We were talking about dissociation when a man I once knew told me he’d been entirely unaware of a hospital stay until he got the bill. I didn’t say it, but I immediately thought, ‘he obviously has Dissociative Identity Disorder.’ I now know how presumptuous that was. Though his experience was clearly indicative of something outside of everyday experience, it’s taking a lot for granted to assume that something is DID. And looking back, it’s absurd that I was so convinced. Not satisfied with a second opinion of my own diagnosis, I sought out four. One would think someone as hesitant to jump to conclusions as that would exercise a little more caution.
Dissociation Is Normal
On Monday I published the last of a five part series titled What Is Dissociation? What I hoped to convey with that series is that, as Deborah Haddock says in The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook, “DID is an extreme manifestation of what we all experience to a much lesser degree.” Most people experience dissociation in all of its five primary forms from time to time – depersonalization, derealization, dissociative amnesia, identity confusion, identity alteration. Clarifying the mild to moderate dissociative symptoms that we’re all acquainted with is vital to demystifying DID. The diagnosis will always seem otherworldly and exotic if the condition isn’t explained in a way people can relate to.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not Normal
“Normal is a setting on the dryer” – I’ve heard it too. But I don’t buy it. There is a range, albeit wide, of experiences that most of us can agree are normal. DID doesn’t fall within it. A bold statement perhaps, but it’s true. Most people do not have Dissociative Identity Disorder. I want very much to humanize DID and show that, in so many ways, people with it are normal. But I don’t want to suggest that the disorder itself is normal, though dissociative disorders in general are more widespread than we once thought .
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is A Psychiatric Diagnosis
As such, diagnosing it is a job for experienced clinicians. Particularly when you consider that resistance to exposure is part of the disorder. Contrary to popular belief, Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t at all easy to spot. Books like The Stranger in the Mirror by Marlene Steinberg and Maxine Schnall or The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook by Deborah Haddock are excellent introductory resources. The former even contains screening questionnaires that can help you decide if you should see a therapist, though they’re not diagnostic tools on their own. No blog, forum, book, or friend can tell anyone that they have DID. Neither can most therapists, though I hope the majority possess enough understanding of dissociation to recognize when a client might need more specialized treatment. If you think you may have DID, consider asking your therapist about it or seeing a therapist if you don’t already have one.
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