What Is It Like Living With Dissociative Identity Disorder?
– April 16, 2017
Imagine a room full of chairs, sitting in a circle. Each chair is occupied by a character, one character different from the next. There is a light in the middle of the room. Periodically, one character stands up into the light, then is replaced by another one. Now imagine that each character is a distinct personality and all of these chairs, these characters or personalities, live inside someone’s mind. That is a glimpse into dissociative identity disorder.
Using the image of chairs in a circle is one of the ways the 2017 hit movie Split attempted to illustrate DID. Unfortunately, the movie got many things wrong including the body’s ability to morph according to each personality type. Additionally, like many other portrayals of DID, the mental illness was characterized through a villainous character, perpetuating the harmful and shameful stigma that multiple personality disorder, another term for DID, is for or causes people to become, evil. As Business Insider points out, “in most cases, people with DID are the victims of abuse, not the abusers.”
Dissociative identities form as a means of protection. There is a host personality who experiences extreme trauma in their life. The reality of the trauma is so difficult to cope with that the personality of the individual shuts down. Instead of trying to cope with the traumatic reality, the brain manifests other personalities who can live life for the host instead. Called “alters” “selves” and other identities, the multiple personalities can vary in age, accent, personality, and even sex. Women are known to have male personalities and males are known to have female personalities. The multiple identities aren’t developed all at once. Usually, someone undergoes a period of time having dissociative episodes which can include minutes of being “tuned out” or having a shift in personality. Eventually, the other identity develops and over time, others develop as well.
In individuals who have lived with their altars for a long time, there is acknowledgement and communication between them. In other cases, there is no connection between the alters, not knowing that the other ones exist. During time in each personality, the host personality, or the primary personality, which are not always the same, does not remember what has happened. From one personality to the next there is no picking up where the other left off when a new personality takes over.
Addiction, alcoholism, and overall substance abuse is common with DID. One personality may prefer excessive substance abuse while another may not. However, chemical dependency could occur through multiple personalities.
Treating dissociative disorders is possible with the right treatment and care. Get Real Recovery welcomes those with dissociative disorders and addiction issues to our residential and outpatient programs. For more information, call 866-983-3651.