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Comparison of the Etiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment of DID and PTSD Essay

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Psychology is the academic discipline dealing with the study of human behaviour and mental functions (Burton, 2010). As such, psychologists are described as social or cognitive scientists. The scientists and professionals explore human characters, such as perception, emotions, and personality. The aim of such exploration is to assess and treat psychological disorders.

Numerous studies have been conducted in the past to try and explain why people act and behave the way they do. Information gathered from such analyses is taken into consideration when making decisions in many contemporary organisations (Barlow & Durand, 2011).

Organisations that use such information in their operations include the government and private companies and corporations. The information is especially important when hiring personnel. Individual’s psychological information helps other people in making informed decisions when dealing with the individual. The information can also be used in assigning work to the individual.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (herein referred to as DID) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (herein referred to as PTSD) are classified as mental disorders. The two have formed the basis of research for many psychologists. The psychologists have made efforts to identify the root causes, treatment, and diagnostic procedures associated with the conditions. According to Dr. Brad Wright (and as cited in Farrell, 2011), the two conditions are significantly different from each other.

Post traumatic stress disorder develops when an individual is exposed to any form of psychological trauma. Dissociative identity disorder is known by several other names. One of them is “Multiple Personality Disorder”. The condition is associated with individuals who exhibit two distinct personalities. It is characterised by forgetfulness or amnesia (Shettleworth, 2010).

In this essay, the author will analyse the two conditions, comparing and contrasting their various aspects. The author will focus on the similarities and differences between the conditions’ etiology, diagnosis, and treatment.

The Etiology of DID and PTSD: A Comparison

Etiology of DID

Etiology is the study of the origin and cause of a given phenomenon (Overskeid, 2007). It is commonly used in medicine to determine why and how things take place. The concept aims at providing a mythical explanation for a certain condition or phenomenon.

Over the years, many researchers and philosophers have come up with various possible causes of dissociative identity disorder. However, most are in agreement that the disorder is brought about by maladjusted reactions to trauma. Such trauma is in most cases linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse (Hergenhahn, 2005). Most individuals suffering from this disorder had a traumatic experience in their childhood.

Neglect and lack of parental care are largely associated with the disorder. Individuals exposed to extreme physical abuse in the past tend to be violent and brutal in later life. Psychologists associate this phenomenon with attempts by individuals to forget their past miseries. The failure to forget leads to frustration, which is expressed through acts of violence and brutality.

Individuals who were exposed to acts of violence in the past are likely to try and expose others to similar conditions. The attempt explains the rising cases of violence in the society. Research has shown that criminals suffering from dissociative identity disorder expose their victims to ordeals that are similar to those they were exposed to in the past.

Such developments give rise to a cycle of crime and violence, which turns victims into offenders. Self destructive behaviours have also been identified as possible causes of the disorder (Pinel, 2010). Individuals exhibiting such traits tend to be violent towards themselves and towards others.

Etiology of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder develops after an individual is exposed to an event associated with intense fear, horror, and a sense of helplessness (Reisner, 2005). However, psychologists have identified other possible causes of post traumatic stress disorder. They include past life experiences and inherited traits, such as individual personality. Individuals who had traumatic experiences in their past make the bulk of patients diagnosed with this disorder.

Personality aspects that may influence the individual’s susceptibility to the disorder include, among others, temperament and ability to deal with stress. Regulation of hormones and such other chemicals as adrenaline by the brain is also associated with the condition.

Exposure to risk factors is another possible cause of post traumatic stress disorder. Such exposure explains why many soldiers and people living in war torn areas are more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder compared to other individuals.

There are several similarities between the etiologies of the two psychological disorders. For example, both conditions are associated with past traumatic experiences. Individuals suffering from either of the two conditions are likely to have witnessed traumatic events in their life (Carver & Scheier, 2004). Individuals react variously to such traumatic events.

As a result of this, some of the individuals exposed to the traumatic events may fail to develop the condition. For example, those suffering from dissociative identity disorder are violent towards other people. On the other hand, those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder live in perpetual fear of being abused or experiencing the traumatic events again.

