Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder: Analysis

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 16
Words: 4519
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: PhD

Opening Statement

Disasters, in the form of weather calamities, accidents and the like, have been on a rising trend over the past decades. This situation has been associated with technological advancements, economic development and changing environmental conditions. As a result, individuals affected by such situations have faced tremendous challenges in a bid to cope with these changes. In extreme cases, however, some individuals tend to develop trauma-related illnesses, such as the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

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This paper will seek to analyze the relationship between trauma and DID as well as provide supporting literature and proposed research methodology to conduct a research study on the disorder.


The human race is constantly confronted by the aspect of uncertainty, that is, the inability to foresee what could happen in the next moment. This situation causes the element of surprise that may catch one off-guard and immobilize an individual’s thoughts and actions. The world we live in is constantly barraged by negative events that have disastrous effects on the lives of those affected, either directly or indirectly. These events take up the three spheres of political, environmental and economic factors. In this regard, political factors are those that have resulted in national uprisings or war, leading to the direct loss of lives. Environmental factors have contributed to events related to the environment, such as droughts, floods, among others, leaving a trail of destruction behind and at times, the loss of lives. Economic factors are influenced by changes in national markets and economies. These changes have led to market disruptions, such as recessions and depressions. These events have affected individuals’ financial capability leading to a low quality of life.

These uncertainties have disastrous effects on the emotional and psychological aspects of the lives of those affected. If these situations remain unchecked, they have the potential to lead to serious psychological illnesses.

Background of the Study

The human brain controls nearly all functions, making it a vital organ in the body. Decades of research have revealed the importance of the organ to body functions, terming it as the epicenter of activity. The brain controls the nervous system in the body, hence directs thoughts and consequently, actions. However, this organ is not immune to illness. Bearing the importance it has in the body, psychological illnesses have a significant impact on the operation of body functions (Vermetten, Schmahl & Lindner, 2006). For this reason, such illnesses are not treated in a conventional manner of drugs and/ or surgery. Psychologists first need to understand the underlying issue that is leading to the manifestation of strange behavior, such as suicidal tendencies, before prescribing treatment. This strategy is achieved through therapy, in an effort to understand the psychological facet of the brain and the reason behind such thoughts and activities.

Summary of Literature

For a long time, mental issues were considered to be detrimental to the overall body function, as any mistake could lead to mental or physical impairment, or both cases. As a result, there were minimal brain surgeries, as doctors relied on psychologists’ therapies. However, modern technology has created innovative means that make such activities less risky.

One such mental illness is trauma. American Psychology Association (2010) defines trauma as an emotional response to stressful events or situations. Emotional trauma normally happens after an extremely stressful situation that leaves one feeling vulnerable and helpless in the face of danger. Trauma normally results from situations that are potentially threatening to life or safety. In some instances, situations that create the illusion of danger also contribute to emotional trauma. This response is as a result of brain activity that prompts the body to draw up its defenses against such situations, leaving an individual feeling helpless. In such situations, an individual does not necessarily suffer physical harm but is emotionally injured.

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Sinason (2002) indicates that individuals who suffer from emotional trauma normally find it difficult to process stressful information and may feel overwhelmed in such cases. As a result, such individuals react differently to disasters. For instance, individuals may experience mood swings and find themselves deeply distressed and overwhelmed or easily irritable. Such intense feelings of anxiety, for no apparent reason, may be a result of an emotional trauma. In addition, individuals affected by disasters normally find themselves having vivid and recurring thoughts of the event. This mental loop leads to changes in body patterns, such as increased heartbeat rate as well as sleep disruption. In this case, individuals may tend to oversleep or experience insomnia. Furthermore, individuals may discover heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli such as sounds, smells or sights. As a result, one may remember the details of the event, thereby leading to increased anxiety. For example, an individual involved in a horrific car accident can find himself/herself replaying the events that led up to the car crash. Emotional trauma also leads to strained interpersonal relationships (Ross, 2006). In this case, affected individuals may feel isolated and neglected and in the process, strain friendships and family relationships. This situation essentially leaves the individual feeling alone and disconnected from everyone else.

