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Trauma Theory Glossary


The purpose of this glossary is to provide definitions for the frequently used terms in the field of traumatic stress disorders. The anticipated audience is diverse, ranging from mental health professionals to consumers of mental health services and their families. Because of this diversity, we have included general mental health terms for those unfamiliar with psychological literature. The goal is to provide a common vocabulary and meanings in common for both general psychiatric and trauma aftermath disorders.

Several editorial decisions that affect the structure and format of this glossary are described below:

Diagnostic categories have been chosen for inclusion in the glossary if there is a frequency of overlap with trauma symptomatology.

In cases where there is a general psychiatric use of a term and also a specific use of that term in the trauma disorder field, this is noted.

The term "personality states" (rather than alters, alternate personalities, or personalities) will be used throughout the glossary except in direct quotations from other sources.

The word "client" (rather than "patient") will be used throughout the glossary, except in direct quotations from other sources.  

Glossary Index

Complex Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Disorders Glossary

abreaction The discharge of energy involved in recalling a dissociated event that was consciously intolerable. The experience may be one of reliving the trauma as if it were happening in the present, complete with physical as well as emotional manifestations (also called revivification). A therapeutic effect sometimes occurs through partial discharge of or desensitization to the painful emotions and increased insight. Abreaction can be triggered spontaneously or can be therapeutically induced through verbal suggestion or hypnosis.  See also flashbacks.

accelerated trauma recovery mandala therapy Accelerated Trauma Recovery Mandala Therapy is based on developments in brain research together with clinical observations over many years and can be used individually.

acting out Originally an analytic term referring to the expression of unconscious feelings about the analyst, the commonly used meaning is the expression of unconscious feelings or conflicts in actions rather than words. This can take many forms including dangerous behavior such as self-harm or suicidal gestures.

acute stress disorder A disorder first named in DSM-IV. It is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in that it is evoked by the same types of stressors that precipitate PTSD. However, in this disorder, the symptoms occur during or immediately following the trauma. The primary criteria are the same as those for PTSD, except that the disturbance lasts for a minimum of two days and a maximum of four weeks and occurs within four weeks of the traumatic event. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 432.

adjunctive therapies In addition to individual psychotherapy with a primary therapist, a client may receive other therapy such as art therapy, psychodrama, dance therapy, sensorimotor work or assertiveness training. These are considered adjunctive therapies. ‘Accelerated trauma recovery Mandala’ created by Linda Bearup, 2005 is an example of a specific therapy designed to meet trauma theory criteria. Adjunctive techniques can access memories not usually available through talking therapy.  

affect "A pattern of observable behaviors that is the expression of a subjectively experienced feeling state (emotion). Common examples of affect are sadness, elation, and anger. In contrast to mood, which refers to a more pervasive and sustained emotional `climate,' affect refers to more fluctuating changes in emotional `weather.'" DSM-IV, p. 763.

affect regulation The capacity to manage and regulate feelings and body states, is developed through a secure attachment relationship in infancy. The affect regulation of the care giver is passed on to the infant through repeated interactions, where the care giver soothes and regulates the infant when they are distressed. This eventually builds into the infant the capacity to self regulate.

age regression See regression.

alexithymia The inability to recognize or describe what one feels. This is common in post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization, and conversion disorders.

alter Another term for personality part, alternate personality or personality state; also called an identity or dissociated part. A distinct identity or personality state, with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self. Modified from DSM-IV, p. 770. "Alters are dissociated parts of the mind that the patient experiences as separate from each other." ISSD Practice Guidelines Glossary, 1994.

amnesia "Pathologic loss of memory; a phenomenon in which an area of experience becomes inaccessible to `conscious' recall. The loss in memory may be organic, emotional, dissociative, or of mixed origin, and may be permanent or limited to a sharply circumscribed period of time." American Psychiatric Glossary, p. 13. See also dissociative amnesia.

anniversary reaction The experience of reacting with feelings or behavior on the "anniversary" of a previous event. For example, an individual whose house burned down on September 22nd may for years after the event have intense feelings or reactions on or around September 22nd. In some cases the person may not even consciously recall why he or she is feeling differently on that date. A common anniversary reaction is temporary depression.

assertiveness training This is a cognitive/behavioral technique that teaches clients to express their feelings and needs rather than being passive and letting other people take advantage, overwhelm, or dominate them (a characteristic of people who were abused in childhood). After a client and therapist identify problem situations, the client practices appropriate confrontation. Assertiveness, a middle ground between being passive and aggressive/hostile, may be learned on a one-to-one basis or in a group.

attachment (bonding) Attachment is built through an experience of security in infancy. The attachment relationships with parents / care givers promote feelings of protection and safety. A safe and secure child will become curious and explore their world (learn and develop), build trusting relationships with others and feel good about themselves. Secure attachment gives the child a deep feeling of being good and lovable.The process of developing and maintaining a healthy relationship between people; healthy attachment between a parent and child, is characterized by a sense of security.

attunement and  ‘holding’ of the young baby is essential for the establishment of regulation of physiological functioning such that the developing child becomes able to self-regulate over time. Emotional attunement is both a verbal and a non verbal synchronicity.

auto-hypnosis See self-hypnosis.

autonomic arousal A physical symptom of PTSD which occurs automatically when a person perceives a situation to be life-threatening. Also known as nervous system hyper-reactivity, this physical response bypasses the cognitive/thinking process and generally includes an elevated heart rate, dilation of pupils, perspiring, and other fear responses. Trauma survivors may re-experience autonomic arousal when remembering traumatic events. See also flight or fight response.

Axis II pathology Axis II is one component of the diagnostic system described in the DSM- IV. Axis II contains the personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder. Personality disorders are defined as personality traits that are inflexible, maladaptive, and cause functional impairment or subjective distress. When a person has both DID and an Axis II diagnosis the treatment may be more complicated and chaotic. A person may resolve the DID and still need to deal with the Axis II diagnosis. Adapted from DSM- IV, p. 630.

