.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes five dissociative disorders. These are dissociative identity disorder (DID), dissociative amnesia (DA), depersonalization/derealization disorder (DPDR), other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD), and unspecified dissociative disorder (UDD). However, these are not the only conditions in which dissociation plays a prominent role. Somatic symptom disorder, conversion disorder, trauma-and-stressor-related disorders, and borderline personality disorder can also be conceptualized as primarily or often dissociative in nature. Additionally, dissociation has been found in many individuals with anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Despite this, dissociation is poorly known and poorly understood. Neither the general public nor most mental health practitioners know much about dissociation, how to recognize it, or how to treat it. As a result, many individuals with clinical dissociation or dissociative disorders suffer in silence.
Out of all of the dissociative disorders, DID is perhaps the best known and yet the most poorly understood. Previously known as multiple personality disorder, DID is plagued by myths and misconceptions that are spread by the media, general public, and professionals alike. Though a wealth of evidence supports that the disorder results from repeated childhood trauma, DID is frequently portrayed as the result of fantasy, the need to repress socially unacceptable desires, a single moderately traumatic childhood experience, or adult trauma.Though DID is in no way related to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the media consistently confuses these conditions. Focus is always aimed at the most unique aspect of dissociative identity disorder, the numerous alternate personalities that it results in, but attention is rarely given to symptoms of derealization and depersonalization, to co-morbid posttraumatic stress disorder or depression, or to the intense feelings of denial, shame, betrayal, and isolation that are so common among survivors. Time loss is a well known symptom of DID, but passive influence is not. Doubt in the disorder is treated like a personal position on the validity of a myth instead of a sign of pervasive ignorance that emphasizes the need for current research to be more widely shared and understood.
Grounding techniques are techniques that are used to prevent, dull, or distract from dissociation, flashbacks, switching, panic attacks, self harm, addiction cravings, or other negative emotions, internal experiences, or impulses. They work by engaging the senses and occupying the mind in a non-destructive fashion.
It is important to remember that different systems have different needs, and systems may not have an alter for every listed job. Alters may hold multiple roles or roles that are unique to the system, and an alter's roles can change over time.
The most important difference between individuals with DID and OSDD-1 is the way in which they experience their alters. While alters for individuals with DID can be highly distinct and are associated with some amnesia, one or both of these are not the case for those wih OSDD-1.
Switching refers to one alter taking control of the body at the expense of another alter, being given control by another alter, or gaining prominence over another alter. Passive influence can be described as intrusions from alters that are not currently prominent in the mind or using the body.