Controversial Topics in Trauma

This portion of the website outlines current controversial topics in trauma within the professional community. Please click the appropriate headers for further detail.

Myths and Media Portrayals of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder), is a fascinating disorder. The movie industry is enthralled with it, with the recent psychological thriller, Split, raising many questions about DID. Learn more about the truth and myths of DID here.

The Accuracy of Recovered Memories

Research with abused, nonabused, clinical, nonclinical and experimental participants finds that recovered memories and continuously recalled memories of childhood abuse are equally accurate and are more likely to be true than false [1]. As a matter of fact, current research shows that patients with delayed recall of trauma are less suggestible than are other psychiatric patients.

Delayed Recall of Trauma vs. “False Memories”

There is some debate among mental health professionals about whether repressed memories resulting from trauma can occur and be recalled later with accuracy. Many academics are not aware of research that that indicates that recovered memories are “no more but no less reliable than other forms of memory retrieval” and, therefore, should be admissible in legal proceedings. In response to this research, the Israeli Supreme Court recently reviewed this issue and ruled that memories of childhood sexual abuse that were recalled after a delay could be admitted as evidence in court [2].

Psychology Textbooks’ Coverage of Traumatic Amnesia or “Recovered” Memory

Research has found that many psychology textbooks present only one side of the debate about the accuracy of delayed recollections of childhood abuse, specifically the notion that delayed recollections of abuse are false. However, a more careful, balanced review of the research shows that recovered memories of child sexual abuse are no more or less likely accurate than continuously remembered memories [3] [4].

Dissociation: Is it Trauma Based or Fantasy Based?

In the Trauma Model (TM) of dissociation, dissociation is conceptualized as being a reaction to antecedent traumatic stress and/or severe psychological adversity. Some authors have proposed an alternative hypothesis, known as the Fantasy Model (FM) of dissociation, that suggests individuals prone to dissociation are suggestible and fantasy prone, and therefore confabulate false memories of trauma.

Are the Mentally Ill Dangerous?

Nearly 1 out of 5 Americans struggle with mental illness each year, and almost half of all Americans will develop a mental illness in their lifetimes [5]. Learn more about the facts and widely-held myths regarding mental illness here.


[1] Leavitt, F. (1997). False attribution of suggestibility to explain recovered memory of childhood sexual abuse following extended amnesia. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 265-272. 

[2] Trauma and Dissociation Israel. (2014). The scientifically based opinion about “recovered” or dissociated memories. Retrieved from http://traumatic-memory.org/en/scientifically-based-opinion-about-traumatic-memory

[3] Wilgus, S. J., Packer, M. M., Lile-King, R., Miller-Perrin, C. L., & Brand, B. L. (2015). Coverage of child maltreatment in abnormal psychology textbooks: Reviewing the adequacy of the content. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. 

[4] TeachTrauma. (2015). Textbook reviews. Retrieved from http://www.teachtrauma.com/textbook-reviews/

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). CDC Report: Mental Illness Surveillance Among U.S. Adults. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealthsurveillance/index.html