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Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Recently a reader asked how to get over the feeling that her sister is faking Dissociative Identity Disorder. If you doubt your friend or family member’s diagnosis, I think it’s important to identify why you’re skeptical. What in particular has you questioning it? Write it down, and be specific. Now find out everything you can about each of those nagging suspicions. I’m willing to bet a healthy majority of them are based on common misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. Sometimes people who say they have DID don’t have it at all. That could be because they’re pretending for some perceived gain, e.g. sympathy. But I believe the discrepancy is more likely due to misdiagnosis and genuine confusion.

Photo by Cesar Bojorquez
Photo by Cesar Bojorquez

Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder Online

A few years ago I was in a chat room frequented by people with Dissociative Identity Disorder when a regular visitor entered and made a dramatic announcement. She’d been driving a familiar route and arrived at her destination with no memory of the trip. She said she had DID, but was alarmed about highway hypnosis, a mild form of dissociative amnesia. Either she was newly diagnosed and still wrestling to understand herself and her life in this new context, or she didn’t have DID at all. Was she faking Dissociative Identity Disorder? I don’t know. I encountered her many times when I was visiting that chat room and got the overall impression that she – and some other regulars – didn’t really have DID. But purposeful manipulation isn’t necessarily the explanation. If she didn’t have DID, my guess is she genuinely believed she did.

Misdiagnosing Dissociative Identity Disorder

Therapists make mistakes. And unfortunately there are still clinicians who are fascinated with DID, but don’t recognize their own lack of necessary education or experience with it. Take someone with PTSD or some other dissociative disorder dsm-bookswho’s desperate for answers, send them to one of these overconfident therapists with little to no experience diagnosing and treating DID, and you might very well end up with someone who believes she has the disorder even though she doesn’t. That isn’t faking Dissociative Identity Disorder. That’s a misdiagnosis, plain and simple.

Don’t Assume Anyone Is Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder

Ask yourself how you know what you know about DID. If a movie, television show, or bestseller is one of your top three sources of information, you’re in no position to judge whether anyone has Dissociative Identity Disorder or not. Psychology Major, you say? No, you don’t know nearly enough about DID to determine the legitimacy of someone’s diagnosis. Ultimately no one but a skilled clinician with experience diagnosing and treating DID can make that call. If a friend or family member tells you they’ve been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, give their doctor the benefit of the doubt. If you have reservations, that’s understandable. Ask questions and do your own research. But don’t just assume they’re faking Dissociative Identity Disorder. You’re more likely to be wrong, I think, than right.

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34 thoughts on “Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder?”

  1. My male friend recently self diagnosed himself with DID. He is convinced he has it even though he has not gone to any expert about it. He has told me he self harms and that he just dissociates all of the time, has long gaps of memory gone, and self harms. He went through a 2 week period where he started referring to himself as “we” and not too long ago he asked me if I wanted to “meet his alters”. He says he has seven of them, he is also a transgender male, and trans people are much more likely to suffer from depression or a suicide attempt and I am very concerned. The trauma he says he faced as a child was not sexual or physical, but says it was more emotionally manipulative, and that when he was younger, his dad would come home drunk throwing things. I don’t know if this really fits the trauma that usually causes DID, and I feel like he might be mimicking the symptoms that he has read online before self diagnosing himself, but then again I am no professional. He also has a boyfriend that suffers from DID because of sexual abuse when he was younger and I don’t know how this might have affected his opinion or self image of himself with a need to alter it. I guess I am just worried that he has no idea what he is doing (which he is no professional so probably right there, but I just don’t know what to do. He has been doing this for awhile. Also he is 16.

  2. I am rather concerned i am 67 and had my diagnoses some time ago at that time did and the rest was considerrd very rare and to get info was a great struggle now it seems everyone has it and is proud to display their symptoms were as i am extreemly embarrassed and have always hidden my condition and will continue to do so.

  3. Hi! I have a friend who has had a traumatic past and is diagnosed with a mood disorder as well as generalized anxiety. Although throughout many, many years of therapy, no psychologist or psychiatrist has ever diagnosed him with DID or anything similar, he’s still convinced he’s got it. As someone who’s really plunged into the community of people with mental health problems due to knowing many people who suffer from different psychological disorders as well as suffering from some myself (although not disassociative identity disorder, which is why I’m doing more research), this really bothers me because no one, including and most especially many, many trained professionals has ever had a hint of this happening and this person has never displayed any symptoms (of course, not that I’d know of). It really makes me fume that even after he’s brought it up with doctors recently and still no one has confirmed anything, he still has self-diagnosed himself with DID. I don’t know whether I’m in the wrong for being angry at him, especially because he seems like the type of person who would really need sympathy in his life, and also because I’m no doctor and there’s no way I could get inside his head to know what’s going on. Could someone help me shed a light on this subject so I can know what to do about my feelings in this situation and if I’m in the wrong, I want to know how to grow to be more accepting and less ignorant and quick to judge.

  4. Hello, I’m currently having an issue about how it seems all of my friends are coming out with DID at the same time? I know it’s possible for multiple friends to share diagnoses, but one key person I know, and whom I’ve known for a long time, started acting as different people after meeting the other friends with DID (I know 3 people currently, two of which are diagnosed and the third I avoid because she annoys a few of my more dominant alters)
    This friend before acted as an average (albeit slightly aggravating) “tumblr type” girl. Now she’ll come up to me and our friends either talking like a baby or rambling about how other alters told her not to do something but she did it anyways (and she’s begun speaking in third person?)
    I don’t want to be a gatekeeper or rude or anything, but it seems strange that all of this came out of the blue, and presents so strongly (as I’ve researched, DID is usually 96% of the time undetectable from those outside of the system)
    Then again, I have OSDD and perhaps DID itself does present this strongly? My friend will go from using baby language (tawlkin’ wike dis) to growling like a dog or threatening to murder people. It just feels really forced and my friends with DID also share to me that they feel like she is scripting these alters and switches. I don’t want to seem mean, though, so I play along. Any advice/insight would be heavily appreciated.
    With confused regards, Matthew.