As a result of extreme trauma, emotional disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, referred to as DID, is developed. The American Psychology Association (2010) defines DID as a mental disorder, which occurs as a result of an extremely traumatic event that may have occurred during childhood, characterized by harmful physical, emotional or sexual experiences. As a result, the affected individual tends to distance himself/herself from his/her memories, thoughts or generally, identity. Previously, this disorder was referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). An individual tends to dissociate from his/her character in a bid to forget the traumatic event. In the process, the individual takes up a different identity, in an effort to cope with the traumatic experience. Researchers have disagreed over the existence of this disorder, citing the impossibility of completely erasing one’s identity as well as the affected individual’s memories and experiences.

Lewis, Yeager, Swica, Pincus and Lewis (2014) indicate that individuals exhibiting this disorder tend to adopt split personalities. In this case, the affected individual tends to erase personal information, connected to his/her identity and experiences from his/her memory. As a result, the individual tends to change his/her behavior, in connection with the adopted character. Individuals affected by this disorder tend to adopt different identities, in terms of age, race or even gender. The adopted personality can last for a few seconds, minutes, or even days (Sinason, 2002). With time, the number of personalities adopted by individuals has increased from the average 2 to even 16 personalities. Ross (2006) indicates that the United States of America has witnessed more cases of DID more than any other place in the world. In addition, the disorder is most prevalent among the female population. This disorder has been a contentious issue that is yet to receive the in-depth research it deserves.

Gaps and Deficiencies in Prior Research

DID is considered to be one of the most controversial mental disorder in Psychology. The cause of the disorder is still unknown, as well as the consequent treatment of patients experiencing DID (Lewis et al., 2014). Furthermore, the disorder’s close relationship to other disorders has hindered the identification of a single diagnosis. For this reason, researchers have dismissed the diagnosis application of the disorder, citing lack of distinction from other disorders (Ross, 2006).

Insufficient data related to the disorder raises speculation regarding the illness, leading to confusion with other disorders, which have related symptoms. For instance, some individuals believe that DID is the same as Schizophrenia. Other individuals believe that the disorder is rare, hence neglecting the need for research. For this reason, a research study will provide conclusive facts and information that can provide proper basis for the determination of statistics for governmental and non-governmental health agencies.

Why the study should be pursued

The reasons for pursuing the research in question are quite basic. Although a major breakthrough has been made in psychiatry over the past few decades, the phenomenon of DID still needs further research, as it retains a range of blank spots (Ross, 2006). Thus, since the study allows exploring the concept of DID, it defines the efficacy of future intervention strategies and, therefore, the wellbeing of patients.

Importance of Present Study

In order to resolve the issue of insufficient data mentioned previously, it is imperative to undertake a study of the disorder. The continued disregard of the disorder will continue to affect individuals who are currently exhibiting symptoms of DID. As a result of lack of information or expertise on the subject, such individuals are consequently left untreated (Ross, 2006). Therefore, the study will be instrumental in assisting such individuals receive proper care and treatment.

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Thus, the undertaking of the study on DID will be of paramount importance to individuals affected by the disorder as they can be able to understand what they are suffering from. In addition, doctors can be able to administer proper treatment from the facts and information collected in the proposed study. In addition, individuals affected by the disorder usually exhibit violent behavior and may find themselves on the wrong side of the law (Lewis et al., 2014). Using a DID defense in court is considered a nearly impossible tactic, owing to the lack of information on the disorder and therefore poses a challenge to lawyers in an attempt to present adequate evidence to support the claim. As a result, the study will provide substantiated facts that can be used in such situations.

Problem Statement

The aspect of uncertainty in most disasters doubles the impact they have on the affected individuals (Brand & Lanius, 2014). These situations are due to the fact that they may surprise individuals who would have otherwise prepared mentally for receipt of the potential impact. As a result, such situations at times become hard to bear and overwhelm the concerned individual. In cases of extreme traumatic events, individuals are forced to bear the brunt, leading to the development of mental disorders. Research has revealed facts and information about mental disorders such as Schizophrenia, leading to proper diagnosis and consequent treatment of the illness. However, disorders such as Dissociative Identity Disorders have not received adequate attention and research they deserve.

