Can You Develop Dissociative Identity Disorder on Purpose?
Posted On April 7, 2022
Some of the ideas I’m going to share in this piece may be controversial. I appreciate the difference of opinions of those who read my work and wanted to give you a heads up.
Recently I have been receiving emails from distraught mothers and therapists facing a new phenomenon; adults who are asking and hoping to form DID on purpose. Also, some kids crave the attention they think they will receive if they form dissociative identity disorder.
This article will try to speak to parents and therapists about how DID forms and the realities of living with DID.
How Does One Form Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Children are incapable of escaping the realities of severe childhood abuse. The critical trauma they endure is too hard for them and admitting to themselves what is happening is akin to emotional suicide.
These abused children must find a way to escape what is happening to them by hiding in their minds and using dissociation as their friend. Thus, when they face their perpetrator during the abuse, they form a new self to handle the pain and fear, allowing the original child to go on.
A lot happens in children’s brains facing severe trauma, but that is not the focus of this work.
Can You Form DID on Purpose?
The short answer to the above question is no. You cannot. It is impossible.
Dissociative identity disorder is a condition that happens after severe and repeated childhood abuse. Adults and teenagers cannot form DID because their brain has passed a vital milestone.
The milestone I speak of is when your brain, between the ages of 1 and 5 or 9, prunes away some critical synapses that allow children to live dissociated. Before these ages, dissociation is expected, as seen when a young child forms an imaginary friend. When a child is critically and chronically abused, they miss this vital milestone and live in the world as dissociated adults.
Having said all that, everyone has different aspects of themselves that they show to different people and in different situations. It is not unusual for someone to say to themselves that part of them wants to skip school or work.
People show different aspects of their personalities; for example, they will act very differently with their parents than when they party with friends. Just because you may feel you have parts, which you do, does not mean you have dissociative identity disorder.
What is True DID?
There is much more to having DID than just having alters. A person living with DID will have problems with dissociative amnesia (memory retention), depression, anxiety, fugue, and many other symptoms.
Where ordinary people have control at all times over their behavior, the parts of a person with dissociative identity disorder take over and can quickly get them into hot water. People around a person with DID often deal with their loved one or friend behaving differently every time they see them. They feel the truth that they are encountering different alters.
Life with dissociative identity disorder is chaotic at best and fearful at worst. It is impossible to plan things because of losing time dissociating into a different alter than the host. Amnesia stands in the way of remembering new friends or romantic encounters, leaving the person with DID facing angry people who feel betrayed.
My Message to Therapists
I am not a therapist; I am only a person with lived experience who holds an associate degree in psychology. I will not even pretend that I know or understand the different aspects of psychotherapy.
However, I know what it is like to have a dissociative identity disorder diagnosis and can give you some insights.
If someone comes into your office declaring DID, be very cautious. Typically, people who live with DID will hide their condition or don’t know what they are suffering with. It will take much time and observation to decide if someone does have DID.
In my opinion, if someone flagrantly flaunts their alters (especially child alters), parading them in front of you, and are exhibiting strange behavior with each one, you should be suspicious. The idea of having DID is to hide in plain sight so someone who is showing you how different they are from anyone else, maybe you are facing someone who has a mental illness but not DID.
Dissociative identity disorder is an actual diagnosis, but so are borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, each having a dissociative component. They may report feeling they are outside themselves, watching what they are doing, or feeling themselves switching but do not lose time.
Therapists, be cautious about who you give the diagnosis of DID. Read and familiarize yourself with the DSM-5 definition and criteria.
Parents, remember that kids are known for following trends and their friends. If acting as if they have DID doesn’t pass, it is time to get your child into professional care.
Dissociative identity disorder is not a disorder to desire. DID is highly debilitating and frightening at times. To want such a disorder is pure madness.