  5. Is it possible for someone to control who they want to be and if they can control that, can they control what they do as their other personality? I’m very curious and would love to know.

    1. Mathew,

      Although depictions of DID indicate otherwise, DID is not controllable in that way. Dissociation occurs not by force, or choice made by the main person (host), but out of necessity. Some people can be conconscious, aware of what their parts are doing, but not necessarily have control over it (at most, control is shared with the other part).

  6. In the early 1990’s there was an epidemic of MPD misdiagnosis- PRI did a Retro Report on it- especially in Houston. One of the psychiatrists involved was a recent graduate from medical school, having had just completed his residency the year prior to making his 1st diagnosis of MPD, now relabeled as DID. Within 2 years, somehow, half his patients had MPD. As it turned out, that 1st patient just had PTSD as a result of CSA. Not MPD.

    What happened? This doctor had been woefully inexperienced and got caught up in the current fashionable psychiatric climate which embraced MPD as all the rage, MPD springing not merely from CSA but from the sexy, sensational ritual satanic abuse, the more florid the better. These were the post inner-child days, times when abreactions, sodium amytal interviews in 4 point restraints & flashbacks ruled. It was a good time to be a shrink or to own stock in HCA & other psychiatric care hospitals. Back then, HMO’s, PPO’s & other insurance- saving schemes hadn’t been formed, and folks admitted to these hospitals could stay as long as their insurance lasted, typically several months to years. Folks were gettin paid!

    Those unlucky patients who were misdiagnosis with MPD were victims of psychiatric abuse, not satanic cult abuse. But, their lives from that point on were equally marred and doublely affected. They’d been brought to the brink of insanity, and most of them fell, suffering horribly in the ensuing downfall.

    Sometimes, not now, but occasionally, there is a rash of psychiatric misdiagnosis. Certain ones come into vogue, and when they do, it can be fatal. In the MPD case, because of what was done, many patients went on to earn their actual label. Unwittingly, a post hypnotic suggestion had been given and because of the extent of the trauma, their minds produced what they were told.

    The reason you may not have heard about this is because it is not discussed openly. Several patients settled out if court for damages and as part of the settlement are forbidden to discuss it. But its out there. It happened. They exist.

  7. My best friend is about 17 years old and she’s telling me she has D.I.D

    I’ve been saying nothing and just going with it (As I was told by my cop friend that due to the teenaged mind and some problems the system had, no one under the age of 19 is diagnosed with this disease, with exceptions of course)

    And recently I’ve been assuming she’s faking, just due to some little things.

    She also calls them heads instead of others (Which I think is cool)

    Her heads are;

    And herself.

    Well..they all text/type differently, they all speak slightly differently, and sometimes they even snapchat differently.

    However from what little I know about D.I.D, and from having a family member who suffers from it as well, I think she’s a teenaged female whose mind is under stress due to her life structures, but isn’t suffering, what do I do?

    1. Hello J.T.,

      It’s impossible for you to know whether or not your friend really has DID or not. I will say that it’s possible, certainly. People with DID show symptoms as early as childhood, and can be diagnosed at any age (many are diagnosed under the age of 19, as there is no age restriction for diagnosis).

      But there are also people that, unfortunately, do fake psychological disorders. I think it’s important for you to show your support. Confronting her may only make things worse. If you can, encourage her to get help.

      1. Can a 22 year old remember as far back as age three , I’m extremely confused my daughter has recently been diagnosed but she’s very open about it in detail and even vary blatant with me about stuff in her past that have t even happened . I myself suffer with ptsd due to the violence from an ex but I’m doubting my daughters diagnosis , and feeling very guilty for doing so .

  8. Hello there; I don’t have any mental disorders of the sort but, I have a friend who I literally don’t understand why she thinks she has some sort of multiply personality disorder. Especially when she literally told me that she created this ulterior male personality during our last year of middle school. She calls it “Hatred” because it was created from her bitterness & anger towards her ex who broke up with her that year. I didn’t really buy it in all honesty, but I let it slide. Currently now I’m a junior in high school.

    And recently it has blown up on me, the fact that I let that claim of her slide. Because recently I’ve gotten into an argument with her; she literally blames the fact that she never messages me back or how she indirectly insults me sometimes onto her persona “Hatred”. Quite literally the last time I spoke to her, she used her cowardly persona “Hatred” to dis me and make me blow up on her further. “Hatred” apparently claims that she tells him to stop talking to me and leave me alone. Which brings me to these question I hope to receive some sort of answer to:

    -If my friend claims to remember nothing at all, and have no sense of control over “Hatred”, why does “Hatred” say that she is asking him to do things or reframe from doing things? Does that, or does that not mean that she’s lying about “having no control over”?

    -How do I know she’s just doing all of this to seek attention from me, or make me angry?

    -Also, what does it mean if she always thinks about sexual fantasies with herself & “Hatred”? Does “Hatred” represent how rude, mean, cold, and possibly…slutty she is?

    -Or am I being over critical, and irrational at the moment?

    Please help, I’m not very good at figuring these things out or not…since I’m not very smart at social interactions…=_=”

  9. Also the author of the blog, Crystalie has a good video about what you are talking about. I think it could be helpful to you.

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