It has been quite a while since I authored an article about dissociative identity disorder (DID). The purpose of this article to explain to any new readers and those who are curious about what this enigmatic dissociative identity is and what it is not.
Hint: It isn’t about someone having multiple personalities.
Since DID is so complex, it is necessary to tackle this subject a few topics at a time in a series of articles.
The List of Topics This Work Covers
While there are dozens of subjects that could be covered in this article, this piece shall focus on five with more coming in further articles.
The first five topics are:
• What DID is and What DID is Not
• What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder
• The Alters of a DID System
• The Prevalence of Dissociative Identity Disorder
• Further Breaking Down the Numbers
• How is Life Experienced with Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Tackling these subjects is part of ending the stigma surrounding dissociative identity disorder by raising awareness.
What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Many people have fallen prey to the idea put forth by the media that people living with the diagnosis of DID have separate and distinctly different personalities. This is not true and impossible as all humans become endowed with only one personality before birth.
The varied personality states seen in people with this controversial diagnosis have a unique way of processing information. They think and remember differently and use their personality states (parts, alters, etc.) as a coping mechanism to manage the stress of living their lives.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Alters
Although a person living with the diagnosis of DID may appear and perceive their altered states of consciousness as separate people, they are not. The alters are manifestations of the same person that did not coalesce into one cohesive self in early childhood.
These identity states may have different names, preferences, mannerisms, and even friends, but they are fragments of the same personality.
It is believed that alters are a normal part of childhood that come together as one whole personality around the ages 5-7 years. However, because children experiencing severe trauma, they miss a vital developmental milestone and remain forever fragmented.
The Prevalence of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder is an enigmatic and destructive disorder that begins in early childhood. However, skeptics believe that DID is a purely a construct of western civilization existing only in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
In fact, cases of dissociative identity disorder have been reported in the following countries as well:
• The Netherlands
• Northern Ireland
The countries who do not avoid talking about the diagnosis of DID report staggering numbers.
Studies of the population of the world show the prevalence of dissociative identity disorder among the general population at between 1.1% to 1.5%.
The population of the world today stands at 7.7 million. That means that the number of people living with the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder stands between 7.7 – 115 million people.
While there are countries that do not report cases of dissociative identity disorder, one must not confuse recognizing the disorder with DID not existing.
Further Breaking Down the Numbers
The prevalence of dissociative identity disorder in Switzerland is estimated to be between 0.05-1% of the population and Turkey reports a minimum number of people living in their population with DID to be 0.4%.
In a study from 1992, Swedish psychiatrists reported having seen at least one case of dissociative identity disorder during their career.
What is profound about Turkey is the fact that the population there have had no public access to information nor information about DID. Clearly, dissociative identity disorder isn’t a fabrication of the United States spread by movies and books.
How is Life Experienced with Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Life with dissociative identity disorder is not like shown in the movies or on television as a majority of those living with the diagnosis are not overt in their symptoms. Since the ambition in forming DID is to hide away from possible danger, it is more normal for persons with this diagnosis to switch alters covertly not out where everyone can see them.
Nor are people living with this serious mental health condition likely to commit horrendous crimes where others become injured. Like with all other mental health disorders, those living with dissociative identity disorder are more likely to injure themselves and become victims rather than perpetrators of crime.
Those living with this diagnosis experience life as a series of amnesiac moments or days not knowing or remembering many of their actions throughout the day. While no one remembers every minute of their day, those living with DID experience time passing in leaps and jumps rather than a smooth flow.
Relationships are extremely difficult for multiples, as they may have affairs or date several people at the same time and be unaware, they are doing it. Even when in resolute and monogamous relationships, it is difficult for partners of these folks to keep up with the triggers and the switching from one alter to another because of them.
Because of the movies and television, the public has a warped understanding of dissociative identity disorder. Many believe multiples to be dangerous, or they wish to have the condition themselves thinking it cool and desirable. Dissociative identity disorder is not a fun, cool, or easy condition to live with and no one should envy the chaos and fear multiples experience every minute of every day.
This first piece should give a taste of what is to come in further installments in this series about dissociative identity disorder. Please, return next week to explore more topics on DID, learn current information, and support this blog.