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Dissociative Identity Disorder Disclosure: DOs and DON’Ts

Disclosing dissociative identity disorder, DID, is a big decision. Here are some important things to consider, some dos and don'ts for DID disclosure.

The decision to disclose your dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a deeply personal one. Many, perhaps most, people with DID live in near silence about their disorder. They may tell only their family or no one at all. Some choose to share their dissociative identity disorder diagnosis not just with family but also friends. I belong to a smaller group of people who publicly say, “I have DID.” What’s comfortable for you may be unhealthy for someone else, and vice versa. With that in mind, what I offer you today isn’t advice on whether or not to reveal your DID diagnosis, but a short list of DOs and DON’Ts – things to keep in mind when considering disclosure.

DID Disclosure DOs:

  • Consider your motive. What do you hope to achieve by revealing your diagnosis? You’re more likely to get what you want if you have a clear understanding of what that is. Additionally, your listener needs to know why you’re saying, “I have DID.” Otherwise, they may not know how to respond.
  • Think about your audience. Who are you going to tell? A friend? A love interest? Allow the listener’s identity and their role in your life to help shape your delivery. The way I told my partner about my diagnosis was significantly different from how I tell casual friends now, for instance. The depth, tone, and emotional revelation in your disclosure should be appropriate to your relationship.
  • Plan ahead. When and where are you going to come out? What will you say? It might help to write your own list of DOs and DON’Ts for this part alone. It’s best if you and your listener are relaxed. Think about what will engender safety and comfort, and what will hinder it.

DID Disclosure DON’Ts:

  • Apologize. Your disclosure isn’t a confession. By sharing your dissociative identity disorder diagnosis in an apologetic or embarrassed way, you tell your listener that DID is something to be ashamed of. Be honest, but keep in mind that how you present DID to others will impact their perception of it.
  • Ignore the risks. Once I disclosed my diagnosis to someone who responded, “People don’t want to hear about your problems.” I was crushed and humiliated. In retrospect, it was a careless choice on my part. I hadn’t prepared myself for such a caustic response because it didn’t occur to me I might receive one. Ask yourself, how might my listener respond? Then be realistic about the potential consequences of those reactions.
  • Disclose under pressure. Some situations are beyond your control. But if possible, come out because you’ve weighed all the considerations and decided it’s what you want to do, not because you feel pressured.

think about disclosing DID beforehandTelling someone, anyone, “I have DID” is a big deal. If you choose to come out, take time to prepare. Think about what you might add to this list of DOs and DON’Ts for disclosing dissociative identity disorder. And remember that you have the capacity to determine what’s right for you. Trust yourself.

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Think Photo by H. Michael Karshis

37 thoughts on “Dissociative Identity Disorder Disclosure: DOs and DON’Ts”

  1. Hi my friend has been Diagnoised with DID… Just want to know should i engage in conversation when he is switched to another person?
    Just trying to understand

    1. I am also interested in the answer to this question. When my boyfriend switches, his alter is confused and scared and doesn’t know why he is missing time or what’s going on. This alter is him but much younger and naïve. Most importantly, he left his abusive home last year, but his alter doesn’t know the abuse and wants to go back. Any help is appreciated.

  2. For anyone who is interested, Heather Davediuk Gingrich is a therapist specialising in the treatment of complex post traumatic stress, including dissociative experiences such as those suffered by people with DID. She also happens to have a Christian faith, and writes about the importance of not retraumatising those with CPTSD with unwise and misplaced spiritual advice (which can constitute spiritual abuse, in fact). Her book ‘Restoring the Shattered Self: A Christian Counsellor’s Guide to Complex Trauma’ addresses this issue well for those who have a Christian faith and recognise the need for sensitivity and an intelligent and trauma-informed approach to caring for those with dissociative experiences. In my opinion as both a client and a trained trauma counsellor, Heather’s material is well worth reading. An Amazon rundown of her book can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Restoring-Shattered-Self-Christian-Counselors/dp/0830827129

    http://lucykearn.wixsite.com/lucyslandingplace

  3. I’m so glad Twitter lead me to this site today, and to your article. My DID is something I could have gone the rest of my life never talking about, and certainly never, ever, making public. Unfortunately, life demanded different of me, and I find myself swamped in trying to face it myself, explain it to everyone else, and learn about it on a professional level, so that I can adequately explain it to academic professionals who don’t understand that one side of me doesn’t even know she’s in college! It’s… overwhelming. It’s overwhelming because I’ve known I had it DID since the age of 15, and I just started confronting it at the age of thirty. Still, I know more than most people, even professionals, and that is a devastating thing to swallow. I needed those professionals when I was younger. I still need them, and they are so few and far between.

