Have I created my dissociative disorder?

Have I created my dissociative disorder? This really interesting question has been posted in the comments section and I thought it deserves a more in-depth response because I have heard this question asked many times over the years.

The question whether people (either clients or therapists) can create a dissociative disorder has kept the therapeutic community divided for many years now. The good news is that nobody really knows. Whatever people believe is just that: THEIR BELIEF. We don’t know enough about how our marvelous mind works to be able to give a definitive answer.

It might be wise to be cautious and not believe everything therapists (and other people) tell you – including myself here – because we all make up our own reality as we speak or think for that matter. Our perception is so fickle, it’s more about ourselves and our own history and experiences than what we perceive is going on in the world. When you find that you are able to quieten your mind and use the stillness to listen inside to your own wisdom, you will find your truth. That’s the only one that you can live by! Not my one and no-one else’s.

But I am diverting – back to the question: In my personal view it is naive to think someone only has to read a book and then can talk themselves into having a disorder so severe that it causes mental and emotional distress. “Inventing it yourself” implies a purposeful act – like creating a make-belief story that then is lived out. If we watch a movie we might be affected by it, but we still know it’s a movie, a made-up story, it’s not real. That step doesn’t seem possible for people diagnosed with a dissociative disorder (or any other disorder for that matter).

‘Inventing unknowingly’ is a contradiction in itself – it doesn’t make sense and isn’t really a thought-through statement.

I have always perceived dissociative disorders on a continuum of awareness. To use a stereotypical example: the academic in their ivory tower who is not aware of his/her other needs and feelings, and is complete ignorant about leisure, health, family, etc. This kind of ‘life’ is – even though socially acceptable and at times even admired – in my view very dissociative. It is just not recognised as a pathology because the person is not signalling that s/he is suffering.

The person that ended up with a diagnosed dissociative condition seems to me to be a bit further on the way to ‘mental health and inner peace’ because their awareness is awakened to the aspects of their lives that don’t work for them. One way of going through the mental disorders of the DSM is to view all (or most) of the listed disorders as people’s individual way of coping with the problems life is presenting them with. Does the depressed person chose to be depressed? NO. Does the anxious person chose to wake up anxious every day? NO. Neither does the dissociative person chose to see him/herself as fragmented and disconnected. Due to complex circumstances (age, resilience, support, ability to conceptualise, etc.) these people have learnt to respond to life through these specific ways. There is not really a choice as in “I am consciously choosing x”.

If we look at mental disorders from a medical/pharmaceutical perspective, the answer is usually: it’s some form of mental brain malfunction for which – thanks to pharma – we have a pill that can be prescribed and things may or may not improve. Because dissociative disorders itself don’t respond to pharmaceutical interventions, many people lean to thinking they can’t be real and therefore must be a creation of the patient or the therapist! There you have it!

If we look at mental disorders from the perspective of how human experience is created, than all our experiences are due to each individuals way of making sense of life and ability to respond to life. In that sense we do create all our experience – but is it inventing? Certainly not, it is just what every human being is doing, it’s how nature has designed us to exist.

If someone tells you that you are creating your e.g. dissociative disorder,  depression, or anxiety there is the implication that you’ve been naughty, it’s not real, you shouldn’t have done it, please un-do it quickly. They don’t understand it’s your personal response to life’s circumstances, it’s the best way you could cope with life given your resources, awareness, and thinking at the time. Once your awareness increases you will improve the quality of your responses to life.

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7 Comments

  1. it seems even if you don’t believe in it it doesn’t go away. Proffessionals come and go … they believe in this theory and that theory. They can get on and off their bandwagons but me I am still here. Others can give up and walk away and go off and believe in something else… but for me it doesn’t help to believe or not believe it doesn’t change anything i am still stuck here.