BASK The BASK model of dissociation developed by Bennett G. Braun, M.D., conceptualizes dissociation as dimensions of Behavior, Affect, Sensation, and Knowledge. For example, a client with DID may experience the behavior of other personality states as separate, or may experience the intense feelings of a personality state as separate, or may have body sensations of pain with no memory of trauma, or one personality state may have "knowledge" of trauma but no feelings or physical sensations. The goal of treatment is the integration of the BASK components over time. Braun, "The BASK Model of Dissociation," pp. 4-23.

behavioral memory A lay term for implicit (or habit) memory. This type of memory is encoded in terms of a pattern of behavior rather than explicit knowledge. This term often refers to actions or fears which may indicate unconfirmed memories. (Lenore Terr, M.D., personal correspondence, 31 August 1994).

body memory This popularly-used term is actually a misnomer. The body does not have neurons capable of remembering; only the brain does. The term refers to body sensations that symbolically or literally captures some aspect of the trauma. Sensory impulses are recorded in the parietal lobes of the brain, and these remembrances of bodily sensations can be felt when similar occurrences or cues restimulate the stored memories.(Lenore Terr, M.D., personal correspondence, 31 August 1994). For example, a person who was raped may later experience pelvic pain similar to that experienced at the time of the event. This type of bodily sensation may occur in any sensory mode: tactile, taste, smell, kinesthetic, or sight. Body memories may be diagnosed as somatoform disorder. See also somatic memory. Treatment may include enabling dispersement of the remembered energy of the trauma through the body.

borderline personality disorder (BPD) Borderline personality disorder is best understood as an attachment disorder. "The essential feature of Borderline Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts," as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

  • a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

  • identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self- image or sense of self

  • impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self- damaging

  • recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self- mutilating behavior

  • affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood

  • chronic feelings of emptiness

  • inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger

  • transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

In Borderline Personality Disorder, like DID, there is a strong likelihood of a trauma history: "Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, hostile conflict, and early parental loss or separation are more common in the childhood histories of those with Borderline Personality Disorder." Adapted from DSM-IV, pp. 650-654.

boundaries For the comfort and safety of the client, therapist, and other outsiders, behavioral boundaries often need to be established. These limits may affect a range of issues from details of personal and therapeutic interactions, such as length of therapy sessions; appropriate touching; number, and duration, of phone calls to prevention of assault and suicide. Setting boundaries is particularly important in the treatment of dissociative disorders since lack of boundaries is usually a part of the history of a person who has been abused.

brief reactive psychosis One of the trauma related disorders listed in the DSM-III-R. It consists of a sudden and brief psychosis (loss of reality contact) lasting from a few hours to no more than one month. It is preceded by a major stressor which would be extremely stressful to almost anyone in similar circumstances in that person's culture. This has been renamed Brief Psychotic Disorder in DSM-IV with a slight modification in the criteria. Adapted from DSM-III-R, p. 207.

brief psychotic disorder The DSM- IV criteria are:

  • The presence of one or more psychotic symptoms

  • The episode lasts at least one day but less than one month with eventual return to previous functioning

  • The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental illness and is not due to the physiological effects of a substance or general medical condition.

  • For this condition there are three specifiers: with marked stressor(s), without marked stressor(s), and with postpartum onset. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 304.

coalescence  For the client with a Dissociative Disorder this is the sitting together with other parts of the self. 

co-existing disorders Refers to cases in which an individual has more than one diagnosis as described in the DSM-IV. Also known as co- morbidity. See also dual diagnosis.

cognitive/behavioral treatment A treatment approach that focuses both on observable behavior and on the thinking or beliefs that accompany the behavior. In psychotherapy, dysfunctional or maladaptive behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs are replaced by more adaptive ones. This approach is increasingly being used in the treatment of DID (MPD) and BPD.

cognitive distortion An error in thinking or reasoning based on drawing incorrect conclusions about past experience. For example, a trauma survivor who was sexually abused by a man with a beard might overgeneralize from the trauma experience and conclude that all men with beards are dangerous.

cognitive therapy A form of therapy that focuses on what the client thinks or believes. In this model, faulty thinking is seen as the basis for negative emotions and maladaptive behavior. Therapeutic intervention helps clients explore erroneous thoughts and beliefs and replace them with a more realistic assessment of themselves and their situation.

complex PTSD (also complex, chronic PTSD) A term used to refer to the aftermath of severe, protracted and often childhood trauma with dissociative features. See also Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

confabulation This term originally referred to a neurological deficit in which a person who is unable to recall previous situations or events fabricates stories in response to questions about those situations or events. It is now used more broadly to refer to "false memories" that are supposedly created in response to questions asked by a therapist or interviewer.  

congruent coalescence – Parts of the self consciously and willingly sitting together in accord.

co-consciousness For a person with DID, this is the awareness of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, needs, etc. of other personality states

containment The process of managing emotional and physiological arousal levels whilst consciously postponing dealing with intrusive PTSD symptoms and memories, being able to notice a symptom, communicate about it, set it aside (contain it), and revisit it later.

context dependent memory See state dependent memory.

contracts Verbal or written agreements made between therapist and client for the express purposes of setting safe and reasonable boundaries for the client, to nurture the client's sense of cause and effect, and to encourage the internal personality system to take responsibility for its behavior.

conversion disorder Often precipitated by psychosocial stress, people with trauma histories have a higher than average rate of conversion disorder. The DSM-IV criteria are:

One or more symptoms or deficits affecting voluntary motor or sensory function that suggest a neurological or other general medical condition

The initiation or exacerbation of the symptom or deficits is preceded by conflicts or other stressors

The symptoms or deficits are not intentionally produced or feigned

The symptoms or deficits cannot be fully explained by a general medical condition, by the direct effects of a substance, or as a culturally sanctioned behavior or experience

The symptoms or deficits cause clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning or warrant medical evaluation

The symptoms or deficits are not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 457.

co-presence This occurs when two or more personalities are simultaneously present with or without knowledge of each other's existence or current presence. They may or may not exert influence on each other.

countertransference A therapist's conscious or unconscious emotional reactions to a client. It is a therapist's job to monitor his or her reactions to a client and to minimize their impact on the therapeutic relationship and treatment.

DDIS See Dissociative Disorder Interview Schedule.

delayed memory Not a term used in trauma theory language. This term is used to describe the experience of an individual who recalls a memory for which he or she was previously amnestic. The recollection may occur spontaneously or in the context of therapy. This is a controversial concept: some individuals believe that delayed memory is an understandable response to traumatic stressors and others believe that important events, especially traumatic ones, are not forgotten. The term "delayed memory" is often used interchangeably with repressed memory, or false memory, but there are different meanings for these terms.

depersonalization disorder One of the dissociative disorders described in DSM-IV. The criteria include:

Persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's mental processes or body

During the depersonalization experience, reality testing remains intact

The depersonalization causes clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning

The depersonalization experience is not attributable to another mental disorder, the effects of a substance, or a general medical condition.

Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 490.

derealization A feeling of estrangement or detachment from one's environment. A sense that the external world is strange or unreal. Often accompanied by depersonalization.

DES See Dissociative Experiences Scale.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders The fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- IV) was published in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association. It contains standard definitions of psychological disorders. DSM-III-R refers to the third edition, revised, of the same manual, published in 1987. The diagnostic categories referred to in the trauma literature published in the late 1980s and early 1990s are those from the DSM-III-R.

DID See dissociative identity disorder.

dissociation A form of withdrawal, in which a child cuts off contact with others and the world - causing the child to become numb, unfeeling, or unaware. It is a form of mental freezing or 'absence' to avoid being overwhelmed by fear. Dissociation is the separation of ideas, feelings, information, identity, or memories that would normally go together. Dissociation exists on a continuum: At one end are mild dissociative experiences common to most people (such as daydreaming or highway hypnosis) and at the other extreme is severe chronic dissociation, such as DID and other dissociative disorders. Dissociation appears to be a normal process used to handle trauma that over time becomes reinforced and develops into maladaptive coping.

dissociative amnesia One of the dissociative disorders described in DSM-IV. The three criteria are:

One or more episodes of inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness

The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of another mental disorder, is not due to the effects of a substance, a neurological and/or other general medical condition.

The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning. There are several types of memory disturbances including: localized amnesia, selective amnesia, generalized amnesia, continuous amnesia, and systematized amnesia.

Adapted from DSM-IV, pp. 478-481.
For individuals with DID (MPD), amnesia may exist differentially between various personality states or personality fragments. In one-way amnesia Personality A is unaware of Personality B; however, Personality B knows everything about Personality A. In two-way amnesia neither Personality A or B is aware of the existence of the other.

Dissociative Disorder Interview Schedule (DDIS) A structured interview developed for both clinical and research purposes to standardize the diagnosis of DID. It takes 30-45 minutes to complete. The DDIS has shown that DID is a valid diagnosis with a consistent set of features and that both dissociative experiences and dissociative disorders are common. Developed by Ross, Heber, Norton and Anderson, the DDIS has been used in several research studies and has good clinical validity. Ross, Multiple Personality Disorder, p.135.

dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DDNOS) In DSM-IV this is the diagnostic category for individuals who have dissociative symptoms but do not meet the minimum criteria for any of the specific dissociative disorders. A client who has some (but not all) DID symptoms, and who does not have amnesia for important personal information, would be an example of a person with DDNOS. DSM- IV, p. 590.

dissociative disorders A group of psychiatric conditions with the disruption in the integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment. DID (MPD) is one disorder in this category. See also dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, dissociative identity disorder, dissociative disorders not otherwise specified. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 477.

Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) Developed by Frank W. Putnam M.D. and Eve B. Carlson, Ph.D., the DES is a 28-item self-report instrument that can be completed in about 10 minutes. It asks the respondent to indicate the frequency with which certain dissociative or depersonalization experiences occur. An example of a typical DES question is "Some people have the experience of feeling that their body does not seem to belong to them. Circle a number to show what percentage of the time this happens to you."

dissociative fugue One of the dissociative disorders described in DSM-IV. The diagnostic criteria are:

  • Sudden, unexpected travel from home or work, with the inability to recall some or all of one's past

  • Confusion about personal identity or assumption of a new identity

  • The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of DID and is not due to the effects of a substance or general medical condition

  • The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning.

  • The onset of dissociative fugue is usually related to traumatic, stressful, or overwhelming life events. In DSM-III- R, this was called psychogenic fugue. Adapted from DSM- IV, pp. 481-483.

dissociative identity disorder (DID) One of the dissociative disorders in DSM- IV. There are four diagnostic criteria:

  • The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states

  • At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior

  • Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness

  • The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.
    DSM-IV See Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

dual diagnosis This refers to the co-existence of a mental disorder and substance abuse disorder. The current term for this is co-existing disorders, also called co-morbidity. See also co-existing disorders.

dysphoria  refers to sadness and depression

eating disorders A category of mental disorders described in DSM-IV. Individuals with these disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, show a marked disturbance in eating behavior. Some individuals with DID and PTSD also have an eating disorder.

ego states An organized system of behavior and experience in which the elements (ego states) are bound together by some common principle. In this theory of dissociation, developed by Helen H. and John G Watkins, ego states occur naturally in people and are separated from each other by boundaries that are more or less permeable. A problem arises only when the boundaries between ego states become non-permeable or maladaptive. The goal of treatment in ego state therapy is not the fusion or integration of ego states, but the harmonious cooperation between ego states. Watkins & Watkins, "Ego- State Therapy in the Treatment of Dissociative Disorders," in Kluft & Fine, Clinical Perspectives on Multiple Personality Disorder, pp. 277-299.

EMDR See Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

empathy The ability to imagine and share what another is experiencing. The ability to put one's self into the psychological frame of reference or point of view of another, to feel what another feels.

executive control In the internal system of a person with a dissociative disorder, authority over the body and its behavior by a particular personality state, usually the host.

experiential therapies Therapeutic techniques that utilize symbolism, metaphors and analogies to help clients understand and change their behaviors, traditionally in a group format. These techniques encourage the client to directly experience feelings and thoughts by participating in activities such as art, group sculpting, outdoor challenge courses, etc.

explicit memory Consciously recalled facts or events (knowing that) which have verbal components. This is the form of memory used, for example, when a person recounts the events of his or her day at work or at school. Also referred to as narrative or declarative memory. See also implicit memory.

expressive therapies Specific therapeutic techniques that facilitate expression of feelings through language or movement. Examples include dance, art, and poetry therapy. Most often used as adjunctive therapy to gain access to feelings or memories, expressive therapies are increasingly used for primary treatment in trauma cases. Since traumatic memories may be stored on sensory motor or visual levels, the use of these therapies may ‘Accelerated trauma recovery Mandala’ created by Linda Bearup, 2005 is an example of a specific therapy designed to meet trauma theory criteria. Adjunctive therapy techniques can access memories not usually available through talking therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) A procedure which produces rapid eye movements in a client while a traumatic memory is recalled and processed. This technique seems to lessen the amount of therapeutic time needed to process and resolve traumatic memories. Developed by Francine Shapiro, this technique requires training and following of specific protocols for appropriate use.

false memory A term developed in the early 1990s by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation to describe memories that are not based on actual events. This term is popular in the media, although the concept of false memory is not based on clinical research or accepted theoretical formulation.
The terms false memory, delayed memory, and repressed memory are often used interchangeably in the popular literature but they actually have distinct meanings.