  4. People with DID referring to this condition as “possession” or worse, “demon possession” is the worst kind of portrayal of what this disorder really is, even if you truly believe you are demon possessed. It is not only destructive for those of us who are trying to wrap our brains around having more than one of us inside taking turns, but especially destructive for people who do NOT have the disorder who may be reading this thread to find out more about it. The last thing we, or they, need at this moment is some sojourn into the land of the occult.

    If you really believe you are demon possessed, please take that to a different discussion, and let us discuss DID here.

  5. One of my favorite things to do is introspection. I enjoy studying myself and my ways of thinking, and always work to perfect my state of mind to be as logical as possible. I dissect my thought processes and analyze them. I will use both my (rather limited) knowledge of human psychology and my own observations of both myself and people around me to understand why, say, a certain thought came into my head at a certain time.

    Over the years, I’ve come to believe that emotions are, more often than not, obstacles that come in the way of logic and learning. As I value an accurate understanding of the world around me over an emotionally comforting one, I constantly challenge my own emotions whenever they might arise, and work to suppress them however I can to favor a more logical mindset. This, in part, is how I’ve come to accept a nihilistic perspective on life, as I’ve come to understand that the desire for meaning is just that, an emotionally-driven desire holding its grounds in deep-rooted human centrism. I would rather focus on understanding the world around me logically rather than allow an emotional understanding of life to grow inside me and perhaps even take precedence over logic by asking loaded questions (like “what is the meaning of life”.)

    As you might have expected, this emotional denial slowly chipped away at my own identity, as over the past few months, I slowly lost more and more of my emotional drives. I used to be able to manage this, as I somehow maintained a loose self of myself, despite almost completely barricading my own emotions away to favor logic and rational inquisition (and even then, I still had the emotional passion for knowledge and the drive to continue inquiring.) Slowly, even that turned into a purely pragmatic desire for understanding. I had managed to turn myself into an emotionless automaton dragging itself through life only for fear of death, constantly analyzing itself and the world around it. I barely managed to hold on to my sense of self.

    Given a certain person (other than myself), I will (almost subconsciously) use my understanding of human behaviors to build my own model of understanding of that person’s personality, intelligence and way of thinking based on their external behaviors, essentially performing my own psychiatric evaluation of them. I often contrast my own way of thinking to what I believed was theirs, and if there was ever a difference in personality between them and myself, I would identify what aspect of personality was responsible and try to reconcile the difference by imagining how I could change myself to think like them.

    A few weeks ago, I made a realization: so blank was my identity, so fragmented had I become, and such was my understanding of myself and my behaviors, that I could now will myself into being virtually whatever combination of my own cognitive capabilities I wanted to be. If ever a I felt like understanding how, say, my mother thinks, I would almost subconsciously rearrange my mind into thinking/being like her appropriate model (the one I had created based on her external behaviors and my understanding of how they correspond to how she thinks. For the sake of brevity, I will be referring to these simply as “models” from here.) I could do this for virtually anyone. It was like I had a superpower, like I was the absolute master of my own mind. There was no concept I couldn’t understand, no mental task I couldn’t achieve by re-purposing different aspects of my mind and/or rearranging my mental state. Or, so it felt.

    But with this came a price. I had been completely fragmented, and was more or less, just a loose, ill-defined mess capable of taking on any mental shape. I had no core beliefs, no core opinions, no personal integrity and no emotional drives. Rather, I could become anything, hold any opinions or beliefs, and take on any personality. I could modulate my own intelligence, but had no desire to either allow it to flourish or decay. To combat this, I began creating a “catalyst” persona. Upon invoking it, I would immediately revert to a select form of mine from which I could then revert to my “true” self. Whenever I felt myself slip back into my mindless, selfless state, some part of me would invoke the catalyst, and the catalyst would invoke “me”. This, of course, stunted my personal mental growth, as I would constantly revert back to a certain mental state rather than evolve from it.

    With each passing day, I would fragment myself further. I would constantly analyze every part of my mind, adding on to this “superpower” of mine that could enable me to mentally become anything.

