You may have been Wrongly Diagnosed: Trauma and Dissociation

“Trauma literally means “wound, injury or shock.” In psychological terms, “traumatic events have traditionally been considered those that harm the psychological integrity of am individual.


Approximately 10-15% of adults who are exposed to an extreme stressor may develop acute stress disorder and PTSD (Bresslau, 2001). What is most traumatic are disruptions of our fundamental sense of trust and attachment, and is typically experienced as intentional rather than “an accident of nature.”

Events that are intense, sudden, and unpredictable, extremely negative and evoke a severe sense of helplessness and loss of control are more difficult to integrate. Prolonged exposure to repetitive events, such as child abuse is likely to cause the most severe and lasting effects.

Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with eachother. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness. In severe forms of dissociation, disconnection occurs in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, and perception.

For example, someone may think about an event that was tremendously upsetting yet have no feelings about it (emotional numbing, a sign of PTSD). It is my hypothesis that all people with PTSD struggle with some degree of dissociation.


Someone with DID (dissociative identity disorder) can feel “taken over” by an emotion that does not seem to make sense at the time. You may feel like a “passenger” rather than a driver in your own life.


Depersonalization can be experienced as an “out of body experience.”

Derealization may be demonstrated as a sense of the world not being real.

Dissociative Amnesia- An inability to recall important information that is so extensive. Important events are forgotten such as abuse, a troubling incident, or a block of time, from minutes to years,

Dissociation can be a learned adaptive trait in the context of chronic, severe childhood trauma. Dissociation can be considered adaptive because it reduces the overwhelming distress created by trauma.

In adulthood dissociation is maladaptive as you can disconnect from events you perceive to be threatening without determining true danger. This leaves the person “spaced out” in many situations in ordinary life, and unable to protect themselves in conditions of real danger.

Dissociation is also caused by severe neglect or emotional abuse. Or because parents were unpredictable or frightening.

Results of dysregulation are difficulty tolerating and regulating intense emotional experiences.

Some studies show 2-3% of the general population suffers from DID. Some say 10%.”

Why the gap? In my next few posts I will discuss further details of dissociation, causes and why it is underdiagnosed. I will describe proper therapeutic techniques and I will share my findings while using these approaches. You may be labeled as schizophrenic, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar, etc, without even knowing an underlying cause of your emotional distress is due to dissociative identity disorder. This blog is here to help you help yourself.

(Most information provided from International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation). Take a look for yourself!


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