What Is It About Childhood Trauma that Causes DID?
Today I’m going to touch on the subject, what it is that causes dissociative identity disorder? That, as you may have guessed by now, is a subject that has many dimensions ranging from attachment problems and a missed developmental stage to our bodies being flooded with stress hormones.
While no one has a definitive answer of what cause of DID, we all know it is deeply rooted in the severe maltreatment people like us have received in early, and in many cases, later childhood. One thing I have ruled out in my mind today, is the idea that sexual contact between me and my perpetrators was the sole cause.
The Trauma Myth
I’ve been working on my new book on dissociative identity disorder. During my research today, I came upon a book by Dr. Susan A. Clancy written in 2009 called, The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children and Its Aftermath. I’m going to quote below the blurb telling of its contents that I found on google books.
“Few would argue that the experience of sexual abuse is deeply traumatic for a child. But in this explosive new book, psychologist Susan Clancy reports on years of research and contends that it is not the abuse itself that causes trauma—but rather the narrative that is later imposed on the abuse experience. Clancy demonstrates that the most common feeling victims report is not fear or panic, but confusion.
Because children don’t understand sexual encounters in the same ways that adults do, they normally accommodate their perpetrators— something they feel intensely ashamed about as adults. The professional assumptions about the nature of childhood trauma can harm victims by reinforcing these feelings. Survivors are thus victimized not only by their abusers but also by the industry dedicated to helping them. Path-breaking and controversial, The Trauma Myth empowers survivors to tell their own stories, and radically reshapes our understanding of abuse and its aftermath.”
At first, I felt angered by the idea that my feelings that have emerged from dealing for years with the aftermath of my own childhood trauma may have been called invalid. However, once I stopped and thought for a minute, and reread the above blurb, I think I understood. Now, I am determined to purchase this book to see more.
I went on to read a review of Dr. Clancy’s work and it explained very well what I will find between its covers. The review stated that the writer thought the book best suited for professionals, but that it made some good points. It went on to state that Dr. Clancy states that the mental health system has taken the wrong approach to recognizing and treating childhood trauma. The doctor argues in her book that the commonly accepted trauma-model about treating sexual abuse victims is wrong, and that victims of such abuse do not feel fear at the time the sexual encounters occur, they feel confusion.
She goes on to state that the trauma occurs later in life when adults feel deep shame and guilt over what happened to them in childhood because they willingly allowed or even participated in behaviors with their perpetrators not understanding that what was being done should not have been. Dr. Clancy believes that by treating the trauma from childhood the way it is in done today in therapy, as a horrific occurrence that scarred them as children for life, is inappropriate and harmful.
Apparently, Dr. Clancy is not discounting the effects of childhood sexual abuse on its victims at all. What she is saying is that the way our mental health professionals have been taught to see childhood trauma is harmful in that it causes we victims to see ourselves as different from everyone else. We tend to see ourselves as forever victims who will never shake off the scars and shame of what happened to us so many decades ago.
So, what is the link between sexual abuse and dissociative identity disorder? The connection isn’t in the sexual abuse itself, but in the terror invoked by the perpetrators that has caused our brains to morph from what should have been a normal brain into the ones we have today.
Ask anyone who is diagnosed with and in treatment for DID if they experienced horror during their childhood experiences with their perpetrators, and I can almost guarantee 95% will say yes. I say that particular percentage because there are some who became multiples from living in a war zone or from being extremely ill when children. Yet, even that 5% will have experienced terror.
This horrific fear in the face of our own helplessness as children is the catalyst that set our developing dissociative identity disorder in motion. When mixed with other factors, such as lack of parental support, attachment problems, and our high intelligence set us up for the perfect storm of not allowing our personalities to coalesce into one cohesive self.
Trying to Change the Paradigm
This is food for thought for all who live with dissociative identity disorder. Sexual or other abuse is absolutely not acceptable, and never, ever will be. However, it does not, in and of itself, cause DID. It is the terror perpetrated by our abusers we are fleeing when we use our natural tendency to dissociate.
I’m going to keep doing my online research and bring you more and more information as it comes to light while I am trying to tie together what is available. There has been a lot of great research done and volumes of papers and books written, but it is so scattered and professionals in the mental health field tend to ignore each other’s work. I’m trying to change that.
Changing attitudes about DID isn’t easy, we face an uphill battle because there is so much false information out there. Hollywood, perpetrators, and those who are not truly living with the diagnosis but are malingerers make it difficult as hell to get serious researchers to look into our diagnosis. It is vital we understand more so that we can find better treatments.
I’m not giving up, so you don’t either!
“There is no substitute for hard work. Never give up. Never stop believing. Never stop fighting.” Hope Hicks