False Memory Syndrome (FMS) "False memory syndrome" is a term coined in the early 1990s by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). The FMSF defines the syndrome as "a condition in which the person's personality and interpersonal relationships are oriented around a memory that is objectively false but strongly believed in to the detriment of the welfare of the person and others involved in the memory." Goldstein, Confabulations: Creating False Memories - Destroying Families, p. iv
This organization was founded by parents of adult children who reported delayed memories of child abuse usually uncovered in psychotherapy. These parents deny the abuse and believe false memories have been implanted by therapists in the minds of their adult children.
The term "false memory syndrome" is popular in the media but is not based on clinical research or accepted theoretical formulations. It is not listed as a diagnosis or symptom in the DSM-IV, nor is there a known treatment or cure. See also delayed memory and repression.

flashbacks A type of spontaneous abreaction common to victims of acute trauma. Also known as "intrusive recall," flashbacks have been categorized into four types:

  • dreams or nightmares

  • dreams from which the dreamer awakens but remains under the influence of the dream content and has difficulty making contact with reality

  • conscious flashbacks, in which the person may or may not lose contact with reality and which may be accompanied by multimodal hallucinations

  • unconscious flashbacks, in which a person "relives" a traumatic event with no awareness at the time or later of the connection between the flashback and the past trauma.

Putnam, Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder, pp. 236-237.

Flight fight and freeze response An automatic response to an experience that is perceived to be a threat to survival. The part of the brain that regulates metabolic and autonomic function and prepares muscles to act -- to either flee or fight. This survival mechanism works well when the situation allows for an active response. In repeated traumatic situations, when there is no opportunity to fight or flee, this response may result in a chronic state of physiological arousal which is very stressful to the body. See autonomic arousal. See Neuroception.

flooding The process of becoming overwhelmed by intrusive emotions, sensory experiences, or intense re-living experiences; commonly associated with posttraumatic stress disorder.

FMS See False Memory Syndrome.

fragment Within the personality system of a person who has a dissociative disorder, a fragment is a dissociated part of that person which has limited function and is less distinct or developed than a personality state. Usually a fragment has a consistent emotional and behavioral response to specific situations. For example, a fragment may handle the expression of feelings through drawing. The term "special purpose fragment" refers to a part with an even more narrowly defined function.

fugue See dissociative fugue.

fusion The moment when personality states or fragments come together as a single entity. The breaking down of dissociative barriers may occur spontaneously or as part of a specific therapeutic process. Fusion is different from integration.

grounding Reality based awareness in the here and now, a sense of connectedness to yourself and your environment. See ‘Presentification’ Elert Neijenhaus.

host In dissociative identity disorder, the personality state that most frequently has control of the body and its behavior. The host is often initially unaware of the other identities and typically loses time when they appear. The host is the identity that most often initiates treatment, usually after developing symptoms, the most common being depression. See also executive control.

hyperarousal A constant state of emotional and physiological stress showing extreme reactions and over-responsiveness to stimuli.

hypermnesia This experience of heightened memory is a symptom of PTSD. It is the opposite of amnesia, which is the forgetting of events. Hypermnesia consists of abnormally sharp or vivid recall. For example, a trauma survivor may vividly remember a traumatic event with total recall of all details--sight, sound, feel, smell, and touch. Hypermnesia may be intrusive and may interfere with everyday functioning.

hypervigilance One of the symptoms of PTSD. Responding to the environment as if there is imminent danger, being hyper alert, constantly scanning for threat. In this state an individual is overly sensitive to sounds and sights in the environment, scans the environment expecting danger, and feels keyed up and on edge. In addition, a traumatized person may have an exaggerated startle response and problems with memory and concentration.

hypnosis An altered state of consciousness which is subjectively experienced by an individual as different from normal alertness. This may occur spontaneously, as in spontaneous trance, or may be suggested by a therapist or hypnotist. The individual who is hypnotized may experience altered perception or memory.
Hypnosis is often used in the treatment of DID to facilitate communication between personality states, to overcome amnesiac barriers and to promote healing through managed abreaction. Before using hypnosis in treatment it is recommended that the client be provided with enough information to give his or her informed consent and that this be documented. Hypnosis is also referred to as being in a trance state. The process of dissociation itself may be a form of self-hypnosis.

iatrogenesis When medical treatment or psychotherapy causes an illness or aggravates an existing illness. In psychotherapy, this may occur as a result of the comments, questions, or attitudes of the therapist. There are those who feel that DID is an iatrogenic illness produced by a client to meet the expectations of a therapist. There is also a concern that traditional DID treatment approaches may encourage the development of additional personality states. However, there is no scientific research to support the idea that DID (MPD) is an iatrogenic illness.

ideomotor signaling A hypnotic technique wherein the client and therapist agree on prearranged body movements to answer questions non-verbally. The most common technique uses finger signals to stand for "yes," "no," and "stop." This allows nonverbal communication of unconscious material during hypnosis. Often the client will experience the movement of the fingers as "outside conscious control." The technique may be used to contact personality states without direct emergence of those personality states.

imagery Using your imagination to manage stress responses and feelings.

implicit memory Behavioral knowledge of an experience (knowing how) without conscious recall or verbal components; habit memory. Driving, riding a bicycle, or reading are examples of skills which people implicitly remember how to do without consciously remembering steps involved. This type of memory is almost always irretrievable in words. (Lenore Terr, M.D., personal correspondence, 31 August 1994.) Also called procedural or sensorimotor memory. See also, explicit memory.

impulse An action urge.

informed consent In psychotherapy, informed consent occurs when a client is informed of:

