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Children Of Parents With Dissociative Disorders

Discussion in 'Flashbacks & Dissociation' started by Blues in NYC, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member

    Does anyone here know of good resources on the web or in print about children from families where a parent has a dissociative disorder, the effects and experiences, especially where there was little or no treatment or diagnosis?

    My doctor gave me some preliminary materials on DID following a frank discussion regarding that my mother may have actually had (continues to have) some degree of moderate dissociative disorder from her own trauma filled childhood. My doc has asked me to read what she's given me (and other stuff I may find) and report back what I recognize in the material and what seems quite foreign. She's trying to help me make sense of some experiences and dynamics that dogged me for many years while growing up and says that my mother fits the profile (though she is not diagnosing her by any means!) for DID or a similar dissociative disorder.

    Unfortunately the material the doctor gave me is written mostly from the inside. Sort of like book versions of pamphlets that might be entitled "So you've been diagnosed with DID. Now what?" This form of literature is not very helpful. And I've only found one or two generic "web MD" style articles about parents with dissociative disorders on line in my first attempts.

    So any body got any other ideas where I can look? Or even threads here buried in the forum written by folks who've also grown up in a house with mental illness or outlining the hallmarks of dissociative disorder in a family dynamic?

    Thanks in advance.

    I'm a bit in shock to be told today that something like this might be why some of the stuff that was done to me and my sister, the emotional and verbal Abuse in particular, was always deep in the shadows as if it had never happened, as if my mother had forgotten entirely what she did on some days and how she always asserted she was a good parent. It's a shock akin to what I've been feeling to learn that the cops are out hunting my assailant (from my more recent trauma, not my mother! :crazy:Too much trauma! Too many characters in this twisting narrative! BLARG!) now and that she's been doing other stuff that crosses the line. We're not sure what. But they made a point of meeting us and making sure we were okay. And my wife saw them again this morning. What a wacky wacky two days this has been for me.
    Cashew, BloomInWinter and Abstract like this.
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  3. Ursa

    Ursa Well-Known Member


    I don't know any literature specifically about that. Although, I know some developmental theories that emphasize the importance of consistency from the adults in the child's development. Because DID gives people a lot of contradictions (behaviorally speaking), I assume that these might help you with some of what you want to know, even if it is not that specific.

    Let me know if that interests you and I will give you the names. I am on my way out now but I will be back sometime soon.
    Abstract likes this.
  4. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member

    It's more that I think my doctor wants me to read accounts or semi-narrative descriptions of what parents with dissociative disorders are like in the home so I can say "yes, I get that. that sounds like my family." or "no. I didn't experience that symptom or that dynamic in that article." We're dealing with the reality that there is still a moderate to severe undiagnosed mental illness in my family and she'd like to get a better handle I think on what went on to help me make some sense of it as I process these memories. does that make sense?

    so I don't know if developmental theories will really provide me with those more concrete narrative examples? or maybe they will. I dunno. this is REALLY new to me.
    Abstract likes this.
  5. Ursa

    Ursa Well-Known Member

    No, they usually are not narrative. Generally they are schematics of types of behavior x development.

    I am not sure if anybody ever wrote about children of people with dissociative disorders and if they did I would like to read also.
    Abstract likes this.
  6. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member

    Like I said, I've only found a couple articles that touch upon the subject. One of which said that dissociative disorder in the family is considered a cutting edge research topic in the appropriate fields of law, social work and trauma recovery. Ugh. An "under construction -- check back in ten years" sign was not what I was hoping to find as I looked for answers from the Experts. *sigh*

    But one article did have some of the sort of stuff I needed to read so I can go back to my therapist to describe my responses.

    Things about the "parentalization" of children within the family as they end up caring for their ill parent.

    Also that many undiagnosed dissociative parents are convinced that they were "good" parents while dissociating away the "bad."

    Also that early research is showing that many children in these households have to endure one if not several Suicide attempts on the part of the parent.

    Also that parents with dissociative disorders will sometimes "elope" (run off?) for periods.

    Also that parents with dissociative disorders tend to either over involve and over inform their children in their prior traumas or withhold far too much information.

    All five of those things sound familiar.

