The Benefits and Pain of Switching

People who have dissociative identity disorder (DID) live with a lot of problems that people without the disorder do not understand. Isolation, somatic pain, dealing with alters, and perhaps the best well-known symptoms, switching.


This article will probe the benefits, and pain of having DID, especially focusing on switching.


What is Switching?



Switching is a defense mechanism that protects the person living with dissociative identity disorder.


Switching refers to times when an alter takes over the body, often getting into mischief. The mischief isn’t always true as some alters are nurturing and fiercely defensive. Switching can happen when a person with DID is confronted by a trigger and when they encounter extra stress or trauma.


For instance, a person with DID, like me, who faces a traumatic event such as a death in the family, may switch to an alter who is better equipped to handle the stress and grief.


The Benefits of Switching


Switching has many benefits for the survivor diagnosed with DID. For one, you never get bored (or rarely do). If something is getting boring, we just dissociate or switch to another alter who perhaps is interested in what is being presented.


Another benefit is that switching allows us to escape unpleasant circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, the parts we switch into are parts of us and we them. It’s just that when something like a colonoscopy or some other event that is unpleasant, we can escape.


Switching also allows us to do things we might be afraid to do otherwise, such as take an exam or play piano before a crowd.


The Pain of Switching


While there are advantages to switching, most of the time it is nuisance at best and traumatic at worst. There are many detrimental things we do when switched into another alter such as spending all the money in the bank account on new clothes or charging up a credit card.


I got married while switched into an alter something I didn’t want to do.


There can be legal consequences because of switching too. I have had run-ins with the law twice because of switching. I was dumbfounded when confronted with my crimes and was extremely lucky that I wasn’t put before a court. I never could have explained what happened and if I did they wouldn’t have believed me.


There is a myriad of things that can happen to survivors who have DID and switches that are unpleasant.


How Can We Prevent Switching?


To some survivors, it may seem that switching is always going to be a problem and that the problem is unsolvable. However, that is not true for most of us.


Changing switching habits takes a lot of self-examination to learn how to communicate with the alters in our systems. Opening a dialogue is vital to limit switching. Talking to the alters and treating them with dignity, love, and respect will help to reign in the switching.


Remember, switching has been our go-to mechanism all or most of our lives. Changing a lifelong habit involves understanding more deeply the motives behind the switching behavior. Keeping a journal where you note each time you switch, who you think might have taken over, what they did, and why is extremely helpful.


For instance, I have an alter named Bianca who is 18ish and loves to buy new clothes. She used to drain my bank account or find less legal means to get clothing. I learned she committed this crime against me because she felt I wouldn’t give her any money. I began budgeting her in for $30 each month and the switching behavior with this alter stopped.


Ending Our Time Together


Switching is a fact of life for those of us who live with dissociative identity disorder. Unfortunately, it is the only symptom the public recognizes when there are many other aspects to the disorder.


Because we switch, many of us believe they will never stop switching, and that may be the case for those who are polyfragmented. Although the switching is lessened, it may never go away.


However, by opening communications between you and your alters you will find they are only hurting and lonely parts of yourself who need your support and love. Even the alters who misbehave or you are frightened of are merely parts of who you are stuck in trauma-time.


Although switching is a signature symptom, it is not the end of the world. With help and practice, the switching will become less as the alters incorporate themselves into the wonderful person you are.


“Have patience with all things but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that.”- Saint Frances de Sales

“Still, few things of worth are ever simple. Or easy.” – Raymond E. Feist



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