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Intro to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID] is the psychiatric/psychological term for the experience of having a highly fragmented and compartmentalized sense of identity along with ‘losing time’, forgetting signficant chunks of one’s life. In the past this experience has been called Multiple Personality Disorder.
These experiences occur on a spectrum and very few people with Dissociative Identity Disorder look or act “crazy” most of the time. Many hold down professional jobs, go to school, have families and are indistinguishable from people who have a much more cohesive sense of identity. In fact, one of the unnerving aspects of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder is that it is not uncommon for someone to go through much of their life without being aware of having this experience. Since one of the components of this experience is to be unaware of gaps in time and switches in identity, unless these things happen in ways that cause others to notice or create life disruptions it’s common for someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder to simply understand themselves as ‘eccentric or ‘sensitive’.
However, people with this experience often do understand that something is not quite right and frequently enter therapy or counseling seeking help with what they describe as mood swings, difficulties with attention, relationship problems and anxiety. Throughout the course of therapy, as self-awareness improves, someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder typically begins to notice that there are other people/parts talking inside or that they really have no memory for or are unable to reconstruct what happened the night before. They may begin to understand that those mood swings were actually other parts of the self taking over and their trouble paying attention was du to losing time. It’s not uncommon for well-meaning therapists to miss the other clues which point toward Dissociative Identity Disorder and instead make a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Schizophrenia/Psychosis.
The good news is that with the support of an experienced therapist the symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder which cause distress and dysfunction can be resolved. Therapy involves increasing a person’s awareness of their internal experiences of identity fragmentation and decreasing the frequency and intensity of dissociation. This involves developing communication and cooperation among the different parts of self, enhancing a person’s ability to ‘drive the bus’ of the self, and teaching skills to enable a person to remain grounded and present no matter what threat is confronting them.
© Copyright 2013 by Ruby Linhan, therapist in Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.