Dissociative Disorders in Sex Abuse Victims
Psychiatric disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as “…problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self.” Traumatic experiences can cause dissociative disorders, which are a type of psychiatric disorder. There is a strong connection between sexual abuse and dissociative disorders, according to numerous studies. In this article, you will learn about the most common dissociative disorders and the long-term impact that these disorders have on the lives of sexual abuse survivors.

Types of Dissociative Disorders

The three types of dissociative disorders and their symptoms are as follows:

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Among the most common causes of dissociative identity disorder (DID) are overwhelming traumatic events and experiences faced during childhood. The symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, previously referred to as multiple personality disorder, may include the following:

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

Dissociative Amnesia

When a person suffers from dissociative amnesia, there is a tendency to forget about traumatic experiences and to have difficulty recalling details about their lives. Dissociative amnesia occurs when a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or abuse. A person with dissociative amnesia may experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to recognize family and friends
  • Forgetting names of those close to the individual
  • Adoption of a new identity (known as dissociative fugue)
  • Memory loss of specific trauma

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

Derealization/Personalization Disorder

It is possible that a person suffering from derealization/personalization 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 are not real. The following symptoms are possible:

  • Feeling a lack of emotion while remembering events
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from others
  • Numbness of senses
  • Not feeling in control of speech or movement
  • Sensing that the body, legs, or arms appear distorted
  • Surroundings appearing distorted or unreal

The Long-Term Consequences of Dissociative Disorders

Those who have been sexually abused as children are more likely to develop dissociative disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study linking high dissociation disorders to childhood abuse, including sexual abuse. The study stated:

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

Despite the fact that dissociative disorders are rare in the general population, the long-term effects they have on those who suffer from them can be devastating. It is known that they can lead to relationship problems, problems keeping a job, insomnia, and even suicidal thoughts.

You can access the complete study here: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/ajp.155.6.806

How to Get Help

Experiencing childhood sexual abuse can be one of the most traumatic events someone can possibly go through in their lifetime. Many long-term residual effects of childhood sexual abuse are highly challenging for survivors to overcome. It is a fact that emotional and psychological pain pose life-long burdens, and those responsible for inflicting such damage should be held accountable. Our attorneys understand that it is difficult to speak about childhood sexual abuse. Contact the Law Offices of Mark Yablonovich today at (888) 306-4228 for support in dealing with child sex abuse.

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