It has come to my attention that there are few, if any, resources for the family members of those who suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and/or Dissociation. Given that this is an area of expertise for me, I thought I might start providing some basic information for those families.
In this short introductory post, I will outline what will come in this blog series. I will work diligently to add content at least a few times a month. Okay, I will try my best. Anyways, back to our topic.
Families should understand the following things:
1. If a person suffered severe, long lasting, interpersonal trauma (trauma by another person), their resolve to trust people is likely limited.
2. The closer the relationship the greater the vulnerability. The greater the vulnerability, the greater the risk of being hurt again. Therefore, the person is more likely to act out with those closest to them.
3. This acting out is often, but not always, an unconscious effort to determine if they can actually trust you and if they are safe. A single violation (or perceived violation) of trust, can have devastating consequences to the person and the relationship.
4. The acting out and other symptoms/signs of trauma and dissociation are a coping strategy to help a person survive worst case scenarios. Unfortunately, when a person is not in a worst case/traumatic situation, the coping strategies can become maladaptive.
5. There are several different degrees of dissociation, ranging from normal to abnormal. Everybody experiences some degree of dissociation. It can range from basic daydreaming all the way to the development of separate personality states.
6. Dissociation is a form of coping.
7. We all have different personality states. The difference between the average person and someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is the degree of separation between the core self and the personality states, as well as the purpose of the personality states.
8. Treatment is typically broken down into three stages: Stabilization, Remembrance and Mourning, and Reconnection. Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder incorporates several other elements within these stages, but it follows the same basic pattern.
9. Stabilization comprises most of the work and includes six primary areas of focus: Understanding the symptoms/signs, self-care, self-soothing, felt safety, trust, and boundaries.
10. Trust, safety, and boundaries are the essential factors that cause a person to act out in close relationships. Vulnerability requires a person to trust, feel safe, and know boundaries will be respected.
In the next installment, I will start by helping families understand the symptoms/signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the more severe form of dissociation, Dissociative Identity Disorder.