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How Common Are Dissociative Disorders in Sexual Abuse Survivors?

What Are Dissociative Disorders?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines dissociative disorders as “...problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self.” Experiences with trauma can cause dissociative disorders. Various studies suggest a strong link between dissociative disorders and sexual abuse. Here’s what you need to know about the most common dissociative disorders and the long-term impact on sexual abuse survivors’ lives.

The Types of Dissociative Disorders

There are three types of dissociative disorders. Here’s a breakdown of the symptoms of each:

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is most commonly linked to overwhelming traumatic events and experiences, mainly in childhood. Previously known as multiple personality disorder, symptoms of dissociative identity disorder may include:

  • Existence of two or more distinct identities
  • Gaps in memory about past traumatic events
  • Difficulty functioning and distress in a social or occupational environment

Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia occurs when individuals block out traumatic events and cannot recall important information about their lives. Someone with dissociative amnesia may have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or abuse. Symptoms may include:

  • Memory loss of specific trauma
  • Unable to recognize family and friends or forgets names
  • Adopts a new identity (known as dissociative fugue)

Dissociative amnesia should not be confused with amnesia caused by a medical condition.

Personalization/Derealization Disorder

Someone living with personalization/derealization disorder may feel like they are living in a dream and have a persistent sense of observing themselves outside of their body or objects around them that aren’t real. Symptoms may include:

  • Not feeling in control of speech or movement
  • Sensing that the body, legs, or arms appear distorted
  • Emotional numbness (not able to respond to the world around them)
  • Numbness of senses
  • Feeling lack of emotion from memories
  • Emotionally disconnected from others
  • Surroundings appear distorted, blurry, or not real

The Long-Term Consequences of Living With Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative orders are more likely to emerge in those sexually abused as a child. One study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry links high dissociation disorders to childhood abuse, including childhood sexual abuse. The study notes:

“…childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, and current psychiatric illness were all related to high scores on the Dissociative Experiences Scale.”

Although dissociative disorders are uncommon in the general population, the long-term effects can be devastating on someone’s life. They can lead to relationship problems, issues with keeping a job, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.

Read the complete study here.

How Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Can Get Help

Surviving childhood sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic events anyone can experience. The long-term effects can be highly challenging for survivors to endure. The emotional and psychological pain poses many life-long burdens, and those responsible for causing such irreparable harm should be held accountable for their actions. We understand that it’s not easy to speak about childhood sexual abuses, which can be a triggering ordeal. When you need support, The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C. is here for you.

We believe you and are ready to guide you through the process so you can move forward with your life. Contact us today (800) 477-2989 to learn your rights.