So I guess Dissociative Identity Disorder gets an awareness day, on March 5th. The problem is, no one even knows about it, so it’s not exactly helping to bring awareness about the condition. I didn’t even know about it until yesterday. I was partially relieved that we actually get a day to promote awareness, but also sad because it doesn’t help if no one actually talks about it.
Here’s a list of some things I wish people knew about DID. I encourage people to learn more and talk to others about the reality of the disorder if it ever comes up in conversation to dispel damaging myths. People with DID shouldn’t have to suffer from hurtful stigmas as well as everything else they have to deal with.
- We are not crazy. It’s a trauma disorder that helped us survive severe child abuse.
- It affects 1-3% of the population, so anywhere from 3.3 million to 10 million people have DID in the US.
- We are not violent or dangerous. Movies and media make money off of stigmatizing DID for entertainment. It’s very hurtful to people living with DID.
- It’s a hidden disorder. Most people with DID try to hide their switching.
- Most therapists and psychologists are not trained in how to assess and treat dissociative disorders, and as a result someone with DID will spend an average of 7 years in treatment before receiving the right diagnosis.
- People with DID don’t actually have multiple personalities. Their personality is broken into many different parts that often function autonomously. Most people integrate the different parts of their personality through normal development, but severe and chronic trauma during early childhood prevents people with DID from being able to do this.
- Sometimes we remember what other parts do and say, and other times we don’t. The more we work on cooperation among parts, the more we become aware of everything (we gain the ability to be co-conscious).
- Studies show that parts can have physiological differences. For example, some parts are stronger or faster, feel pain differently, or need glasses when other parts do not.
- It is not a fictitious disorder. Countless studies have proven that it exists in 1-3% of the population. Even in 2021, there are many doctors and clinicians who have not kept up with recent research, and sadly lots of patients go undiagnosed or are told that it’s not real.
- Due to being misdiagnosed often, people with DID are often overly medicated. I was mistakenly diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I was put on mood stabilizers which did nothing to help me and caused lots of side effects. When I finally had the courage to admit that I heard voices, I was put on antipsychotic meds with even more harmful side effects. DID is not a form of psychosis, and these medications don’t help. They just made me feel drugged up and worse than I already felt. People with DID can improve depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms with therapy provided by a clinician familiar with treating dissociative disorders.
- Patients with DID often have many physical ailments that confuse doctors and clinicians. They can experience severe pain, headaches, seizures, paralysis, etc. Often doctors run tests and can’t find the cause of the symptoms. Patients are then put on medications that may not be effective because trauma is the underlying cause.
- As I said before, having DID doesn’t make someone dangerous or violent. Unfortunately it does make someone more likely to be re-victimized throughout their lives. This is because a survivor of childhood trauma often expects relationships to be painful or exploitative. They also have a difficult time seeing signs of danger. Memory problems in DID make integrating experiences difficult, so an abusive person can often repeatedly abuse someone before they realize what’s happening. People with DID often automatically switch when faced with stress or perceived threats. Parts may come forward who are younger, stuck in trauma responses, or are ill equipped to deal with dangerous situations. Therapy can improve these issues, so that the patient can have parts work together for better outcomes and healthier relationships.