Dissociative disorders usually develop as a way to cope with trauma. The disorders most often form in children subjected to long-term physical, sexual or emotional abuse or, less often, a home environment that's frightening or highly unpredictable. The stress of war or natural disasters also can bring on dissociative disorders.
Personal identity is still forming during childhood. So a child is more able than an adult is to step outside of himself or herself and observe trauma as though it's happening to a different person. A child who learns to dissociate in order to endure an extended period of youth may use this coping mechanism in response to stressful situations throughout life.
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- Dissociative disorders. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=26975. Accessed Oct. 28, 2013.
- Dissociative disorders. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec15/ch197/ch197a.html. Accessed Oct. 28, 2013.
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- Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 4, 2013.
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