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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- Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes%20from%20dsm-iv-tr%20to%20dsm-5.pdf. Accessed Oct. 8, 2013.
- 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.
- What is a dissociative disorder? Sidran Institute. http://www.sidran.org/sub.cfm?contentID=75§ionid=4. Accessed Oct. 28, 2013.
- Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 4, 2013.
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