  • the diagnosis

  • the nature of the treatment being considered

  • the risks and benefits of such treatment

  • the likely outcome with and without treatment

  • alternative approaches to relieve the symptoms

The information must be presented in a form the client can understand and consent must be given without coercion. Often this information is presented in written form which the client signs, thereby giving permission for treatment. While this has historically been common for medical procedures and psychological research, it is now also being done during psychotherapy, especially with specific techniques such as hypnosis and sodium amytal interviews.

inner self-helper (ISH) A personality state, often a helper or protector, that has knowledge of the system and works with the therapist to facilitate the treatment.

integration The ongoing process of bringing together all dissociated aspects of self, whether they are thoughts, feelings, behavior, or are organized as personality states or fragments. This process continues throughout the psychotherapy.
There is lack of agreement about the end goal of DID  treatment. Some therapists and clients consider integration the treatment goal while others do not. This complex decision is best discussed together by therapist and client.

internal system see system.

internal working model Develops from the repeated experiences of relationship with the primary care giver. The IWM informs us how the child see's themself and how they will respond to future relationships. Abused and neglected children often develop a negative internal working model. They see themselves as unlovable, expect rejection, see the world as unsafe and do not believe that relationships can be relied upon to keep then safe.

International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD) Formerly the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation (ISSMP&D). The organization voted to change its name in the spring of 1994 after the classification of MPD was changed to dissociative identity disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV.

The International Society for the Study of Dissociation is a not-for-profit professional association organized to promote research and training in the identification and treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder and other dissociative states. ISSD provides professional and public education about DID and other dissociative states and serves as a catalyst for international communication and cooperation among clinicians and investigators working in this field. ISSMP&D Membership Directory, 1994, p. 2.

International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality & Dissociation (ISSMP&D) The original name of the ISSD when it was founded in 1984. It was changed in 1994 after the term MPD was changed to dissociative identity disorder (DID). See also International Society for the Study of Dissociation.

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Inc. (ISTSS) A non-profit organization to "promote the advancement of knowledge about the immediate and long-term human consequences of extraordinary events and to promote effective methods of preventing or ameliorating the unwanted consequences of them." ISTSS Membership Directory, 1993, p. iii.

Intra-psychic The complex processes that occur within the mind or system of an individual rather than inter-psychic  dynamics between individuals or between an individual and the environment.

ISH See inner self-helper.

ISSD See International Society for the Study of Dissociation.

ISTSS See International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

journal writing The process of using structured exercises to write about thoughts, feelings, and stress responses in an effort to increase self-awareness and decrease symptomotology.

learned helplessness A term developed by Martin Seligman, pioneering researcher in animal psychology, to describe what occurs when animals or human beings learn that their behavior has no effect on the environment. The impact of this experience leaves an individual apathetic, depressed, and unwilling to try previous or new behavior.
This concept is relevant to people with dissociative disorders who may show some degree of learned helplessness due to repeated exposure to traumatic events which they could not change or avoid by their behavior.

losing time Specific to the dissociative disorder field, having no recollection of one's activities during a given time period (hours, days, years). Unaccounted-for periods of time are generally confusing and frightening to an individual who has DID  and may allow for the person's re-victimization.

mapping A technique used in psychotherapy with DID clients to gain knowledge about the internal personality system. The client is asked to draw a map or diagram of the personality states to explain the inner world of personalities. This provides useful information about the system, such as the connections or lack of connections between personality states. The map may need to be updated as therapy progresses and can be used for integration work to help ensure that all internal parts have been integrated. Also known as personality mapping; system mapping. Mapping can also be used to understand the relationships among feeling states as well.

medical model The view that abnormal behavior results from a physical/biological cause and should be treated medically. This emphasis on biological or pathological causes of mental disorder is in contrast with cognitive/behavioral approaches that see beliefs and socially reinforced behavior as a cause of mental disorder.

As non-medical disciplines have become more involved in the treatment of mental disorders, the conflict between the medical model and social/behavioral models has become heightened.

Trauma theory takes a middle position. Both nature and nature affect the way the psyche develops. Nurture affects psycho-neurophysiological development which in turn predisposes how experiences are organized in the brain and thus responded to throughout life. Perry, Shore, Siegal, Cozlino etc.

memory "The ability, process, or act of remembering or recalling; especially the ability to reproduce what has been learned or explained." American Psychiatric Glossary, p. 126.

The question, "What is a memory?" has become increasingly controversial in the last decade. As PTSD and dissociative disorder clients report delayed and dissociated memories of childhood trauma, the accuracy or validity of these memories has been questioned. While the presence of corroborating evidence (or even witnesses) may support a survivor's memories, at the present time there is no reliable ‘scientific’ method to assess the self-report of traumatic events.

mental status exam (MSE) The MSE, which is conducted by a mental health professional, is a formal evaluation of a client's current psychological, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Areas of assessment include: orientation to time, place, and person as well as thought content, cognition, mood, affect, insight, and general intelligence. This evaluation is usually summarized on the five axes of DSM-IV and in a narrative report.

multiple personality disorder (MPD) In DSM-III-R, MPD was classified as a dissociative disorder. The diagnostic criteria were:

The existence of two or more distinct personalities or personality states within one person with each personality having a distinct and consistent pattern of relating to self and the environment.

At least two of these personalities or personality states recurrently take full control of the person's behavior.

In general, individuals with MPD have a background of child abuse or other forms of severe childhood trauma. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the current name for this disorder in DSM-IV. In addition to the name change two items have been added to the criteria. See also dissociative identity disorder for the current criteria. Adapted from DSM-III- R, p. 272.

numbing A symptom common to individuals with PTSD. It represents an individual's attempt to compensate for intrusive thoughts, memories, or feelings of the trauma by shutting down and becoming numb to internal or external stimuli. Also called psychic numbing.

Neuroception – describes how neural circuits distinguish whether situations and people are safe, dangerous or life threatening. Which in turn triggers neurologically determined prosocial or defensive behaviours. Porges,2004.See Polyvagal theory. 

