Self-Help Strategies For Coping With Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is somewhat a misunderstood mental illness because of the uncertainty that characterizes it. Sometimes, even the family itself to which people with DID belong find it challenging to understand and respond to the effects and manifestations of DID. Considering that it is a highly dysfunctional and pervasive mental disorder that takes its hold on a person on a long-term basis, DID is something that patients often just learn to live with, rather than completely get rid off.

In that regard, it becomes critical to learn various coping mechanisms to DID which patients can do on their own. Here are a few self-help strategies that could make DID symptoms more manageable:

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Do Not Blame Yourself

The internal mental and emotional torture is almost always what aggravates the negative feelings associated with DID. When you find yourself struggling with this and feeling ashamed of what you are experiencing, do yourself a favor and cease the blaming. Regardless of your circumstances, you are worthy, loved, and accepted.

Learn Distress Tolerance Skills

One particular crisis survival method is the TIPP which stands for Temperature change, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Progressive muscle relaxation. Transfer to a cooler place or dip your hands in cold water to lower the tension. Then distract yourself from the trigger and focus on exercising instead. Finally, practice proper breathing and muscle stretching to relax your whole body and normalize the energies.

Have Helpful Reminders On Hand

It could be a keychain, a bookmark, your phone’s wallpaper, a sticker on your notebook – it could be anything. Wherever you go, make sure to bring with you something that could remind you of your worth, something encouraging, and something that could lift you. Turn to these reminders and hold on to them. Repeat them in your head until it calms you down and relaxes your mind. 

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Keep A Journal With You

Whenever you start feeling the dissociations, try to write them down. It could be a bit hard to pause and take yourself back, but a little practice could help. Take the time to note what possible negative emotions might have triggered the attack. Soon enough, try to read through your experiences, and you will be surprised by the various personalities you unknowingly exhibit.

Put A Soothing Music On Standby

Soothing music has been proven to be an effective technique to relax and calm a person down, especially with the onset of DID. Researches from neuroscience repeatedly report that listening to relaxing songs can reduce the anxiety brought about by DID. So try to have those soothing songs on standby in your phone or on repeat and play it whenever you feel like the symptoms of DID are taking its toll on you.

Turn Your Attention To Other Things

Coping mechanisms vary for different people. For others, distractions could help, such as watching TV, taking time to play with pets, going out for a walk, or doing their hobbies like drawing, painting, or writing. By shifting their attraction to other things, they tend to forget, for the meantime, what was supposedly triggering the DID symptom. You could also try one of these, but make sure to do the distraction that fits you the most.

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Do Not Inhibit Any Personality

Although it is just natural to feel frustrated with having to experience two distinct personalities, do not try to destroy either of them. On the other hand, sympathize with both and manage both identities carefully. It will eventually become easier to learn the triggers and overcome your fears and pains.

Have Your Doctor On Call

It is crucial to ask for help when you need it. Never hesitate to reach out to your doctor and other experts in the field to help you manage the symptoms of DID. Be observant of your surroundings and freely give your therapist a call when you need to. It is imperative to be open to your therapist as this would allow them to help better you to address your needs.

While there could be a lot of self-help strategies that you could do when left alone and a trigger happens for you Dissociative Identity Disorder, it is still highly recommended that you have somebody with you all the time when you can. A strong support system from your family and close friends would help you big time, especially in cases of possible self-harm which you might find a bit difficult to control when symptoms of DID take over.

DID is not an easy mental health concern to handle, but it can be done. Many people living with DID have nevertheless become successful and content with their lives. If you ever find yourself struggling in dealing with your DID, never lose hope. There is always a way to come out victorious over mental illnesses.

The Alters And Their Stories

The Alters

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Meet Anne, the playful. She loves going out when I’m asleep. She has many friends (I don’t actually know most of them) and she loves drinking and going to parties with them. She’s the reason why I can’t go to work on time, because she comes home at 4 in the morning and work starts at 9. But she’s okay. She doesn’t hurt me or anyone I love.

 

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Meet John, the suicidal one. He’s the introvert. He’s just too shy to show himself, even to me. When he’s out, he watches television or listens to music. He’s responsible for the cuts on my wrist. I want to help him but he’s too elusive. I sometimes wake up in the morning finding his knife behind my pillow, and I wonder if there was anything I could do if he decided to end his life – my life.