    I think I'm reading the term "elope" correctly, but I'm not sure. When my mother got upset she'd grab her keys and run out the door. I remember my sister (who is three years older than me) repeatedly chasing her car down the driveway crying, trying to make her stop so she didn't have to tell dad yet again that we "bad kids" chased mom away yet again. We felt like the worst kids in the world for this. And she'd leave sometimes for days at a time. Pretty sure she wasn't having an affair or anything. But she'd just go. And my earliest recollections of this are from as far back as second grade for me.

    Regarding the disclosure stuff: It wasn't till I was in my twenties that I learned that my mother's birth mother died when she was less than 1 years old, only to be replaced within 2 years by the stepmother from hell or that she was abused as a child. And only in the past seven years have I begun to learn the severity of the abuse she endured. Weird, huh?

    So while some of those general bits resonate with my experiences, the full on descriptions of DID I've read don't sound familiar. Through some flashbacks I've begun to recall my mothers "demon voice" for lack of a better term that she used when she was REALLY upset and like another person. But not sure if she was then or if she was just REALLY upset. If there was any "switching" going on, I don't recognize it in my Memory of a child's perspective.

    You know what I mean? I'm trying to tease apart from the clinical language what the hell this stuff might look like to a child and if that lines up with what I went through. I know this isn't totally essential to my own recovery. But some more understanding would sure help. My doc seems to agree as she was the one who brought up this possibility today. In particular, this might help me understand the intense denial that my parents seem to have that ANYTHING ever happened in our house. My dad was very much a workaholic, sometimes putting in 70 hour work weeks. He didn't see much of this stuff. My doctor was explaining that maybe by the time he came back home, if my mother was not mid "episode", she may have switched back to another state and honestly could not recall fully the degree of what she had done to us. We endured many day long public humiliations from her outbursts as she shamed us at school in front of parents, teachers and other students. She seems to recall events leading up to those incidents and can even joke about it. But she has no recollection of making scenes for long hours in our school building.

    As I'm recalling all this stuff, stuff my sister has since confirmed did indeed go on and that she has been in therapy for for nearly a decade (which I didn't know either), it's all just so... ...strange.

    That's almost the hardest part of it from my at the moment. Of course these memories hurt like hell. And I'm still so deeply ashamed from some of it. And I'm having a number of flashbacks to situations where we tried to intervene when she was self harming. But the simple, sheer strangeness of all her behaviours is really bothering me lately. And more insight might help me at this stage.
    Abstract likes this.
  7. Ursa

    Ursa Well-Known Member


    I am really sorry that you have been through all this.

    About the switching, that happens with DID but sometimes it is not very easy to recognize. I my case for example, it is so fast that I start to say something and somebody else's inside finishes in a way that it does not really look like I was breathing through the sentence.
    There are also different levels of consciousness of the different Alters thought inside our heads. Which means sometimes we go thinking that we are thinking that (you can say we are at some level...) while other times we don't know how we got were we are or we cannot figure out what we have done during the time that just passed and we did not notice.
    About the different voices, I assume that it is not a rule because DID in some cases is not easy to figure out. Or it may in some cases appear very seldom...
    I don't know if you are aware of this also, but it is quite common that DID people have a variable amount of different handwriting other than the careful one and the sloppy one most people have.
    If your therapist was talking about dissociation in general and not specifically about DID, I know there are also other kinds of dissociation that I am not very familiar with.

    I hope that these informations help you. Let me know if there is something else I can do for you.
    Abstract likes this.
  8. Ursa

    Ursa Well-Known Member

    I am reading your post again, and some other things are calling my attention.

    I do understand your desire to contextualize and make sense of your experiences as a child. I am going through the same thing.

    I houses were child abuse took place, denial is common even if DID is not present. Sometimes there is another kind of dissociation going on and sometimes people act like if nothing is said, what happened is going to go away... In my experience I can recall some specific strategies my family used to cover the abuse to outsiders and the abuse itself is a forbidden subject, as if it never happened. As I have not confronted them, I am not completely sure if they are going to deny if I do (although I am mostly certain they will).

    Take care.
    Abstract and Blues in NYC like this.
  9. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member


    Thanks for sharing your insights. Plain vanilla denial might be what is/was happening. But when my doctor asked if she seemed to sometimes forget entire incidents or parts of incidents, a light seemed to go on and we spent the rest of my last session talking about the possibility of her having some sort of dissociative disorder and that what I have conveyed so far says she fits the profile. Again, I don't think it's 100% requisite to my own recovery, but insight seems to help at this moment.

