Controversy Associated with Dissociative Disorders


Dissociative disorders involve problems with behavior, sense of self, memory, identity, perception, and emotion. Dissociative disorders include conditions such as dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder.

Controversy Associated with Dissociative Disorders


Most of the controversy Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is whether it is a real disorder. This is despite the availability of research to validate this disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is listed as an official mental disorder in the DSM-5.

Another controversy arises from the confusion in diagnosing dissociative and personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorders. Both of these disorders have some similarities in symptoms.

The controversy around the causality of DID is also common. Many people believe that the disorder exists but is not caused by trauma but by sociocultural factors, sometimes called iatrogenic factors (Şar et al., 2017). People who believe in the existence of the disorder agree that the symptoms can be observable.

However, the side is inclined towards sociocultural factors as the causality argues that sometimes these symptoms are being faked, and patients give in to social influence. It is called iatrogenic because it is believed that clinicians could be causing the symptoms and reward patients when they manifest these symptoms.

DID is also mischaracterized in the media. In movies and TV shows, characters usually have an extreme characterization of DID, with characters showing extremely distinct personalities that operate for days on end. They typically have characteristics that are markedly different from the primary personality. DID used to be referred to as multiple personality disorder, which may have contributed to the mischaracterization and misunderstanding of this disorder.

Professional beliefs about dissociative disorders.

Dissociative disorders are not easy to diagnose. A disruption of normal identity, memory, consciousness, and behavior classically characterizes these disorders. Persons with DID are often misdiagnosed with other personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (Joos et al., 2017).  This is because of the overlap in the symptoms seen in both dissociative and personality disorders.

The criteria for the diagnosis of DID include the existence of more than one distinct personality state. Changes in memory, thinking, and behavior accompany these personalities. Another criterion is the presence of persistent gaps in memory, which are recurrent in nature. Another criterion is the presence of significant impairment in social, occupational, and other areas of functioning (Mychailyszyn et al., 2021)

Patients diagnosed with dissociative disorders have been exposed to extreme trauma and abuse coupled with some form of denial of the trauma (Lyssenko et al., 2018). Diagnosis of DID requires experienced psychiatric practitioners and psychologists. Diagnosis of these disorders involves assessment over a long period of time. A detailed history should be taken from the patient as well as from other sources, e.g., close friends and relatives.

Maintaining the Therapeutic Relationship.

Patients with DID tend to be very sensitive to interpersonal trust and rejection issues. Therefore, long-term treatment in an outpatient setting is ideal for handling such patients. Therapists who treat DID patients should see them once or twice weekly. This should go on for years, with the primary goal being the fusion of the personality states.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively communicate with the alters and help the patient find better coping strategies than switching between alters (Ganslev et al., 2020).

Ethical and legal considerations

Diagnosis of Dissociative disorders requires experienced psychiatric practitioners. Therefore, a referral is necessary to avoid a misdiagnosis whenever the DID diagnosis is unclear. The patient should be informed once the correct diagnosis has been made. Because patients with DID have multiple alters, education must be done with all the alters. Patients’ privacy must be respected, and their diagnoses should not be shared publicly.


  • Ganslev, C. A., Storebø, O. J., Callesen, H. E., Ruddy, R., & Søgaard, U. (2020). Psychosocial interventions for conversion and dissociative disorders in adults. The Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews7(7), CD005331.
  • Joos, A., Baumann, K., Scheidt, C. E., Lahmann, C., König, R., Busch, H. J., & Schulze-Bonhage, A. (2017). Differenzialdiagnose dissoziativer Anfälle [Differential diagnosis of dissociative seizures]. Der Nervenarzt88(10), 1147–1152.
  • Lyssenko, L., Schmahl, C., Bockhacker, L., Vonderlin, R., Bohus, M., & Kleindienst, N. (2018). Dissociation in Psychiatric Disorders: A Meta-Analysis of Studies Using the Dissociative Experiences Scale. The American Journal Of Psychiatry175(1), 37–46.
  • Mychailyszyn, M. P., Brand, B. L., Webermann, A. R., Şar, V., & Draijer, N. (2021). Differentiating Dissociative from Non-Dissociative Disorders: A Meta-Analysis of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Dissociative Disorders (SCID-D). Journal of Trauma & Dissociation: The Official Journal of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD)22(1), 19–34.
  • Şar, V., Dorahy, M. J., & Krüger, C. (2017). Revisiting the etiological aspects of dissociative identity disorder: a biopsychosocial perspective. Psychology Research And Behavior Management10, 137–146.