 

Meet Alex, the lesbian. She knows I hate loose shirts but she keeps buying them when she goes out to shop. Her girlfriend thinks she’s crazy because she comes and goes anytime she wants, and sometimes she disappears for two weeks! She often brings her girls in the house and I hate it when I wake up and see them in the living room, eating my cereal and drinking my coffee!

 

And how can I forget George, my protector. He’s my father figure, because I never had one growing up. He’s always warm and very welcoming to friends and family. He loves to cook and take care of the cleaning in the house, so I love it when he shows. Everything smells good! I think he’s the only sane alter I know (relatively speaking).

 

Lisa the Host

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I’m Lisa and I have multiple personality disorder. It’s a type of dissociative identity disorder where a person – like me – forms alters or other personalities to cope with the bad things and memories that she experienced.

 

I feel that these personalities have been helping me deal with my past, but on the other hand, they also destroy it, by being not me and doing the things that I don’t usually do. Some of them, like John, don’t want to go to work so he tends to make me lazy in the morning. Anne reinforces him by staying up very late when she goes to her friend’s parties.

 

I have been going to therapy for the past months. My mom says I should because I do need help dealing with my alters – the voices inside me. I also find other ways to help myself. I’m thinking of joining an anonymous chat service that I read from an online therapy community, BetterHelp.  They say that sometimes it’s good to vent to a stranger because you can be honest about anything and everything. I think that’s true (but George disagrees).

 

There are days when I don’t feel like talking to my therapist, simply because I don’t want to. Perhaps that’s how I am. That’s how I can be. I actually have about ten personalities, but I just introduced you to four because the others I can’t really describe. I can tell you – it is difficult keeping up with all of them, but somehow I’ve managed.

 

I am a living example of someone who is mentally ill but still hopeful for what is called a future. I’m taking medications and it’s been helping me manage my symptoms too. “What kind of future do I have,” I sometimes ask. I don’t really know. I’m just thankful every day that I’m alive and have a family that loves me for what I am (Anne says she loves me too).

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Showing Support

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Put on the shoes of Kevin Wendell played by James McAvoy from the 2016 movie entitled “Split” or the book character “Sybil”. Both characters suffer from dissociative identity disorder (DID) which was formerly known as multiple personality disorder. People diagnosed with DID have two or more personalities or identities. Each of them has its own unique patterns of perceiving things. Transitions from one identity to another, also known as switching, are often triggered by psychosocial stress. Most commonly, these people have experienced post-traumatic stress as well such as sexual and physical abuse, especially during childhood. Hence, it became a very controversial disorder even until now. So how do we support or help someone with DID? How do we keep them safe and free from harm? Here are some helpful reminders of anybody with DID and how to handle the switching of alternate personalities.

Get to know the different alters 

The different alters or personalities have their own unique characteristics. Take note that there can be amiable alters as well as violent or destructive alters. Speak to the current alter and allow him/her to tell you their own story. It is crucial to know what the perception of the alters is to the host.

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Show compassion and understanding

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms every time a person change alters. It is also essential to recognize the distinct characteristic each alter displays by asking questions to help with identifying. Please note that you must do this in a very non-judgmental manner. The person must feel the genuine understanding and empathy as it can reduce their feelings of stress and anxiety.

Join a support group

Creating an environment where they feel supported and having a sense of belongingness is important. As previously said, switching of alters is triggered by stress. The group can provide learning opportunities in recognizing symptoms and managing it to avoid harm to self or others. Online therapy and the accessibility of online therapists are very helpful in this digital age. They are readily available to provide information and education to persons living with dissociative identity disorder like how to effectively handle situations when the patient is under extreme stress that might trigger switching alters. People living with DID also have the tendency to develop frustrations and disappointments. That is why it is crucial that they also receive an equal amount of support and understanding. There could be an enormous amount of pressure and burden on their shoulders. Therefore online therapists can aid them in handling these challenging circumstances.

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Dealing with patients with DID require tons of patience and understanding. Apart from being compliant to treatments and medications, keeping them safe and providing a less stressful atmosphere are very vital for their condition. The most important factor to consider is being there for the patient. Sometimes these people don’t need somebody to solve their problems for them but someone who is there to support.