Purpose of Statement

Research Design

Creswell (2009) defines research design as the foundation that provides the basis on, which the research study is carried out. In this case, research designs provide guidance and direction to the undertaking of the research study. This approach enables researchers collect data that is relevant to the study. In addition, the method in question aligns with the theory chosen, i.e., the theory of dissociation (Neumann, 2012).

Quasi-experimental design

Quasi-experimental design, also referred to as semi-experimental design, is similar to experimental design, the only difference being that it is not based on random experiments. In this case, there is the absence of random experimental groups as in the case of experiment design. Random design ensures there are no pre-existing conditions that may alter the results of the research. Quasi-experimental designs are adopted in situations that are considered impossible to randomly divide groups, as they may have similar conditions that are important to the research study. An example of a quasi-experimental design is pretest-posttest design.

In relation to the subject matter and nature of the research study, the quasi-experimental design will be applied. The focus of the study, being a psychology related issue does not warrant the study to be a true experiment, as in the case of experimental research design. Furthermore, the manipulation of the control group will prove the existence of a causal relationship between Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Theory tested

The theory of dissociation (Neumann, 2012) was chosen to provide a basis for the research. The specified approach was suggested by Pierre Janet (Neumann, 2012) and can be viewed as the primary tool for addressing the DID-related phenomena.

Descriptive Research Method

This method requires the researcher to describe the characteristic situation of the subject under study. The research study will apply two main categories of descriptive methodology, namely, case study and survey methodologies. The case study method will enable the researcher to carry out an in-depth research on the subject. As a result, the researcher will able to derive hypotheses that can be tested and analyzed to provide conclusive facts. The survey method will involve the administration of interview questions to the participants of the study. The researcher will construct questions that are related to the research study and that he/she needs answers to describe the subject matter.

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As per the research topic, the most effective methodology is the descriptive research method. The data collected from the case studies as well as the surveys will be used in the study, to test whether they apply to Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder. For instance, the survey will contain questions that will seek to find out the age when the participant first experienced symptoms related to the disorder. In addition, the case studies will analyze real experiences of individuals affected by the disorder, as well as conclusions drawn from such situations. This approach will assist the researcher identify the existence, or lack thereof, of the causal relationship between trauma and DID.

Research Intent

The research study aims at proving the existence of the causal relationship between Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder. In addition, the research will shed more light on the disorder, which has not received the attention it deserves.

The study will compare the different personalities exhibited by participants suffering from DID in an attempt to analyze the factors that influence the adoption of split personalities by the affected individuals. In addition, the study will analyze the gender aspect and compare which gender is prone to developing the disorder.

As a result, the study will relate the implications of trauma to the disorder, as well as seek to reveal the underlying factors that may lead to the development of DID.

Research Variables

Creswell (2009) defines a variable as an entity that varies qualitatively or quantitatively.

  • Independent variables. In regards to the research study, the independent variables in this case are age, gender and time of experience of the traumatic event. Lewis et al. (2014) indicate that traumatic experiences that one had during childhood are connected to the development of DID. Therefore, the age of the participants, as well as an experience of traumatic events will be assessed to reveal their connection to the development of the disorder.
  • Dependent variables. The researcher will observe the effect that the independent variables have on the dependent variables and examines the degree of manipulation that determines the changes experienced in the dependent variables. This approach will enable the researcher derive information, which he/she will use to draw conclusions of the research study. In the proposed research study, the dependent variables are the diagnostic presence of DID and the Dissociative Experiences Scale.
  • Controlling variable. Abbot and McKinney (2012) describe controlling variables as entities that remain constant over the course of the research study. They are kept under constant observation as in the case of dependent variables. The controlling variable in this research study is the treatment of trauma-related disorders. The treatment will affect the outcome of the relationship between Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder.
  • Intervening variable. An intervening variable is defined as a hypothetical entity that aims at providing the relationship between independent and dependent variables. In this case, the intervening variable is the early childhood traumatic experience.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Research Questions

  1. What is the relationship between Trauma and Dissociative Identity Disorder?
  2. What are the effects of early traumatic experiences on the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder?
  3. How does gender correlate with traumatic experiences?