    By now, my true identity had been almost completely lost. I started noticing a strange phenomenon: I began turning into more of a recipient rather than my own person. Upon being presented with a certain character, I would begin to mimic their mind as I subconsciously believed it to be. I would temporarily be filled not with my own identity (which was too loosely defined for me to hold on to), but rather by this new, “fake” identity my mind had just created that would mimic that of the character I was presented with. It went to such an extent where I wouldn’t be able to access certain faculties of mine that I believed the other person wouldn’t be able to access (for example, if my model of the person I was mimicking implied they would have poor critical thinking skills, my own critical thinking skills would be compromised.) It felt like somewhere deep within me, my true self would expel me to the outermost surfaces of my conscious mind, and make me “play” a certain character, denying me of my full capacities. It was almost like my mind had taken its own fragments (which I had spent so many months separating and controlling), and labeled them as “belonging” to certain personas (rather than there just being one mind in control of everything.)

    Because my grasps on both myself and reality are so weak, I can no longer tell the difference between the “real” me and these models which I’ve created. It even goes as far as feeling as though these made-up personas ARE me. You’d think that I’d be able to tell a fake persona from the real me, because only the real me would fully understand all my thoughts, experiences, and the fact that I’m just imagining these people.

    But I can’t, and I believe this is ultimately because I’ve become dissociated from myself and reality. It seems I’ve now completely lost the ability to differentiate between reality and my thoughts/imaginations. Whenever presented with some given externality, my mind normally brings up all the associations I have with said given. But now, it’s like my mind has been wiped clear of all preconceptions or associations; like I might as well have just been born right now. The same goes for my memories; I can’t re-associate myself with the person living all my memories (the “real” me.) It’s like the person writing this now and the person who’s been living in my body all my life up until just a few days ago are two completely different people.

    I understand that the person writing this isn’t the real me, or the “full” me. I’m living on the edge of my conscious mind right now. I also understand that any impression of being possessed by someone else (which I now constantly struggle to fight against) is also fake, and isn’t the real me. I’ve found that these “possessions” are the result of me believing that these “models”, who’s presences were once only limited to my imagination and could immediately be terminated by the real me, ARE me. The fact that I can’t reconnect with my real, past self, and that I’ve been wiped of all preconceptions and associations, means I’m now open to not just believing, but experiencing the presence of other entities in my mind. But I can’t convince myself that there’s only just one mind anymore. I can never manage to get over these possessions; like I’ve just become a recipient for whatever mental shape feels like manifesting itself in and occupy my head.

    I honestly don’t know who, or what, is writing this right now. I know it’s definitely not the real, fully unified me.

  6. When I was tiny, nothing made sense. Things like , “waking,” to find myself inches from danger, from certin death that I will refrain from detailing. I kept being punished for these incidents, only to find myself in that spot again and again. That was the least of the things that made no sense. Then there was the voices, the kids I played with or the ones who I couldn’t hear but could see. I thought I was just as sick as one of my parents and learned to hide those moments of waking up in the middle of the day, on my feet. I did quite well until the day I was volunteering to go to Nam. Yah well Uncle Sam notices such things as kids losing time and totally changing who they were in the middle of induction. That told me something I didn’t like. Any way I finally found therapy. Problem now is none of my other’s trusts anyone or anything, that wasn’t born covered in fur, and Uses the sandbox.

  7. In the end it all comes down to TRUST as to how well you and those you choose to reveal your illness to will be affected . A true loving caring and understanding friend or family member will not judge or freak out. Nor will it change their view of you . If it does change how they treat or view you then it is their problem. Human nature being what it is tells us that we all are effected differently and react differently in these situations. Some will have enough concern and compassion to work with you and even educate themselves so as to help preserve the relationship , some will not. Each one must openly and honestly decide if
    they choose and to whom they choose to talk to about their illness. But you can be fairly certain sooner or later , the nature of DID will cause friends or family to notice something . They may come to you with an observation or concern , or worse start to avoid you.
    So to me selective openness with those closest to you on a regular bases is a good thing. It will help avoid possible relationship problems later. All of us do well in my humble opinion to help remove our own possible stigma and the public stigma in how we react to mental illness by openly sharing . And in the end we have no control over how others will react. But those of us who deal with the illness 24/7 certainly must do our best to live full , happy lives ,not hiding sort of speak in the shadows as tho we are to odd or weird to live a meaningful life.

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