Dissociative identity disorder, (DID) (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) is a trauma-based personality disorder that forms in childhood, usually as a result of repeated trauma before the personality fully forms. This causes a split in the personality of the person, creating two or more distinct personality states, otherwise known as alters. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding DID as the condition is quite a complex one, however, it’s not as uncommon as you may think, it’s thought that around 1-3% of the population have a diagnosis of DID which is around the same amount of people that are redheads, so it is so important that you know the truth about this disorder.
Here are some common misconceptions surrounding DID and how it actually is to experience this.
(DISCLAIMER: DID is different for everyone and my experience may differ from someone else, do not take my word as gospel)
1. Alters are “evil sides” of the host.
This is what a lot of people seem to think and that just simply isn’t the case. There are different roles within the system and although there are alters known as “persecutors” in some systems, they aren’t evil, and they typically don’t understand that what they are doing is wrong.
2. It’s obvious when someone switches.
This is an extremely common misconception, but in reality, switches are really subtle. It can be as simple as seeming as if you’re spacing out, or sometimes not even that. Unless you know about someone’s DID and how the different alters act, you likely won’t even notice the switch. Only 5-6% of DID systems have an overt presentation of their alters. Although some alters do have different accents, genders, sexualities, mannerisms etc. most alters will do their best to mirror the host as a way to keep the system safe.
3. If you had DID, you wouldn’t know.
Now this one can sometimes be the case. I went most of my life not knowing about my DID, but what I did know was I was losing periods of time, and my friends and family knew what I’d done during that time and I didn’t recall any of it. About two years ago one of my alters presented themself to me and that’s how I found out, I then later got a diagnosis from my therapist. Although initially, it is common to have no awareness of their trauma self-awareness is possible at any time, it’s not uncommon for people to find out about alters and recognise switches through letters or journals entries that they can’t remember writing, items of clothing that they didn’t buy amongst other things.
4. DID can develop at any age.
This is most certainly not the case. DID can only develop in early childhood, usually before the ages of 4 and 9 which is before the personality fully forms. It’s important to note that there are other dissociative disorders that may develop slightly later on, but for DID, it is physically impossible for this to develop after early childhood.
5. Parts of a DID system are just variations of the host at different ages and times in their life when trauma took place.
This is most definitely not the case. Alters can be any age, gender, nationality or personality type, for example, I have a 19-year-old male, a 25-year-old female, and a six-year-old female amongst many others. Alters are not just fragments of the host that are “frozen” in time marked by when trauma took place, as for a lot of systems, trauma took place every single day. Many alters are not associated with any specific trauma, but still have an important role in the mind.
6. Integration is necessary to live a normal life or is everyone’s goal in therapy.
For some people, this is the case, but this is up to the system to decide, for me and my system, we have decided we don’t wish to integrate, plainly because we can live a perfectly normal life without doing so.
7. You can “kill” alters.
This is physically not possible. Although alters can go dormant, they are not dead, they just disappear for a long time.
8. DID isn’t real and anyone who says they have DID is a faker.
This is definitely not the case. DID is a recognised diagnosis worldwide and saying that it isn’t real is the same as saying that schizophrenia or OCD isn’t real, invalidating a mental illness can be extremely damaging for someone, even if someone was faking, it’s not anyone’s place to say so.
There are a lot of other misconceptions surrounding this disorder as it’s not seen by most people that often, but in order to fully understand this disorder, it’s important to listen to people’s experiences with DID and be willing to understand. If you want more information on DID, I recommend Dissociadid on youtube:(https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6kFD5xIFvWyLlytv5pTR1w)
Their videos really helped me to understand my system more. If you need to talk to anyone about DID, you can message me on Instagram: @mummysbrattybunnyboo or you can message us on any of our social media platforms here at TWE.
If you are struggling with DID, it is super important that you get the right support, whether that be from a therapist, your doctor or an online support system. DID can be extremely dangerous if you are struggling alone and after everything I’ve been through without support, I would never wish that on anyone else.
Remember no matter what you aren’t alone and you are loved and understood.
It is not uncommon to gaze off into the distance when distracted or deep into thought. At times, our surroundings may seem blurry and noises may become quiet as we sink into our mind. However in some cases, if one feels themselves disconnecting frequently or for long periods of time, it may not be typical. The difference between simply daydreaming and dissociation is that dissociation is the lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, and one’s identity. This includes feeling detached from your environment and the people around you. This can include feeling emotionally numb and light-headed.
So why do some people dissociate? There are many reasons as to why one may disconnect. The majority of the time, it is a response to trauma, including memories of the trauma. However, it can also be a sign of mental exhaustion. Dissociation can last anywhere from hours to weeks, and can be a symptom of a mental disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, PTSD, etc. Dissociation might also occur more often if one is not getting enough sleep, food, or water. Another common time when one may dissociate can be during a breakdown. One may find themself crying and hurting emotionally one moment and then suddenly stop. It may appear as though they are doing better but in reality, they have become mentally exhausted and dissociate to subconsciously attempt to “leave” the breakdown.
I have experienced periods of dissociation on multiple occasions, struggling to bring myself out of it. Although these periods did not last more than a couple hours, they were challenging to deal with while trying to focus on school, or any other task I would have to complete. After dealing with short periods of dissociation, I then experienced longer periods of dissociation, that would last weeks or even months. Although I was still able to complete my daily tasks, it made simple tasks much more challenging. At times, it would feel as though I was in a dream rather than reality and I would have a difficult time feeling anything emotionally or critically thinking.
Although it is challenging to focus when one is dissociated, there are ways to aid in stopping it. First, it is important to make sure that you are sleeping and eating enough as lacking to do so may cause one to dissociate more frequently. If you or a loved one experiences dissociation that is a symptom of a mental disorder or a traumatic event, therapy could greatly aid in addressing the struggles and therefore stopping dissociation. Similar to when having a panic attack, it is also important to use your five senses. Naming three things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
https://batonrougebehavioral.com/5-tips-to-handle-a-dissociative-disorder/ (Gives tips on how to handle dissociation)