Alternative Hypothesis

  1. The increase in stress levels improves the probability of the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder
  2. The experience of traumatic events during childhood increases the rate of development of DID
  3. Female members of the population are more likely to be affected by DID than compared to their male counterparts

Operationalization of Alternative Hypothesis

  1. The case study approach will provide data that will assess the influence of stress on DID
  2. The case study and survey approaches will reveal the impact of traumatic events during childhood on the development of DID
  3. The survey undertaken will reveal the existence, or lack thereof, of the role of gender on development of DID

Null Hypotheses

  1. The Dissociative Identity Disorder is not dependent on stress levels.
  2. The experience of traumatic events during childhood does not lead to the development of DID.
  3. The rate of development of DID is not based on gender.

Operationalization of Null Hypotheses

  1. The data collected from the case studies indicates DID is not influenced by stress levels.
  2. The case studies and surveys conducted in the study do not indicate the existence of a relationship between traumatic events experienced during childhood and the development of DID.
  3. The survey administered to participants do not reveal the influence of gender on the rate of development of DID.

Nature of the study

Quantitative paradigm

Creswell (2009) defines quantitative paradigm as concepts and values derived from quantitative data that form the perspective that is held by a group of scholars or researchers. In the proposed research study, the hypotheses identified above will provide the direction of the study. In addition, the research will test theories presented in the study with the collected quantitative data. Furthermore, the study will be carried out in a controlled environment in an attempt to describe the characteristics of the study participants and also explain the exhibited behavior.

Variables will provide the basis for the research study. These will be divided into two main categories, namely, categorical variables, which are based on kind, such as gender and quantitative variables such as stress levels, which are determined by the variation of the amount or degree (Abbott & McKinney, 2012).


The research study will adopt a quasi-experimental design. In this case, independent variables such as age or gender will be manipulated to allow for observation of the effect on dependent variables. This methodology will allow for the formation of causal relationships between Dissociative Identity Disorder and aspects of gender and age of the chosen population.

Quasi-Experimental Design

Pretest-posttest design. The researcher will carry out pre-tests on the identified participants. Ohlund and Chong-ho (n. d) indicate that Campbell and Stanley (1963) used quasi-experimental designs to offer an alternative to randomized experiments. They presented a technique, which required a researcher to conduct a pre-test on the identified group, carry out treatment and later conduct a post-test. The findings would be recorded and any difference would be attributed to the administered treatment. In the research study, the pre-tests will be administered prior to data collection, to identify the existence, or lack thereof, of tendencies in the group (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 2008). This approach rules out any influences that may alter the final results of the research study. Once this activity is carried out, the researcher can then introduce the manipulative element of the independent variable and observe the effect on the dependent variables. He/she can then collect data and analyze it in connection with the study.

Rationale of design. The adoption of the quasi-experimental design is made on the basis of the nature of the research study. In this case, the lack of randomized groups limits the participation of all subjects in the study. The nature of the research study does not allow the application of random grouping of participants. However, the manipulation of independent variables for assessment of the effects observed in dependent variables provides the basis for adoption of this research design.


Population. Creswell (2009) defines population as the target audience comprised of subjects with characteristics that are relevant to the research study. Since it is impossible to involve the entire population as a result of resource constraints such as time and money, the researcher draws a sample of participants from the population under study. The unique nature of DID indicates that the identified individuals suffering from the disorder are few. However, the estimated size of the general population ranges from 1% to 3%.

Sampling. A sample is a subset of the research population. The most applicable sampling type for this research study is the non-randomized sampling. As a result of the adoption of quasi-experimental design, the absence of randomized grouping warrants the adoption of non-randomized sampling that is based on the systematic selection of the sample. More specifically, the study will adopt purposive sampling. As a result of the unique nature of the subject matter, the researcher will analyze the key characteristics of the subject matter and seek to represent these aspects in the sample.

Sample size and population size. Owing to the limited number of cases of DID, the sample will be more than 50% of the reported cases. This approach will ensure that the sample is representative of the general population to ensure accuracy and reliability of data collected in the research study.

Drawing of a sample. The number of reported cases ranges between 20,000 and 200,000 in the United States. In order to have a representative sample, the researcher will analyze the reported cases in terms of the location, in which the cases are reported. Once the analysis is complete, the researcher will draw 50% of the upper limit of the population in the respective state. This approach will provide a comparison of different states in terms of the number of reported cases of DID.

