What Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Feel Like

May 25, 2016 Crystalie Matulewicz

While the experience of alters becomes the norm when you have dissociative identity disorder (DID), it can be difficult for those without the disorder to understand what the experience of having alters in DID is like. To continue with Mental Health Month and the #mentalillnessfeelslike campaign, I asked a group of people with DID to describe how it feels to have alters. Here is a glimpse of what it feels like.

Having Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Feels Like Constant Teamwork

An underlying theme in many of the experiences of having alters that were shared was that having alters requires teamwork. Alters are not all the same, and can have differing opinions about things. It can be difficult to make decisions when there are numerous other parts offering their opinions. On the other hand, it forces you to learn to work together. As one person said, "it means learning a lot about other opinions and reactions and attitudes, and getting to know other people."

Sometimes, it can be difficult to work together as a team, especially when you have alters that you have never met before and know nothing about. This can create an imbalance in the system, especially if alters aren't willing to work together. Alters can be friends, family, or foes. Alters can like, and even love each other, but sometimes there is hate or dislike within the system. When this happens, it can feel chaotic.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters Feel Like Different Parts with Different Roles

Alters in DID commonly take on different roles and have different purposes within the system. For those with DID, having alters feels like having different people for each role; one can be a student, another a lover, and another a caretaker for the children.

One person described the experience of having alters in DID as having different applications (apps), each with its own specialty. Sometimes these differences feel positive, but sometimes it can make you feel worse. "All of the apps are really good at what they are designed for, and some can run together and enhance each other, but others shut each other off."

Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters Feel Like Being in a Car with Other People

The car-driving analogy is common when talking about DID and the experience of alters. My therapist would often ask me to make sure I was the one "at the wheel," which can be difficult when you have alters fighting to take control. One person described having alters as all being together, riding in the same car, with each person taking turns driving. Another person described the experience of alters as feeling like being on a bus full of people; sometimes it's loud and scary, while other times it's quiet and calm. It's always an interesting experience.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: One Body, Many Minds

Each person with DID has one body, but they share that body witLiving with alters in dissociative identity disorder feels complex. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's difficult. Here's what it feels like to have alters.h other alters, each with their own ways of thinking and their own mind. As one person put it: "DID is like looking into a broken mirror. Different parts of me separated, yet part of the same whole. We all look the same, but we're different. We feel broken, yet unique. There is no way to fix it, but you just kind of get used to how it looks."

What do alters in dissociative identity disorder feel like for you?

Find Crystalie on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, her website and her blog.

APA Reference
Matulewicz, C. (2016, May 25). What Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Feel Like, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Crystalie Matulewicz

Crystalie is the founder of PAFPAC, is a published author and the writer of Life Without Hurt. She has a BA in psychology and will soon have an MS in Experimental Psychology, with a focus on trauma. Crystalie manages life with PTSD, DID, major depression, and an eating disorder. You can find Crystalie on FacebookGoogle+, and Twitter.

October, 12 2022 at 6:55 pm

I recently discovered that I have a small but growing system. Joan I think is like my guardian, but I think an earlier manifestation might have been Beatrice but I didn't think seriously about it because I'd consciously make her up to compartmentalize my depression, you know, like name the "monster" and the fear is lessened kind of thing. I found I'd have conversations with her during a panic attack and thinking she's not that awful actually. Haven't seen her in months though.
Joan came last week. And I saw the switch in the mirror in front of my eyes and someone else looking and talking back to me but she wasn't scary. I was freaked to put it mildly. And now there are more emerging like globs from primordial goo in my head. Fun times. I'm reassured though, that this is beginning to make sense like loosing time or it just flying way past the normal business warranted as detailed in another article ... at least there have been no noticeable black outs of vast spans. I just started online uni and I'm hoping the gang wont be disruptive.

May, 2 2018 at 9:39 am

Just found out I have DID and it all clicked into place. I went through an identity crisis around 16 years old when I came out as bisexual (I'm 20 now). I had the strongest urge to dress like a boy, use the male restroom, randomly cry or yell about having female parts when I felt so strongly that I was male and, on top of that I would have gaps in my memory where I couldn't even remember things like why I walked into a room or why I was standing outside. As time went on I was planning on transitioning to male, when I suddenly snapped out of it and loved everything girly all of a sudden, I wore my hair long and in curls, red lipstick and heels! After a horrid brake up with my on and off again ex I went right back to male almost like a defense mechanism had been activated. After the break up I got into a car accident because I disassociated when crossing the street on foot. That is when the black outs and time lapses became more distinct but it would still take 2 years to figure out that there was more than me inside my head. Morgan is the name of one of my nicer alters, he takes care of me when my emotions get to be To much, he is feisty, short, black hair and likes girls cusses like a sailor, is an artist, and I a bit hot headed but still nice. then you have Lexi(think that's her name) she is a kid and a girly girl she is like 14/16 and is very sweet, boy crazy, she has blonde hair, is emotional and cries a lot, another who I don't know her name and only met her 2 times is flirty, giggly, dumb, likes drinking, and last one is a very dark one, I don't know them but they scare me

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Willow (Petrified Collective)
November, 23 2021 at 11:19 am

Hi, Morgan! I'm Willow and I'm one of the caregivers in our system and our host's name is Enix, I just thought that it was really interesting because we haven't met anyone who shares that name!

April, 30 2018 at 8:29 pm

Dear Stich, what can I say I grieve for you.... I didn't know I had DIDS until recently. I really feel terrible for my alter trapped and unabl to communicate when or how she would like. It seems she can't share without extreme difficulty memories I'm not aware of, we can only talk about what we both know. Is there anything I can do to help her? Or any suggestions how we could join together. Does your host know about you? If you ever got the time to write a book, it would be a fascinating read. Best of luck x

April, 17 2018 at 5:06 pm

When im conscious & aware at the same time as my dominating control freak counterpart, & he's dominant, as he usually is, its difficult to describe in a way that sounds right, but its a bit like going about doing what ever your doing, making something to eat for example, except you dont feel entirely like your doing it, its just happening, a bit like your on autopilot and it doesnt feel particularly real, almost dream like, but with a voice over that's bickering & arguing with you over some meaningless nonsense, or criticising stuff id been doing earlier on, when he'd lost his ragg arguing with somebody else, or some other situation he couldn't handle & checked out, disappeared, dissociated, however you want to put it, & left me right in the middle of some confusing situation or other mess that i didn't create (or even understand most of the time) & then id find whatever the easiest way out of it was,& escape & hopefully he wont come back for a couple of hours & il get some peace & quite & try & do something i want to do for a change, depending on where we are & the nightmare situation iv most likey just ran away from, but yeah none of that probably makes much sense but thats a bit like what its like from my perspective, & that never really makes much sense either. Welcome to the last 30 odd years of my confusing existence though. Ltrs. Stitch

April, 15 2018 at 5:25 am

they feel like presences inside my body and around me,also I experience a shifting quality and mists.M

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 21 2018 at 4:37 pm

Same here , can get overwhemling

Leave a reply