The Relationship Between Dissociative Disorders And Trauma Due To Sexual Abuse

The relationship between Dissociative Disorders and trauma due to Sexual Abuse

In the vast and complex web of human psychology, there are painful realities that deserve to be explored to reach understanding and empathy; It is important to give voice to minority and even stigmatized realities. One of the most sensitive and transcendental topics is the impact of sexual abuse trauma. In recent years, there has been the possible relationship between dissociative disorders and sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse, one of the most harmful acts of violence, is an alarmingly common reality throughout the planet. Its consequences can have invisible scars on the victims, causing emotional ailments. The trauma derived from sexual abuse has a lasting and profound impact on the lives of those affected, generating overwhelming emotional burdens that can manifest in even more complex symptoms and psychopathologies.

In this context, dissociative disorders emerge as an intriguing field of study.

What are dissociative disorders?

Dissociative disorders are psychological conditions in which there is a disconnection from reality, an escape from traumatic experience through fragmentation of consciousness. The mind, in an act of survival, can separate painful experience from conscious identity, giving rise to symptoms such as dissociative amnesia and loss of sense of reality. Throughout this article, we will explore how trauma can catalyze the emergence of dissociative disorders and how, in turn, these dissociative disorders can influence the experience and recovery process of those who have been victims of sexual abuse.

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Thus, the main characteristic of dissociative disorders is the appearance of a temporary disconnection from reality. These allow us to understand how the mind can protect and adapt to traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse. This temporary disconnection from reality is characterized by disruptions in the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, and perception. Dissociation involves a separation between normally connected aspects of experience, which can result in a feeling of fragmentation or unreality that can involve a lot of fear and anxiety.

Dissociation has been considered a psychological defense mechanism. When a person is faced with a traumatic experience, the mind may temporarily switch off aspects of consciousness to reduce the overwhelming emotional impact. It is as if the mind creates compartments to separate pain from the rest of conscious experience. We will return to this to explain the relationship between dissociation and sexual abuse.

What is sexual abuse trauma?

Sexual abuse refers to exploitation or violence of a sexual nature that one person exerts on another without their consent. This form of abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including harassment, rape, child abuse, and abuse in trusting relationships. It is essential to understand that sexual abuse not only affects the body, but also the mind and spirit of the victims. Sexual abuse trauma can create a downward spiral in victims’ lives, affecting their physical and mental health, as well as their overall quality of life.

This is where the relationship between dissociative disorders and sexual abuse trauma comes into play. The trauma from sexual abuse can be so overwhelming that the mind turns to dissociation as a means of surviving the experience. Separation from reality can act as a psychological bufferallowing the victim to navigate through the pain without feeling it in its fullness.

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How sexual abuse can lead to dissociative disorders

As we have already been commenting throughout this article, dissociation related to trauma due to sexual abuse is usually explained as a psychological defense mechanism to, in some way, abstract from the trauma and keep it away from consciousness. This disconnection from reality is a natural and unconscious reaction in most cases, which helps the victim temporarily cope with the trauma. The mind fragments the experience to reduce the overwhelming emotional impact, allowing the person to survive the situation.

In this way, dissociation acts as a protective barrier, allowing the victim to process the trauma in a more “bearable” way. By dividing the experience into fragments, The mind can create compartments where pain and anguish are kept at a distance., which can help the victim cope with the experience at that time. However, this separation can have complex long-term consequences on mental health.

As the victim faces repeated traumatic situations or persistent threats, dissociation can become a chronic response. This adaptation, if maintained over a long period of time, can evolve into more complex dissociative disorders, such as dissociative dissociation or dissociative identity disorder (DID). These disorders may persist long after the sexual abuse has stopped, influencing the perception of reality and the identity of the individual.


In conclusion, although dissociative disorders do not always have the same causes, suffering sexual abuse and trauma derived from them has been identified as a key cause of this dissociation.

In these cases, the fragmentation of the mind and the psycho-cognitive separation from lived reality serves to protect oneself from the trauma in some way and avoid falling into the loop of pain. Therefore, it is important to give voice to these traumatic realities, since, with sufficient information, a person who experiences sexual abuse and consequent dissociation from it, can be more aware of their situation and ask for help more easily.