    • I love how you’ve put it, Vickilost! Indeed x-amount of people have x-amount of ideas what dissociation and dissociative disorders are. We all try to understand it as we experience it directly or indirectly. As we try to make meaning out of what we see, we filter things through our beliefs, personal history, and even current moods and levels of well-being. I don’t believe anybody can claim they know ‘the truth about DD/DID’, I including me here. Even those diagnosed with DD/DID differ vastly in how they experience it. What I have seen over the last 25 years – besides the suffering – is the beauty and love in people, how, once we understand, even parts that act hostile and aggressive are trying to re-establish the natural and innate wholeness and health every person of this planet has at the time of birth. My faith is that if we hold on to looking for the good and the love in each person and in each part, we will succeed with creating a better world: inside and outside.

  2. Denial is a part of Dissociative Disorders – an important coping mechanism. There hasn’t been any scientific proof that it is possible to invent it yourself – the iatrogenic theory was been proved false memory times also.
    If you are still questioning yourself then have a look at Dell’s research – A new model for DID – if you have these symptoms (which aren’t part of the criteria for diagnosis) then how can you have invented a symptom you didn’t know about? http://www.researchgate.net/publication/7247074_A_new_model_of_dissociative_identity_disorder/file/9fcfd50fd969ee7029.pdf

  3. Rose

    I think it’s great you directly bring this question to light – it’s important.

    Theoretically I fall back on the distinction between Janet’s idea about structural dissociation of the personality – that’s we are more likely to relate to the more severe end of the DD spectrum, and more momentary neurological processes that result in more limited dissociation of aspects of our experience; the ‘everyday’ dissociation such as checking out whilst driving a familiar route.

    I don’t like acknowledging a lot of the time I have DDNOS – like it’s all just a story I tell myself; in some ways it is, but a very powerful one that’s shaped how I intake and organize everything I come into contact with, this affording me certain experiences over others that further shape how I organize my world, and on and on.

    The difficulties I have with relationships, and maintaining work, study, anything that requires some level of consistent expression of oneself also bring me back to the reality of my experience, even though at the time nothing seems amiss, other than a profound sense of disconnect and lack of importance of what I’m doing. Attachment issues cloud the issue.

    Anyway, I think it’s an important topic to keep returning to, as I think the potential of the psychiatric/mental health profession to ‘crazy make’ on individuals, or add fuel to fire taking people away from harms that have occurred and any inability to welcome them into our experience is real.

    Rose.

  4. Amy Murphy

    I used to partially believe I made my DID and sexual abuse stories up. No one believed them anyway. Two weeks ago, my father and main perpetrator was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He actually acknowledged the molestation and, And expressed great remorse and regret. Never did I dream, that I would ever hear such words. My people and I continue to process this…monumental admission:) Amy

    • hi ami, what an exceptional experience! i hope you father’s admission will assist you on your healing journey and help you to find iner peace and wholeness. 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed reading this article..It has made alot of sense to me and I can relate to it so very well. I have recently been diagonised with PTSD along with Dissosiative dissorders….I have asked myself many questions as to why this has happened and have I created it myself. I know that from my life I have not created them but about 12 months ago..My first “Part” arrived in therapy…wow..it was weird, really bizzare as here I was a grown woman and I am speaking as a little girl. anyway..I have to agree with you that it awakens you…It for me has been the most confusing and scarey times I have had….But as I have let these parts emerge .. I am becoming incredibly aware of myself, my parts and why they are there. There are people that do not understand and that who will never understand..I often ask myself I created them, why can’t they just go away. But from reading your other blogs these parts have allowed me to go to school…and grow up…….It has been amazing for me to have this blog to read and not feel abnormal. I am very aware of myself…and whilst my depression and PTSD can take over I will continue on the healing path.

    ..However….My only trouble is…when I am highly triggered by something, how can I stop them from avoiding the situation..when I need to take charge and they won’t let me..how do I get around that? How do I let them know that I am ok…I will be able to handle this……anyway just some of my thoughts….and a great blog…thanks

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