Organised Perpetrator Group (OPG)  Organised networks whose purpose is paedophilia, power and control, spiritual rituals or financial gain.

original personality A misnomer. This term is no longer commonly used but is found frequently in the historical MPD literature. In earlier MPD theory, this refers to the personality state with which an individual is born and from which other personality states were "split off." See also splitting. More recent psycho-neurobiological research into the way the psyche is formed has demonstrated that the psyche is a gradual ‘coming together’ of developing neural pathways. When brain trajectory has been impacted by trauma development of various parts of the psyche is inhibited. Some parts are emancipated by continual use whilst others are immature and less developed because of the effects of trauma. 

paradoxical protection: Defense strategies both conscious and unconscious, often devised intrasystemically, which are used to protect but inevitably have a self sabotaging outcome.

passive influence Individuals with dissociative disorders often experience their actions or thoughts as being controlled by dissociated aspects of the self. Some may feel that a passive outside or inside force has control without an overt or visible expression of that influence. Automatic writing is an example of passive influence.

personality see personality states.

personality mapping see mapping.

personality states In the dissociative disorders field, this refers to a part of the psyche that has the following:

  • a consistent and ongoing set of response patterns to given stimuli

  • a significant confluent history

  • a range of emotions available (anger, sadness, joy, and so on)

  • a range of intensity of affect for each emotion (for example, anger ranging from neutrality to frustration and irritation to anger and rage).

Also known as ego states, personalities, alters, parts, etc. Braun, Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder, p. xii.

personality system see system

post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) An anxiety disorder based on how an individual responds to a traumatic event. According to DSM-IV, the following criteria must be met:

  • The person has experienced a traumatic event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others, and the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

  • The traumatic event is re-experienced in specific ways such as recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections or dreams of the event

  • Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or numbing of general responsiveness

  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal, such as hypervigilance or irritability

  • Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month

  • The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning.

PTSD may be acute, chronic, or with delayed onset. Many individuals with DID (MPD) also have PTSD. The literature sometimes describes DID(MPD) as complex and/or chronic PTSD. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 427-429.

presenting personality The personality state that first comes to therapy. It is often the host personality.

pseudo-memory A non- technical term to describe memory of events that did not occur. This term is often used interchangeably with false memory, another non-technical term coined by members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

pseudoseizures "Pseudoseizures are sudden changes in a person's behavior and/or mental state that resemble epileptic seizures but which are not caused by a physical disorder of the brain. They may look like any type of epileptic seizure: staring unresponsively, generalized stiffening and rhythmic jerking, movements of only a few body parts, or alterations of awareness. During these spells, brain cells are firing normally and the brain wave tracing does not show the changes which are characteristic of epileptic seizures.
"Several research studies have found that many pseudoseizures are really dissociative trance episodes, dissociative switching of ego states, or dissociative states in which unconscious emotional distress is expressed. Many studies have noted high rates of sexual and physical abuse among pseudoseizure patients and pointed to abuse as one cause of pseudoseizures. Pseudoseizures have been reported in dissociative identity disorder patients and may be the symptom that leads to seeking treatment. There are non-dissociative causes for pseudoseizures, so persons who suffer from them should not be assumed to have a dissociative disorder." (Elizabeth S. Bowman, M.D., personal correspondence, 22 August 1994.)

psychic numbing see numbing

psychodrama A group psychotherapy technique. Under the direction of a therapist, individuals re-enact life situations or feelings in order to gain insight or learn new ways of coping. It is one of the adjunctive therapies used in treating trauma disorders.

psychodynamic A theoretical orientation that recognizes the role of the unconscious in determining behavior. It also considers the interplay of the unconscious with the current situation, cognitive ability, and life experience.

psychogenic amnesia A type of dissociative disorder described in DSM-III-R. The name was changed to dissociative amnesia in DSM-IV. See also dissociative amnesia.

psychogenic fugue A type of dissociative disorder described in DSM-III-R. The name was changed to dissociative fugue in DSM-IV. See also dissociative fugue.

PTSD See posttraumatic stress disorder.

Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) A cognitive psychotherapy approach developed by Albert Ellis which focuses on the client's thoughts and beliefs. The goals of therapy are to identify unrealistic and illogical thoughts (such as "I must always be happy"), question these thoughts or beliefs, and replace them with more reasonable and constructive views. In this school of thought, behavior is understood to be based on beliefs rather than external conditions. This form of therapy is used to help trauma survivors to identify mistaken beliefs brought on by the traumatic experiences.

reality check A technique that helps you to become aware of the true state of affairs in a particular experience.

reflection The ability to pay attention to the content of our own mind and to think about the minds of others. This leads to the ability to understand why things happen and why people behave the way they do. Developing our reflective capacity means we can think before reacting.

regression The return to earlier or younger behavior and thinking. Trauma often overwhelms everyday defenses and brings about behavioral regression. Child personality states are an example of trauma-based regression. In "age regression," a person experiences him or herself at a specific earlier age. The person does not always return to the age of a child, however; age regression may take a client back a few years earlier in adult life.

If an adult has regressed to an earlier child state it is important to understanding the cue or trigger of this ‘regression’.

repetition compulsion Originally defined by Freud as the repetitive re-enactment of earlier emotional experiences, this type of behavior may be seen in the lives of trauma survivors. For example, a survivor of traumatic abuse may put herself in a situation where there is a risk of additional abuse in an attempt to psychologically master the previous traumatic experiences.

repression An unconscious defense mechanism which occurs when unacceptable ideas, images, or fantasies are kept out of awareness. This is done without an individual consciously knowing that it has taken place. Repression is one psychological mechanism that may account for amnesia of traumatic events.

resilience A key quality that supports children (and ultimately adults) to respond to adverse events or experiences. Nurture, protection and attunement give children a secure base - this secure base is the foundation of resilience.

re-traumatizing Re-enacting or reinforcing a traumatic experience or belief.

revictimization Describes the experience of a survivor being victimized or traumatized after the original trauma. Examples of revictimization include psychological abuse that may occur in a survivor's interactions with authorities such as the courts, law enforcement personnel, or therapists. This process is important to address in therapy. In some cases it seems that a survivor may unconsciously allow or encourage this subsequent trauma to occur.

revivification The vivid remembering of past experiences. When remembering traumatic events the client may see, hear, taste, smell, and feel as though the event is happening in the present. This is common during an abreaction or flashback of previous trauma.

