Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder In Children (Is Online Therapy An Option?)

Hilda’s Story 


Hilda, an eight-year-old South American girl from the suburbs, was sent to the grade level guidance counselor for exhibiting bad behavior in the classroom. Aside from being overly talkative, she disturbs her classmates who are doing their school work. She often gets into petty arguments, physical fight episodes with male classmates, sarcastic when talking back to her teachers, and has bullied some kids in lower grade levels. These kids are smaller and weaker. 


Source: flickr.com


Why Was Hilda Acting This Way? 


Her teacher was very concerned because Hilda wasn’t like this when the school year started. In fact, she was a straight-A pupil and an adorable girl. With this, the guidance counselor had no choice but to contact her mother. 


The school and her mother have the same issues and observation. According to the mother, Hilda was uncharacteristically moody and had been throwing terrible tantrums for a month. She would usually lock herself in her room, won’t eat and at times, will scream for no valid reason. The school and Hilda’s mother agreed to have this situation examined by a professional therapist.  


The Therapist’s Revelation – Dissociative Identity Disorder 



Source: flickr.com


During the session, Hilda was violent to the extent of throwing books at the therapist and calling her names. She stormed out of the office, but after a few minutes, she came back transformed entirely. The young girl claimed that she was Valerie, Hilda’s twin sister. “Valerie” apologized for her twin’s behavior and even offered to help the therapist get her things organized again.  


After further probing, there was a revelation wherein Hilda was a victim of sexual molestation when she was only four years old. Her stepfather inflicted the abuse, and it lasted for a year. The mother discovered this abuse and threw her stepfather out of the house. But recently, Hilda’s mother and her stepfather reconciled. They’re living together again at the same home where the abuse took place. Hilda is presently living with them, and this had a terrible impact on her mental health. With this, the therapist made a diagnosis that Hilda is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. 


What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder? 


A person with more than one identity is suffering from the said condition. These identities take control of the patient at different times. Each “person” has his name, personality, and history or past information. It is common for people with prior traumatic and overwhelming experiences.  


Can Abused Children Suffer From Dissociative Identity Disorder? 


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Abused children have no way to fight back or even avoid the person who is hurting them. And because of this, the only way for the victim to cope is to dissociate himself. He needs to separate his mind from his body to get that feeling of protection and security. 


Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is often misdiagnosed as a mental illness like anxiety or depression, thus getting into a wrong medical intervention. With no knowledge on this, the real condition is left unattended and will eventually worsen over time.  It is also possible that a child will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Simon Rego, PsyD, “We need to do a better job educating people about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for PTSD.”


Fact: “Counselors shouldn’t expect that clients will bring up their abuse histories on their own, and there are several reasons for that.” – Christine Murray, LPC


Some Symptoms Of DID 


Symptoms of the said condition are mood changes, change in preferences and memory loss. There are also people with DID who claim to have an imaginary friend. Typically, having invisible playmates are ordinary on children. But when this friend still exists after ten years of age, then, this is an alarming situation. Consulting a therapist on this matter is necessary.  


Treatment For DID 


Psychotherapy is the identified effective treatment for DID. This therapy method comes in the form of art, hypnosis and playing therapy. Some parents also resort to online therapy. It may be beneficial for your child, but for the first few months, one-on-one therapy with a face-to-face encounter is recommended. 


DID can inflict on anyone and may occur at any age. Children with DID have higher chances of coping and going back to their usual and true self as compared to untreated adults with the same condition. Remember that Emily Griffiths, LPC said “By looking backward, one can better understand their present and make positive changes for the future.”