Finding out that someone close to you, such as a family member, has dissociative identity disorder can be frightening. However, it is a much harder situation for the person living with the disorder. It can be isolating, especially with the stigma around the topic. With this stigma, many people with DID find it challenging to open up to loved ones and seek professional help.
Where does this disorder root from? It is a mental disorder that is typically a result of trauma that the person has experienced. “Trauma can result in regression through an emotional withdrawal of the self from the material self and the material world,” explains clinical psychologist and author Ann Reitan, Psy.D.
If you have a family member with DID, it is essential to learn about the condition. By doing so, you’re taking a step towards understanding and supporting them. While it can be challenging in the beginning, making an effort to understand the condition is a step. Here are some ways that you can do to help a family member with DID:
Understand Their Triggers
A person with DID undergoes personality shifts. The cause of these shifts is a trigger or an external stimulus, causing them to switch into another alter. These triggers usually have a connection to their trauma, which elicit a strong emotional response. It can either be sounds, smell, touch, places, songs, phrases, times of the year, or when among a group of people.
Since these triggers vary from person-to-person, it is vital to be extra cautious. As a close family member, you may have an idea of what may trigger them. If not, you can cautiously bring it up and ask them directly. Also, try to learn the terminologies they use and avoid, so you know what not to use when talking to them.
Respect Their Boundaries
If a family member with DID is avoiding you, it may be best to respect that boundary. Do note that even a mild touch can trigger a switch. Try to approach them with caution, but if they tell you they’re not comfortable, don’t push it. Usually, they would be the ones to let you know when it is safe to interact with them.
Watch Out And Stay Calm During Switches
The switching between alters in DID typically happens subtly. In these cases, you may notice slight changes in the way they talk, or that they may seem off track. However, in some cases, the switch can be more evident and disorienting. It is as if they are an entirely different person in one moment.
While this may be a shocking and confusing situation, it will be helpful to stay calm. Panicking can upset them, which may trigger hostility. As much as you can, try to act as if nothing happened, and you’re interacting just as usual. It may also help to talk to them after the switch, whether they remember anything or not. It can help you prepare for the next time it happens.
Keep Them Safe
Again, triggers may result from your loved one’s trauma. It is crucial to keep them safe from chances of this trauma happening again, which can occur in an abusive household. Understanding their trauma is always the first step, as it can help you save them from it early on.
If they’re harming themselves or have thoughts of suicide, let them know that you’re by their side. If they experience flashbacks and amnesia, you need to be extra attentive. These cases leave your loved one even more vulnerable. Try to talk to them about the things you can do to help them.
Never Stop Learning About The Disorder
Learning and understanding DID, and the condition of your family members open doors to recovery. If they see that you are willing to educate yourself about it, they will be more open to you. By doing so, you’re also working towards breaking down the stigma around DID.
Find A Support Group
Support groups are an excellent way for you to find people with the same experience of caring for someone with DID. Here, you can get advice on what are the proper actions to take for different situations. Or you can vent to them about the challenges you’re facing.
You can also introduce your family member with DID to a support group for people with DID. These groups are a great way for them to open up and find people with shared experiences.
Either way, it gives you a reliable support system so that you don’t feel alone in your situation.
Bring Up The Topic Of Treatment
As with any mental disorders, professional treatment is highly beneficial. With the help of a professional, your loved one can learn how to cope with their triggers. It allows them to manage better and prepare when switching between alters. Also, it is critical to get an accurate diagnosis for DID to create an effective treatment plan.
As someone close to them, you are the person who can encourage them to seek treatment. Bring up the topic to them gradually. While you may find it challenging to pursue them because of stigma, it is not impossible. First, try looking for reliable providers and talk to them about what you can do. If they give in to your suggestion, offer to accompany them on their appointments.
Take Care Of Yourself Too
Finally, don’t forget about yourself. It can be emotionally taxing to keep up with triggers and alters of your loved one with DID. One of the best ways to give support to them is to tend to your well-being. Forgive yourself on thoughts that you are lacking and be kind to yourself.
Be Their Support System
As a family member, you are an essential part of the support system of a person with DID. We hope these tips help you make a more educated response to symptoms of dissociative identity disorder.