ritual abuse This term has been defined in a variety of ways by different authors and researchers. One definition developed for a study of abuse in child daycare defined ritual abuse as "abuse that occurs in a context linked to some symbols or group activity that have a religious, magical, or supernatural connotation and where the invocation of these symbols or activities, repeated over time, is used to frighten and intimidate the children." Finkelhor, D., & Meyers, L. M., Nursery Crimes: Sexual Abuse in Day Care, p. 59.
Another definition developed by the Los Angeles Commission for Women (1989) refers to ritual abuse as, "A brutal form of abuse of children, adolescents, and adults, consisting of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, and involving the use of rituals. Ritual does not necessarily mean satanic. However, most survivors state that they were ritually abused as part of satanic worship for the purpose of indoctrinating them into satanic beliefs and practices. Ritual abuse rarely consists of a single episode. It usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time." Report of the Ritual Abuse Task Force, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, 1991, p. 1.
At the present time there is tremendous controversy about the objective reality of ritual abuse. While some clinicians, researchers, and police believe that ritual abuse occurs, others do not. They believe that reports of ritual abuse are part of a mass hysteria fed by media accounts and talk show programs. There is no consensus about the reality and/or extent of ritual abuse.

sadistic abuse Describes "extreme adverse experiences which include sadistic sexual and physical abuse, acts of torture, over-control, and terrorization, induction into violence, ritual involvements, and malevolent emotional abuse. Sadism was defined by Freud's mentor, Krafft-Ebing (1894-1965), in the nineteenth century, as follows: 'The experience of sexual or pleasurable sensations... produced by acts of cruelty, as bodily punishment inflicted on one's own body or witnessed in others, be they animals or human beings. It may also consist of innate desire to humiliate, hurt, wound, or even destroy others. . . .'" See also ritual abuse. Goodwin, "Sadistic Abuse: Definition, Recognition, and Treatment," Dissociation, 6:3, pp. 181-182.

sand tray therapy A therapeutic technique, similar to play therapy, in which a tray of sand with figures and toys is provided for a client to create a scene or story to be discussed with a therapist. The "world" that a client creates may directly or symbolically represent previous life experiences, conflicts, feelings, or fears. This technique, when used to process traumatic events, allows a client emotional distance and the opportunity to process the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that may accompany a traumatic experience.

satanic abuse Abuse that evokes the name, image, or concept of satan as part of the abuse. Even though this term is used interchangeably with ritual and sadistic abuse they each have specific meanings. Abuse could be ritual and sadistic but not satanic if the concept of satan is not used as a part of the abuse. See also ritual abuse for a more detailed explanation of that term.

screen memory A partially true memory that an individual subconsciously creates because the actual memory is intolerable. For example, a client may report abuse by a distant uncle when actually the abuser was the father. This disguised presentation allows the client time to adjust to aspects of the abuse before accepting the total reality of the situation.

SCID-D See Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders.

script memory A type of memory that is created during ritual or cult abuse when a person is given a scripted identity and memories. For example, a victim may given a historical identity and the information and memories related to that identity. Mungadze, "Scripts and screen memories in victims of ritual abuse: etiological and treatment implications," November 1992 Conference, ISSMP&D.

secondary PTSD See vicarious traumatization.

self-harm The action of harming oneself without the intent to commit suicide. The many forms of self-harm include cutting, burning, eating disorders, etc. For trauma survivors, self-harm can function as tension reduction, punishment, trauma re-enactment, or rage expression. Also called self-inflicted violence or self-injury. See also self-mutilation.

self-inflicted violence See self-harm.

self-injury See self-harm.

self-hypnosis "Spontaneous or purposeful hypnotic trance states produced within his or her own psyche. These states may include any or all of the full range of hypnotic phenomena such as sensory alterations, anesthesia, time distortion, relaxation, age regression, and alterations in physiological functioning." ISSD Practice Guidelines, Glossary, 1994.

self-mutilation A form of self-harm motivated specifically by the desire to scar or disfigure one's body; "Defined by Walsh and Rosen (1988) as `deliberate, non- life-threatening, self-effected bodily harm or disfigurement of a socially unacceptable nature' (p.10), self-mutilation most typically involves repetitious cutting or carving of the body or limbs, burning of the skin . . . ." Briere, Child Abuse Trauma: Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects, p. 66. See also self-harm.

self-regulation  The ability to manage, and organise our own feelings and emotions e.g. calm ourselves down when stressed. The process of consciously managing different internal states by 1. experiencing them as they come up, 2. expressing what you are experiencing, 3. consciously postponing dealing with traumatic material or overwhelming aspects of feelings, and 4. retrieving part of what you have contained when you are better able to manage it.

sleep disorders A category in DSM-IV which includes various disorders of sleep: primary sleep disorders such as insomnia and secondary sleep disorders due to medical conditions. Sleep disturbances are common in people with PTSD.

sodium amytal A hypnotic sedative drug occasionally used in psychotherapy with trauma clients to access repressed or unconscious material including feelings and memories. This procedure, an IV drip infused with sodium amytal, is usually done on an inpatient basis due to the slight risk of medical complications. Even though sodium amytal has been referred to as a "truth serum" it does not guarantee truth any more than any other interview technique.
It is suggested that informed consent be obtained before using this technique in the treatment of dissociative disorder or PTSD clients.

somatic memory "A physical sensation or change in physical functioning without the presence of organic illness, that represents a dissociated aspect of a traumatic or abusive experience." ISSD Practice Guidelines, Glossary, 1994. See also body memory.

somatoform disorder According to DSM-IV, the common feature of somatoform disorders is the presence of physical symptoms that suggest a general medical condition but are not fully explained by a general medical condition, by the direct effects of a substance, or by another mental disorder. These conditions may represent the unconscious conversion of psychological conflicts to medical problems or medical concerns. Examples of somatoform disorders include: somatization disorder, conversion disorder, and hypochondriasis. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 445.

split screen phenomenon A hypnotic therapeutic technique which enables a client to see the past trauma on a mental screen in which one half is the historical event and the other half is the current therapeutic situation. This allows the client to deal with a traumatic memory without being emotionally overwhelmed. The technique may be helpful for abreactive and intense memory work.

splitting In general psychiatric literature splitting is "a mental mechanism in which the self or others are reviewed as all good or all bad, with failure to integrate the positive and negative qualities of self and others into cohesive images. Often the person alternately idealizes and devalues the same person." American Psychiatric Glossary, p.199. Splitting is a symptom of borderline personality disorder.
In the trauma/dissociative disorder field "splitting" is an outdated term, although it is still used. Historically, the formation of an alter personality state was conceptualized as a split from the original personality or birth personality, suggesting there is a finite number of personalities that can occur during the splitting process. Current thinking by leaders in the field (Putnam, Kluft, and others) indicates that pretending to be other people, or trying out different roles, is a normal dissociative phenomenon in young children, which is intensified when trauma occurs, resulting in the creation of alter personality states. Thus, the terms "splitting" and "split personality" are no longer relevant when referring to the formation of personality states.