Controversy Associated with Dissociative Disorders Instructions

  Dissociative Disorders Have you ever been driving and realized you don’t remember the last few minutes of driving? Or have you gotten so wrapped up in a book or movie that you lose some awareness of your surroundings? These are examples of common and very mild dissociation, or a disconnect or lack of continuity between thoughts, feelings, actions, and sense of self.  There are three major dissociative disorders defined in the DSM-5: dissociative identity disorder, dissociative amnesia, and depersonalization-derealization disorder. Dissociative disorders may be associated with traumatic events in order to help manage difficult memories or experiences. Patients with these types of disorders are likely to also exhibit symptoms of a variety of other dysfunctions, such as depression, alcoholism, or self-harm and may also be more susceptible to personality, sleeping, and eating disorders.  This week, you will analyze issues related to the diagnosis and treatment of dissociative disorders as well as associated legal and ethical considerations.  Learning Objectives Students will:  Analyze issues related to the diagnosis and treatment of dissociative disorders Analyze legal and ethical considerations related to dissociative disorders Learning Resources Required Readings (click to expand/reduce)  Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A., & Ruiz, P. (2015). Kaplan & Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry (11th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.  Chapter 12, “Dissociative Disorders” Required Media (click to expand/reduce)  Osmosis. (2017, November 20). Dissociative disorders – causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology [Video]. YouTube.   Mad Medicine. (2019, August 18). Dissociative disorders (Psychiatry) - USMLE Step 1 [Video]. YouTube.  Grande, T. (2018, October 22). The dissociative identity disorder controversy (Trauma vs. Iatrogenic). [Video]. YouTube.  Assignment: Controversy Associated With Dissociative Disorders The DSM-5 is a diagnostic tool. It has evolved over the decades, as have the classifications and criteria within its pages. It is used not just for diagnosis, however, but also for billing, access to services, and legal cases. Not all practitioners are in agreement with the content and structure of the DSM-5, and dissociative disorders are one such area. These disorders can be difficult to distinguish and diagnose. There is also controversy in the field over the legitimacy of certain dissociative disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder, which was formerly called multiple personality disorder.  In this Assignment, you will examine the controversy surrounding dissociative disorders. You will also explore clinical, ethical, and legal considerations pertinent to working with patients with these disorders.   Photo Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media  To Prepare Review this week’s Learning Resources on dissociative disorders. Use the Walden Library to investigate the controversy regarding dissociative disorders. Locate at least three scholarly articles that you can use to support your Assignment.  The Assignment (2–3 pages) Explain the controversy that surrounds dissociative disorders. Explain your professional beliefs about dissociative disorders, supporting your rationale with at least three scholarly references from the literature. Explain strategies for maintaining the therapeutic relationship with a client that may present with a dissociative disorder. Finally, explain ethical and legal considerations related to dissociative disorders that you need to bring to your practice and why they are important. By Day 7 of Week 9 Submit your Assignment.  Submission and Grading Information To submit your completed Assignment for review and grading, do the following:  Please save your Assignment using the naming convention “WK9Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” as the name. Click the Week 9 Assignment Rubric to review the Grading Criteria for the Assignment. Click the Week 9 Assignment link. You will also be able to “View Rubric” for grading criteria from this area. Next, from the Attach File area, click on the Browse My Computer button. Find the document you saved as “WK9Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” and click Open. If applicable: From the Plagiarism Tools area, click the checkbox for I agree to submit my paper(s) to the Global Reference Database. Click on the Submit button to complete your submission. Grading Criteria To access your rubric:   Check Your Assignment Draft for Authenticity