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Alex Aguilar

Psych 101
Professor Seeley
10.29.17

Process Work #4

In terms of finding the underlying cause of dissociative identity disorder and how to

measure the severity depending on the type of trauma exposed to a particular person and how

long they were exposed to it, there could be a plethora of factors at play here. Many victims of

trauma decide to have treatment many years after the trauma took place, if ever. The nature of

each individual trauma also varies, because not all traumas are the same. A persons overall

psychological health prior to the trauma taking place is also a notable variable to account for.

Figuring out how these variables affect individuals with DID take us one step closer to better

understanding this disorder.

Further studying the correlation between trauma and memory and better understanding

how traumatic memories differ from normal memories better explains why our brain deals with

traumatic memories in the way it does. According to an article Trauma and Memory by the

Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, normal memories usually have a few defining

characteristics like; memory being a declarative process, memory being part of consciousness

consistently, and that its accuracy disintegrates over time. In contrast, traumatic memories hold

vividness, clarity, and accuracy due to specific triggers that makes the individual relive the

traumatic event. Accuracy of memory is affected by the emotional valence of an experience;

studies of people's subjective reports of personally highly significant events generally find that

their memories are unusually accurate and that they tend to remain stable over time. (Trauma

and Memory) However, the validity of their memory can come into question due to the

ambiguities of their current psychological state.

As for neurobiological reasoning of why the process of retrieving normal versus

traumatic memories is fundamentally different, the aforementioned article also states that We
Alex Aguilar
Psych 101
Professor Seeley
10.29.17

then will review the evidence implicating dissociation as the central pathogenic mechanism that

gives rise to PTSD, which causes traumatic memories to be retrieved, at least initially, in the

form of mental imprints of sensory and affective elements of the traumatic experience. (Trauma

and Memory, P. 3) Meaning, disassociation, (detachment from your immediate surroundings), is

used as self defense mechanism which induces PTSD. This can explain the alteration in brain

structure and function in individuals with DID.

The duration in which the individual is exposed to a distressed and traumatic

environment is also pertinent to discuss. In the article Dissociative Identity Disorder by

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, they discuss how it is usually severe

and prolonged trauma that is the gateway to developing DID. The nature of the trauma usually

being physical or sexual abuse, but can vary.

How one begins to, and the process thereof, of dissociation and avoidance is vital to

understand the symptoms of DID and how an alternate self is created. Dissociation is a primary

response to abuse of all types. It reinforces the prevention of thinking about the abuse. In the

book Attachment, Trauma and Multiplicity: Working with Dissociative Identity Disorder by

Valerie Sinason, she mentions The process of dissociation- temporarily switching off, blanking

out at times of stress- may be triggered by a spontaneous flashback or visualization or when

attempts are made to work therapeutically, by reminding children of abusive context. The

development of an alternate self as a way of coping may well be an understandable response to

reinforce the process of avoidance of thinking - the self without the memory.

In summation, how your brain stores traumatic and normal memories is pertinent to the

development of DID. Different factors have the ability to change the severity of an individuals

DID; the nature, duration, and overall psychological health of said individual before the trauma
Alex Aguilar
Psych 101
Professor Seeley
10.29.17

occurred. Catching the symptoms in children before the disorder develops can better control it

before it begins to mature and exacerbate. Understanding how to piece these variables and

concepts together will give rise to new treatment methods and possibly a solution to this

disorder.

References

Bentowm, Arnon. "Dissociative Identity Disorder." Attachment, trauma and multiplicity:

Working with dissociative identity disorder(2002): 21.


Alex Aguilar
Psych 101
Professor Seeley
10.29.17

Courtois, C. A. (2008). Complex trauma, complex reactions: Assessment and treatment.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (1998). Trauma and memory. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences,

52(S1).