spontaneous trance See self- hypnosis.

startle reaction This symptom of both PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder occurs when an individual reacts strongly to new and unexpected stimuli in the environment. An example of a startle reaction would be jumping out of a chair when a door is slammed. Also called startle response.

state dependent memory A similar concept to state dependent learning. Based on research and clinical experience, it appears that information and events may be stored and remembered in the same emotional or physiological state in which it was learned. Memory is stored and recalled through ‘association’ in the left brain. Some trauma memory is not processed and stored in the left brain and thus cannot recalled during normal everyday conditions, including in psychotherapy. For trauma survivors an event that produced extreme fear may not be processed through the hippocampus but rather managed in the limbic system. Recall of this past event may only be available to consciousness at another time of extreme fear arousal or  high arousal state where the limbic system is activated This is one reason why a current traumatic event with a high arousal state, may trigger memory of dissociated earlier trauma. Also referred to as context dependent memory.

Treatment must include a moderate limbic arousal.

Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorder (SCID-D) This is the first diagnostic instrument for the comprehensive evaluation of dissociative symptoms and disorders. It was developed by Marlene Steinberg, M.D., to enable a clinically trained interviewer to assess the nature and severity of dissociative symptoms in a variety of clinical disorders (including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, eating disorders, etc.) and to make diagnoses of disociative disorders, based on DSM-IV criteria.

switching The process of changing from one already existing personality state or fragment to another personality state or fragment. Switching may be set off by outside stimuli such as an environmental trigger, or by internal stimuli, such as feelings or memories. Switching may be observable, such as changes in posture or facial expression, as well as changes in voice tone or speech patterns. Switching may also be observed by changes in mood, regressed behavior, and variable cognitive functioning.

system  Coming from systems theory. An organised structure.  A description of the intrapsyche experience. A descriptive term for all the aspects or parts of the mind in an individual with DID. This includes personality states, memories, feelings, ego states, , and any other way of describing dissociated aspects of an individual. Understanding the parts as a system rather than as separate personality states provides an important frame of reference for treatment. Also called internal system or personality system.

talking through The therapeutic technique of talking to the personality system as a whole or talking to one or more personality states that are not in executive control. For example, a therapist may say "I am talking to the whole system’ . Talking this way encourages the system to work together and to dissolve the dissociative barriers.

trance Used interchangeably with hypnosis. A person in a trance or in an altered state of consciousness is in a hypnotic state.

trance logic The ability of a dissociated person to tolerate the existence of inconsistent and incongruent perceptions or ideas. "The inconsistent perceptions are not kept isolated but appear in juxtaposition . . . The essence of this phenomenon seems to be the suspension of critical thinking." Udolf, Handbook of Hypnosis for Professionals, pp.108-108.

transference "The unconscious assignment to others of feelings and attitudes that were originally associated with important figures in one's early life." The psycho-dynamically oriented clinician uses this to help the client understand the origins of emotional problems. The transference phenomena is complicated in MPD because each alter may have its own transference relationship with the therapist. American Psychiatric Glossary, p. 211. See also traumatic transference.

trauma Traumatisation occurs when the child's inner resources are overwhelmed by a perceived or actual external threat. An acute alarm reaction occurs, triggering a response of fight, flight or freeze. Long term damage can be done to key neurological and psychological systems. Trauma caused by abuse and neglect in childhood invariably impacts attachment. A medical term for any sudden injury or damage to an organism. Psychological trauma is an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and which is so seriously distressing as to overwhelm the mind's defences and cause lasting emotional harm. Psychological traumata include natural disasters, accidents, or human actions, such as the experience of totalitarian control, child abuse, rape, torture, etc., which cause the victim to be terrified, helpless, and under extreme physical stress. Most individuals with DID have been victims of repeated trauma and generally also exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. See also Type I and Type II Trauma.(Terr)

traumatic transference The unconscious assignment to a therapist of feelings and attitudes associated with an abuser during earlier traumatic events. For example, recalling being beaten in childhood, a client may ask the therapist not to hit or hurt her, as if she were talking to the abuser. Working through the traumatic transference may be an important aspect for understanding early childhood trauma.

trigger An event, object, person, etc. that sets a series of thoughts in motion or reminds a person of some aspect of his or her traumatic past. The person may be unaware of what is "triggering" the memory (i.e., loud noises, a particular color, piece of music, odor, etc.). Learning not to overreact to triggers is a therapeutic task in the treatment of dissociative disorders.

Type I and Type II Trauma Terms developed by Lenore Terr to describe different types of trauma. A single traumatic event such as a fire or single rape episode is considered to be Type I Trauma. Repeated, prolonged trauma, such as extensive child abuse, is considered to be Type II Trauma. According to Terr's formulation of this concept, these two types of trauma result in different coping styles. Individuals with Type I Trauma receive support from family and friends and usually remember the trauma event. Individuals with Type II Trauma are more likely to have severe PTSD symptoms, such as psychic numbing, and dissociation. Type II Trauma is often kept a secret and support from family and friends may be absent. Terr, Unchained Memories, p. 11, 30.

unification "An overall, general term that encompasses both fusion and integration." Kluft, "Clinical Approaches to the Integration of Personalities," in Clinical Perspectives on Multiple Personality Disorder, p.109.

V-codes These are categories of problems that may need therapeutic intervention but are not considered psychological disorders or mental illness. Conflict between parents and teenagers would be an example of this. Adapted from DSM-IV, p. 681.

vicarious traumatization Describes the experiences of mental health providers who become overly empathic after listening to accounts of abuse or violence by trauma survivors. Symptoms of vicarious traumatization are similar to those experienced by individuals with PTSD, and include psychic numbing, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, and intrusive thoughts of the trauma, which were reported by the client. Also called secondary PTSD or compassion fatigue. Kluft and Fine, Clinical Perspectives, p.164.

Adapted from Sidran Foundation

Lindy Bearup

Moonyah acknowledges that we work on the land of the Wurundjeri Traditional owners.


"Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived - makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope"
old Sanskrit proverb.