Dissociative identity disorder (DID) has become a trending topic across social media and the web in the last few years because of the TikTok community.
When I was diagnosed with DID nearly 10 years ago, it was considered a shameful diagnosis that one should hide instead of embrace.
Knowing there’s an entire community of DID systems out there sharing their experience means people are learning that we aren’t like how stigma perpetuates.
Dissociative identity disorder
Why does DID happen?
Dissociative identity disorder is the result of repeat trauma and/or severe trauma during a child’s formative years (0-8). Trauma includes:
- emotional invalidation
- death of a close relative or friend
- severe stress
- anything that affects the child in such a way that is perceived as trauma and difficult to cope with
DID is a dissociative disorder that occurs as the result of trauma. It’s considered a trauma-related disorder and often co-diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
Why isn’t it called multiple personality disorder?
Until 1994, DID was called multiple personality disorder because psychiatrists didn’t understand it.
The change in how the disorder is referred reflects the evolution of the DSM: Experts understood that DID was not a condition of multiple personalities, but of different identities that never formed into one.
What is DID split personality?
Uh…nothing? “Split personality” or “split disorder” in reference to DID is a derogatory term. Beyond that, the term “split” ignores the science behind how a person’s identity forms — and that “identity” and “personality” are two different things.
People with DID were never “whole” to begin with, therefore they are not broken.
How do you know it’s real?
How do we know any of this is real? What if we’re all in a simulation, or dreaming while we’re awake?
What if we’re in someone’s game of The Sims — and a developer just lets us believe we’re playing a similar game?
All existential questions aside, DID is a complex disorder. People will believe what they want and deny truths they don’t accept, as is represented by Texan politics.
I don’t actively seek to prove my diagnoses to skeptics, as it’s nothing more than a waste of my time.
How do you cure DID?
There is no cure for DID.
Previously, the best treatment for DID was perceived to be fusing every alter into one “core” self. This was problematic, because there is no “core” or “original” self in a DID system, because one never formed to begin with (hence why DID ≠ broken soul/split personality).
Now, functional multiplicity is the preferred course of treatment, as it teaches alters in a DID system how to function as a team instead of individually.
Are people with DID dangerous?
NO. People with DID are not anymore dangerous than people without DID. Moreover, DID alone is not a reason for psychiatric care or medication.
How do you know if someone’s faking DID?
Unless you are trained to diagnose dissociative identity disorder, and you are that person’s doctor, you don’t.
I considered listing ways to tell, but it’s really no one’s business but their own and their doctor’s. DID, OSDD and factitious disorder have some overlap; no one is qualified to say someone is faking a disorder if someone is not their patient.
There is nuance to every diagnosis. You’re looking at the tip of the iceberg and not what’s below the surface.
How do you know someone is about to switch?
Some signs of DID switching include a change in accent, tone, vocabulary, and/or dissociation. It can be as simple as opening the fridge and forgetting why they did it, or losing track of what they were talking about mid-conversation.
Suddenly lashing out at someone isn’t a common way of switching.
Are alters actually demons?
No. Demons and alternate identities are not the same thing.
After seeing Brain on Fire, I can’t help wondering how many exorcisms were actually the result of a lack of science. (Same with royal “poisonings” and allergic reactions.)
Is there an evil alter?
Having DID is not having an angel and devil on each of your shoulders. That’s not what this disorder is, at all.
How many alters does someone with DID have?
Someone with DID will have a minimum of two alters. There is no limit to the number of alters one can have. Some studies find up to 24 alters, while there are other reported cases of over 100.
Can alters have multiple roles?
Yes! There are no rules in DID system roles. I know it doesn’t make sense, but alter functions are not binary.
Additionally, alter roles can change over time as the system heals from trauma or learns to coexist.
Can you have alters without DID?
Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD) is similar to DID, but without the memory gaps/blackouts/amnesia.
Endogenic systems supposedly form without trauma, but the whole point of DID is to hide the trauma from the person. DID systems do not remember their trauma by default. 🤷♀️ My system is not going to state the validity of endosystems because it doesn’t care, so long as endos don’t make a mockery of DID. 🙃
Factitious disorder may include an exaggeration of DID symptoms, but my system has no comment on it.
Can alters change roles?
Alter roles in a dissociative identity disorder system may change at any time. It’s not something to fear, but to see as growth and further understanding.
Life with DID
Is DID fun?
No. Contrary to social media memes, dissociative identity disorder is not a “fun” disorder. There are more cons than pros to having DID.
Still, learning to accept one’s systemhood and connecting with other systems helps dismantle internalized shame. The inside jokes shared among the community helped my system feel much less alone — and that’s a lot of what is shared on social media, contributing to why so many people think DID is “fun”.
Do people with DID know they have it?
Sometimes. Before diagnosis, or even suspicion of having DID, a DID system may struggle to understand what is happening and wonder why they’re struggling so hard with life.
After diagnosis, either complete clarity or utter confusion creeps in. Diagnosis of DID was terrifying for me, especially with all that I found online about it.
Even now that I’ve “accepted” my diagnosis, I still don’t totally accept it.
What is life with DID like before diagnosis?
External people in their life may call an undiagnosed system by different names and be confused when they do something seemingly out of character.
Undiagnosed DID systems are often called out for things they have zero recollection of, like cheating on a spouse or behaving in a way they wouldn’t have if conscious.
It’s difficult to explain how this experience differs for singlets. It’s like being confronted for something YOU didn’t do, except your body did it. And sometimes, before you know it, you’re watching yourself react to the world around you whilst you watch them from the corner and have zero control over your reactions (out-of-body experiences.
Life as an undiagnosed system was terrifying. I felt like I was going “crazy”. I’d go to bed on a Monday and wake up on a Friday, or blink while brushing my teeth and find myself in the barn. At first, I thought I’d teleported — but the time would be minutes, hours, days, months or even years later.
DID is commonly mistaken as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, because:
- other people may perceive the alters as delusions (schizophrenia)
- dissociative behaviors perceived as episodes of psychosis
- switching between alters and DID triggers may be perceived as bipolar disorder
Can you live a happy life with DID?
Yes. Learning how to communicate with your headmates and work together as a team (functional multitplicity) is the key to living a full life with dissociative identity disorder.
Once you can work as a team with your system, you can create a budget that works for you. The unfortunate part of the budget is that you have one income and multiple people, but you learn to adapt and compromise as part of your team.
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