Instrumentation and Materials. In order to measure the collected data, the researcher will apply the Dissociative Experience Scale. This instrument will be completed by the researcher, from the data collected from the population sample.

Instrument Reliability. The reliability of a research instrument ensures consistency in data collection. As a result, the data collected can provide accurate information for the drawing of conclusions of the research study. The pretest-posttest technique adopted in data collection will ensure that participants in the study are not influenced by tendencies that may affect the data collected. As a result, the application of the Dissociative Experience Scale will provide unbiased information to the researcher (Ghannam & Thabet, 2014).

Instrument validity. The instrument adopted in the research study should perform and measure variables as expected to ensure the validity of the research instrument. To facilitate the validity of the instrument, the researcher will undertake pilot testing in order to measure the effectiveness of the instrument. In addition, the sample should be representative of the population and hence enable the instrument, draw accurate generalizations of the research population.

Data analysis plan. In order to draw up a plan on how to analyze data, it is imperative to first understand the nature of the data. For the data sets to be collected, gender is classified as nominal data. In this case, there are no logical relationships in the data sets provided in the study, hence allowing categorization, as in the case of gender as male or female.

On the other hand, age is classified as ratio data as it is continuous and based on standardized values with a natural zero. As a result, the determination of intervals between values is possible. Consequently, data tabulation can be used to assess the gender and age data sets. In this case, the data is tabulated in frequency distribution tables, which assesses the number of participants in the identified category (Brandalise & Safra, 2014). In this case, the researcher can be able to identify the number of male or female participants diagnosed with DID. The percent distribution table can be used to assess the percentage of participants represented in each age category.

In addition, the correlation will be used to identify the existence of a pattern between gender and DID. This statistical measurement will be carried out with the assistance of statistical software such as SPSS (Laugharne, Kullack & Stanley, 2012).

Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) will be applied to identify the statistical relevance of the mean differences between different age sets and the development of DID. The specified tool can be deemed as very trustworthy, as it provides a detailed and accurate analysis of differences between the key variables.

Limitations. The unique nature of the research study poses a challenge to the determination of the sample size. Since the disorder is considered to be highly comorbid, the element of confusion with other similar disorders may influence the outcomes of the study. This limitation will be addressed by carefully selecting the population and ensure they exhibit characteristics related to DID. As a result, the sample size drawn from the population will be representative and therefore facilitate accurate data collection.

Validity threats. As previously indicated, the validity of research instruments ensures that the instrument properly captures and measures data. However, these instruments are faced with potential threats that can affect their effectiveness. In the proposed research study, irrelevant questions may be included in the Dissociative Experiences Scale leading to the collection of irrelevant data. To counter this situation, the researcher will carefully assess the measurements to ensure they capture the information intended from the sample.

Ethical Concerns. The research study will uphold proper ethics throughout the course of the study. The researcher will ensure the principle of informed consent is practiced. In this case, the researcher will disclose all information related to the study, including inherent risks. This approach will enable the participants make an informed decision about their participation in the study. In addition, the research will also guarantee the participants’ safety. In this case, the study will ensure the participants are protected from any physical or psychological harm that may arise over the course of the study.

Significance of the Study

Practical contributions of the study

The study will fill the existing knowledge gaps in the study of DID. This contribution will provide information that can be used for further research, as well as individuals who may be interested in learning more about the impact of stress on Dissociative Identity Disorder.

For whom the study is important

The study will be beneficial to Psychologists who may also use the research findings as a basis for the development of treatment of affected individuals. To be more exact, the research will provide the premises for creating new approaches to address DID. Additionally, the outcomes of the study can be viewed as crucial to the patients. Shedding some light on people with DID, the study provides a decent basis for creating new tools that will help carry out successful interventions for people with DID.

Implications for social change

The research on DID will promote understanding of individuals affected by the disorder in the society. First and most obvious, the instances of DID will become much more identifiable; as a result, the chances of addressing the issue sooner and, thus, more successfully, will be created. In addition, the comprehension of the disorder will provide a proper basis, on which scientific standards will be established.


In summary the research study will dispel myths and false information surrounding Dissociative Identity Disorder, by providing conclusive facts that can be used as a basis for further research as well facilitating proper and effective treatment of the disorder. In addition, the study will provide accurate information for individuals and researchers alike.


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