Common Myths About Dissociative Identity Disorder Debunked

Often depicted in movies as split personalities, dissociative identity disorder (DID) has gained popularity in the past years but has remained highly misunderstood. It is difficult for a lot of people to wrap their heads around the concept of such fragmented personalities which come as “alters” or different versions of the self.

DID is a condition wherein patients exhibit drastic changes in their behavior, consciousness, emotions, and memory to almost depict a different person or persons altogether. The frightening part is that it happens almost instantaneously and unexpectedly, stripping the patient off of control over themselves.

Here are five myths about dissociative identity disorder, alongside the corresponding facts of each matter:

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DID Is Simply A Fantasy

There are groups of people who believe that DID is a function of the patient’s tendency to fantasize, thereby perpetuating the stigma against DID patients. The truth of the matter is that DID is a product of traumatic and violent actual experiences. As the patient enters into a defensive state of mind, the dissociations serve as coping mechanisms to escape the stress brought about by merely remembering the tragic memories.

DID Is Also Schizophrenia

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While both of them are mental health disorders, schizophrenia is focused on the patient’s difficulty of distinguishing correctly between reality and imagination. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia instead of alternate personalities—which are characteristic of DID. DID patients do not enter into a delusional state as the chemical make-up of their brains is different for people with schizophrenia.

People With DID Are Demon-Possessed

Those who encounter DID for the first time often confuse it with some form of possession by the devil because it seems like an entirely different soul or person takes over the body of the patient. In reality, dissociation involves a detachment from only certain aspects of the patient’s personality which is too painful or difficult to deal with. The “alters,” though different, complement each other into one overall being.

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People With DID Do Not Know Their Alters

While dissociative amnesia and certain memory lapses are symptoms of DID, it is not true that DID patients are completely unaware of their “alters.” Most patients could even talk about their dissociations and identify the differences in their characteristics. Actually, with proper diagnosis and treatment, patients can also develop internal communication between dissociations—a gradual process that would help in the eventual recovery of a person suffering from DID. 

People With DID Live Abnormally

Movies may portray DID to look darker, more challenging to deal with, and even more violent than it actually is because people with DID do live their lives normally. Their days are filled with doing regular jobs, household chores, and family time. Various patients with DID successfully go through and finish their studies, as well as get stable careers after that. People with DID can maintain sustainable relationships with other people too.

Two in every ten people do experience dissociative identity disorder in their lifetimes, and while it may not be as commonly talked about like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, it is nevertheless an existing reality that affects thousands of people across the globe. It’s time that we stop the stigma and create a safe space for people to overcome their mental challenges.