    Again thank you for sharing about your own DID. From the little I've read, I get the sense that it is a difficult thing to be open about with strangers. So thank you.
  10. Monarch

    Monarch I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Abstract and Blues in NYC like this.
  11. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member


    Thanks for this bit of insight. From the other side of the equation, have you been able to explain without over involving your kids too much in your trauma that it is not your children's fault when mommy does this?

    Honestly, I think if my sister and I were educated even a little bit as to what was going on (but it was impossible because I don't think my parents knew what was going on), it may have gone a long way to help us begin managing how much responsibility we felt for my mothers problems, break downs and episodes.
    Abstract likes this.
  12. Monarch

    Monarch I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    I do explain it to them, sometimes I just let my husband do it, he will just say that Mom is not feeling well and needed time alone. We haven't heard from either of them that they blame themselves, I am still waiting for that.

    Communication is key though, I hug and love on my kids alot too and we play, most of the time I am the Mom they love to be around but when I start turning into the Mom they don't want to be around I would rather run than take it out on the them.
    Zef and Abstract like this.
  13. Blues in NYC

    Blues in NYC Active Member


    That's quite a relief to read. I guess back when we grew up, both trauma and the resulting disorders were still so very stigmatized that many families simply did not acknowledge either and did not seek what help was available. At least that was the case for my parents I suppose. I'm glad to hear when parents struggling with this stuff do get help, that educating their children appropriately as to what is going on is a part of the treatment. Wish I could have enjoyed that "luxury."

    Ah well. We're here and it's now. And my wife and I had a pretty good weekend with the PTSD pretty far back in "remission" or at least well managed. So I'm not doing too badly this morning.

    Hope you are doing well today too. :smile:
    Abstract likes this.
  14. bobin

    bobin New Member

    I happened across this blog and I can't even begin to describe the relief to hear others talking about this. I have looked several times over the years to find some sort of discussion about children growing up in a household with DID. I always felt like my sister and I were so alone, like we was the only ones. It was so stigmatised and not talked about. As an adult now, I am still struggling to come to terms with everything that happened in my childhood. No-one ever explained, or even seemed to be prepared to acknowledge that anything was happening, and the Guilt and fear that I lived with have been at points so much to bear. All I knew was that my mother had multiple personality disorder as it was called back then, and I spent so much time and energy afraid that everything I did would make her worse. When she rejected me as not her own child, or became aggressive towards me, I took that upon myself and blamed myself, terrified that it was my actions that was making her worse. We used to hear a lot of things young children should not know about, and witness and experience terrible things. I wish my mum had said she loved us more and explained to us that it was not our fault without exposing them us too much detail about the roots and didn't close us out. I think if anyone had even started to consider how we were being affected as children, rather that just keep telling us to 'keep a brave face on for mum because she doesn't mean it and will get upset if she knows what she did' I would be a lot more secure in myself today. Having said that, we did have a lot of fun with some of the personalities.....there is definately something to be said for having a mum who at times actually enjoys playing dolls with you, and doesn't just do it out of sufferance!
    Abstract likes this.
  15. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    I am bumping this thread because it was interesting to me. Someone on my treatment team recently suggested to me that one (or both) of my parents might have been dissociating during my youth. I am having lots of mixed feelings about it, since I now have tremendous problems with dissociation. What a messed-up cycle.
    Abstract likes this.
  16. cindymolly

    cindymolly Well-Known Member

    This really helped me it is going round and round in my head whether my mum has DID/DDNOS, why does she act like she doesn't like me sometimes.
  17. ZeeMartin

    ZeeMartin New Member

    My mother is DID, and I'm looking for a place for the second-generation impacted by MPD/DID, their children, are... someplace where I can contribute what I've learned in managing the fallout from growing up with a multiple mother. Anyone know of references?
  18. Deeniereen

