Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a complex disorder that results from severe, repeated childhood trauma.

During childhood, traumatic events (physical, sexual and emotional abuse) psychologically overwhelm the child causing their mind to 'split off' these experiences.  This allows the child to survive and function day-to-day, distanced from the trauma by amnesia. 

Splitting off these experiences causes structural dissociation. This means a person with DID will perceive themselves to be made of a number of 'parts' (often referred to as 'alters') each of whom function, think, experience and interact with the world independently and separately.

Between these parts there is amnesia to varying degrees. In the person as whole this causes severe confusion, conflicting thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes. People may find they have said or done things or travelled to places with no recollection of having done so, due to the amnesia caused by dissociation.

Some parts will function normally; they may work, study or raise children but everybody with DID will have parts formed in childhood who hold the traumatic memories. It’s when these parts are triggered, by a reminder of the abuse they suffered, that the person with DID will experience problems and disruption to their mental wellbeing.

The recommended treatment for DID is long-term psychotherapy. In time, with the correct care and treatment the parts of the personality can learn to communicate with each other and work together to heal from the trauma endured, so the person as a whole can enjoy a less disordered, more fulfilling life. 

Common Experiences of DID

  • Due to a number of factors, people are afraid to talk about DID, this perpetuates the myth that it’s rare. DID is a mental illness and should be spoken about as openly as other illnesses by activists and organisations. 
  • DID is not a curiosity or a lifestyle choice, there’s a tendency to focus on the dissociated identities, what people with DID want is help for the disorder. 

Personal Story

“The only stigma I have faced is institutionalised stigma; from the NHS, statutory agencies and mental health organisations."

“Though I knew I was suffering from DID and therefore needed treatment for DID with somebody who knew about complex trauma and dissociative disorders, it took me a long time to convince those involved in my care that this was the case.  My mental health and quality of life declined rapidly and catastrophically."

“I was faced with medical professionals who, due to a lack of training on complex trauma and dissociation didn’t recognise or understand DID and some who chose to believe the diagnosis “didn’t exist”. There are currently no NICE guidelines for the treatment of dissociative disorders so we’re not protected by statute."

“Most national and UK wide mental health organisations make no reference to dissociative disorders/DID in their literature and campaigning work. It is difficult for those who suspect they may have DID to access reliable information and support.”

– Eleanor

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