Dissociative Identity Disorder
Most people know dissociative identity disorder more for its older name, multiple personality disorder. However, most people who have heard of it do not believe that it actually exists and that it’s not a true illness. Some even probably think that the stories about DID are so unreal that they think they’re all made up.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research about DID but it is not considered a rare disease. It is as common as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but only that there is little information and studies done about it. DID is real. It is active and it is increasing in number. Though it may not be obvious when someone has a dissociative disorder, they can be diagnosed with their symptoms. They may have accompanying panic attacks, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. Ultimately, the hallmark of this debilitating illness is the state of dissociation experienced by the individual.
Indeed, dissociative disorder is quite a unique disease – unique mainly because of the alters and the web of symptoms and illnesses that overlap within an individual with this condition. And although being unique and different is a good thing, this trait is not at all considered a positive one for a person with DID.
What Makes DID Different From Other Illnesses?
- It is the only disorder that involves having multiple identities formed within an individual with DID. The key point here is dissociation or the individual feeling detached from his own body, a defense mechanism used by the individual to forget the trauma that he or she has suffered in the past. The many fragments of identities have very diverse characteristics, and this causes the main person to feel that he doesn’t know who he really is, and he loses his sense of himself.
Some DID individuals are pushed to committing suicide because they become frantic and confused about the ‘voices’ that they hear in their head, the “alters” fighting over each other, attempting to influence their main man to do what they want to do.
Reports have shown that a person can have up to 44 different identities!
- People with DID often forget that they did something – not because there is an abnormality in their memory like in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but because they are being forced to not remember the undesirable things that happened to them.
A woman with DID describes her experience as terrifying. She was lying on her bed and feeling afraid again because she was imagining the man who abused her when she was a child. She saw the man right in front of her, just at the foot of her bed. She closed her eyes, wished so much that she could escape through her window and out to the backyard. Suddenly, her wish was granted. She was right there, her feet stepping on the wet grass, outside of her house, and she didn’t know how she got there.
- These other identities or alters that the individual has formed are his ‘defenses’ or his go-to helpers who shield him from the pain and anxiety that he would feel whenever he would recall the trauma that he had gone through. He thinks that these identities are what keep him from facing the reality, which is also one reason why these identities become stronger than him. While other people with mental illnesses seek friends for comfort, people with DID find protection through their alters.
Among the myths developed by people about dissociative identity disorder, the most false of all is that DID is worsened with treatment. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation stresses that with long-term psychotherapy and other creative approaches, people with DID do recover, and their panic attacks, anxiety, depression and other dissociative symptoms can be resolved. There is hope for improvement and success in their lives, despite their unique downsides.