Diagnosing DID and PTSD: A Comparison


In most cases, individuals suffering from these disorders are unaware of their condition. It is also hard for family members and the society at large to diagnose the disorders. The inability to diagnose is attributed to the fact that the effects of these disorders are mainly psychological.

As such, it is not easy to point out the characteristics. The case is different for other disorders, whose effects are expressed physically (Gelder & Geddes, 2005). In most cases, the individual is not aware of their condition when they seek medical assistance.

Diagnosing DID

To diagnose dissociative identity disorder, the psychologist needs to conduct a thorough psychological examination of the patient. A medical examination is necessary to determine whether the patient has any physical disorders that may explain their symptoms (Glaser & Strauss, 2005).

Examinations are carried out through oral interviews or questionnaires prepared in advance. Hypnosis or drugs are also used to make it easy for the patient to reveal personal information to the doctor (Barlow & Durand, 2011).

In most cases, patients complain of amnesia. The individual is unable to remember events that took place within a particular period of time. They also suffer from memory loss. In extreme cases, the patient may forget about close friends and family members. The individuals are depressed and may exhibit suicidal tendencies in extreme cases (Ron, 2008). In addition, some patients diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder complain of either audio or visual hallucinations.

Diagnosing PTSD

To diagnose post traumatic stress disorder, the professional needs to take into consideration the signs and symptoms exhibited by the individual. Patients are asked to explain their signs and symptoms. They try to explain what the signs are, the time they occur, and their intensity (Reinders, 2008). Individuals are also required to narrate the events preceding the symptoms. A patient has to meet a set of pre-defined criteria before the professional comes to a conclusion.

Diagnosing post traumatic stress disorder and dissociative personality disorder calls for a series of psychological and medical assessments. Assessments are carried out orally or through the use of a questionnaire. Examinations to check for other medical problems are carried out to ensure that the correct diagnosis is made (Boysen, 2011).

Treating DID and PTSD: A Comparison

Treating DID calls for the combination of various states of personality (Stern, 2012). Interaction between the different personalities helps the person to function normally. Drug therapy is used to relieve such symptoms as fear, anxiety, and depression.

Psychotherapy is considered as emotionally painful. Individuals undergoing therapy experience emotional crises especially when recalling traumatic memories during therapy sessions. Hypnosis is also applied in therapy. Therapy sessions take place over a long period of time, usually over 3 to 6 years. Individuals are treated for other serious health problems that are exhibited, such as drug and substance abuse.

Treating PTSD aims at helping individuals gain control over their own life. Individuals suffering from the disorder are advised to accept their condition. They are also empowered to cope with stress and such other phenomena. Unlike dissociative personality disorder, treating post traumatic stress disorder requires a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy.

There are various forms of drugs administered to those suffering from the disorder. They include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and prazosin (Spiegel, 2006). Each of these drugs has a particular function.

In psychotherapy, various interventions are used. The interventions include cognitive therapy, which involves empowering the individual to perceive things accurately to reduce trauma. Cognitive therapy is used together with other interventions, such as exposure therapy.

The latter encourages the patient to face or confront the situations that scare them the most (Ross, 2009). Other interventions, such as eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy, help the individuals in processing traumatic memories.

There are obvious similarities between the treatment procedures for the two disorders. In both cases, the doctor attending to the patient aims at reducing the effects of the trauma (Farrell, 2011). In addition, treating the two conditions involves psychotherapy. A close relationship between the patient and the doctor in-charge must be maintained. The aim here is to increase the efficiency of the therapy sessions.


Psychology is a field of study dealing with human behaviour and brain functions. The discipline involves the assessment of such human characteristics as perceptions and emotions in efforts to explain individual actions (Singh & Chakrabarti, 2008). Psychology has helped in diagnosing and treating various mental disorders, among them post traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder.

Many people suggest that DID and PTSD are the same. However, significant disparities exist between the two with regard to etiology, diagnosis, and treatment. But there are also similarities between the two conditions. For example, the two disorders are associated with past traumatic experiences.


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