    Deeniereen Guest

    I'm a 58 years old female, wife, mother, sister, daughter, neighbor, friend, Christian.......
    Well, you get it lol. Look, I ran across your letter through google because, I am a mother of two daughters ages 30 and 25. I was traumatized before the age of 9. I learned within the last two years that I have DID. I now wonder looking back, what type of impact that made on our girls (my husband is a narcissist as well as, passive aggressive with anger issues from his childhood that he - just soon not think about it. He loves denial. I suggest that you examine your parents behaviors very closely; because, you can break the cycle. Just educate yourself on the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder and Trauma. There is a Behavior Health Hospital in Denton, TX., that is designed specifically for PTSD, Trauma, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. It's the only program designed in the country as of today. Ross Institute Trauma Program University Behavioral Health, Denton, TX. I started my journey of discovery at age 40 and was not properly diagnosed until recently. I stayed the course for the good of my children and family. I empathize with you!!! It is a very frustrating disease for all involved and bears much pain at times. You do the work that you can for yourself!!!! Take that awareness (energy) and spend/invest in improving your emotional well being. I wish you much success!! Its hard work however; if you decide to ignore, remember this, "bearded feelings never die"!
    #17 Deeniereen, May 14, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  19. Dissociated1

    Dissociated1 Active Member

    The references are getting a bit long in the tooth, but "Childhood Antecedents of Multiple Personality," by Dr Richard P Kluft Ph.D. and "Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation" by Leonard Shengold, both discuss children of parents with dissocaitive disorders.
    cat-lady and shimmerz like this.
  20. 7Cs

    7Cs Active Member

    While not dx'd with DID, I (of course) have PTSD and do dissociate but with no memory lapses. There have certainly been times where it seems or feels like another uncontrollable part of me "takes over" and I'm along for the ride. This was much worse early on in my dx and unfortunately the worst was when my daughter was between about 4 and 7. I hate that she was there to see so many of my "mood swings".That I couldn't protect her from seeing/ experiencing the craziness. Even when the worst was over and we had found a decent medication combination, some symptoms of course continued. I always let her know I was sorry when I had these moments and I began explaining the basics of what was going on with me when she was.about 7. Over the years I've told her some of my experiences as well. There was a time when she was having a difficult time coping with life in general (many contributing factors but I can't help but believe that having an unstable mom was a huge part of that) and I had her see a therapist for a while. She is 17 and very well adjusted and we can easily talk about it.

    I asked her the other day whether or not she thought I've become "different people" at times and she said she did. I explained the idea of structural dissociation and that my T believes I have a child part, teen part and my mother part and my daughter says that she agrees and that shes seen those "personalities".
  21. cat-lady

    cat-lady Active Member

    One or both of my parents probably has DID though I've never heard a diagnosis. It's hard to say for sure because they also both have substance abuse issues that could cause memory lapses and acting like different people. My old therapist who never met my mother suggested that she probably had something like that. I would be interested in comparing notes with other people who grew up with parents who may have had DID. They've both acted like they didn't remember abuse throughout the years but I'm not sure how much of that is willful denial. They've also both had times of acting like they were possessed. My mother once told me that she was "legion". My old therapist also suggested though that they may be acting like this to get away with stuff. I'm not sure what's going on.
  22. Dissociated1

    Dissociated1 Active Member

    Although dissociation tends to be hereditary, the impact a parent with DID has on a child differs greatly depending on whether or not the child is also dissociative. The Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute has an excellent article entitled "The Effects of DID on Children of Trauma Survivors" on their website at Also see "Adult Children of Multiple Personality Disorder website at .

    As a side note, my Mother was molested by one of her brothers as a young girl, and she was diagnosed as bipolar when she went to the nursing home. Looking back on her behavior as I was growing up and the things I have learned about DID since I was diagnosed, I am sure she is DID. It would explain her wild personality shifts, memory loss and dressing in men's clothes when I was a teenager, as well as her clearly dissociating whenever I try to get her to go into details about when I was sexually abused,
    #21 Dissociated1, Jun 1, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
    Cashew likes this.
  23. cat-lady

    cat-lady Active Member

    Thanks for the resources! I will look into those and see if it fits my family.
    Cashew likes this.
  24. Cashew

    Cashew Raining Robinson
    Premium Member

    This is interesting, thanks for sharing.

    (My biological father was D.I.D., and other dissociative things. He was also batshit insane, and in parsing what was D.I.D. and what was other things with him, I can put my early childhood together better.)

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