Symptoms of Dissociation Aren't Always So Obvious in DID
Wednesday, March 15 2017 Crystalie Matulewicz
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) and other dissociative disorders go hand-in-hand with signs and symptoms of dissociation. You can find these signs of dissociation included in many lists, and in books like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). But symptoms of dissociation aren't always so black and white. The reality of dissociation goes beyond the obvious signs and symptoms of dissociation that you read about. So what is dissociation really like?
Symptoms of Dissociation Occur on a Spectrum
People experience dissociative symptoms in different ways. Some dissociative symptoms are severe, while other symptoms are mild. Sometimes dissociation can interfere with daily life, while other times, people are able to function on a normal level from day to day. Dissociation doesn't always mean dysfunction, despite what diagnostic criteria might imply (Dissociation Because of the Pain of Bipolar Disorder).
People with DID are regarded as having severe dissociative symptoms, but that is not the case at all times. They can also experience milder symptoms of dissociation, even for extended periods of time. It doesn't mean the person is cured or doesn't dissociate; they just dissociate in less obvious ways. There is a spectrum of dissociation, and you can experience the low end, high end, and anywhere in between.
Dissociation Symptoms Aren't Always About Losing Time
When people think about dissociation, they tend to think about the more obvious symptoms like memory loss and dissociated identities. But dissociation is more than that. Dissociation can be spacing out for a few minutes, not just a few days or weeks. Dissociation can be forgetting what you did this morning or even five minutes earlier, not just forgetting chunks of time in your childhood.
With DID, there is a belief that when you are dissociating, another identity is taking your place. That isn't always what happens. Dissociation can occur without switching or having other parts take over. You can dissociate and still be you. You may not even realize you're dissociated.
My Obvious and Obscure Symptoms of Dissociation
I have DID. Sometimes when I dissociate, I experience a "blackout". I have no recollection of what happened, other than what people tell me. My other parts take control and I fade out for a while. I act differently, sometimes even talk differently (Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters). These are the obvious signs of my dissociation.
I also experience dissociation in a different way. Some days I'm here, but I'm not really here. I go through the day in a blur. I'm sitting down, I'm hearing words, I'm working, sometimes I may even respond, but inside I am lost in another world. I'm not really taking in whatever is going on around me. I'm dancing the line between two worlds, the past and the present, the inside and the outside. I live in both at the very same time (Coping with Dissociation in PTSD Recovery).
That is my reality, the obscure dissociation that many people don't see. I've become so accustomed to it, that sometimes I don't even realize it's dissociation. It's just normal for me. And people don't always understand it. They tell me I'm here right now, present and speaking, and I am. But I am also in that other world, a safer space for me to be. It's still dissociation, just not the textbook version.
There's no such thing as simple dissociation. Dissociation is complex, it's varied, it's experiential, and it's unlimited by what you see in books.
Just because your signs and symptoms of dissociation may be different, doesn't mean they (or you) are any less valid. Life isn't always so obvious, and neither is dissociation.