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.
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.
A Misdiagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder Isn’t Faking
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 who’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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