Risky Behaviors and Dissociative Identity Disorder
Thursday, May 11 2017 Crystalie Matulewicz
Risky behaviors can be a part of dissociative identity disorder. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year's theme of risky business applies to those with dissociative disorders, including dissociative identity disorder (DID). Risky behaviors, including alcohol and drug use, risky sexual behavior, and compulsions are present in many mental illnesses, including DID. These risky behaviors can exacerbate symptoms and increase suffering. So how can we know when the risky behaviors associated with dissociative identity disorder have gone too far?
The Complicated Nature of Dissociative Disorders and Risky Behaviors
When people participate in risky behaviors, they are, for the most part, aware of what they are doing. They may not see their behaviors as risky or understand the severity or the effects of their behaviors on others, but they are conscious of what they are doing.
It's not so simple with dissociative disorders. With DID and other dissociative disorders, oftentimes, there is little to no awareness of the risky behavior. This is because these risky behaviors often occur while the person is dissociated. During dissociation, there is limited awareness of one's behavior. A dissociated person can have no awareness or control of the behavior or may be aware of the behavior but not able to control it.
DID Alters Can Be Prone to Risky Behaviors
In some cases of dissociative identity disorder, there are specific alters that are prone to risky behaviors (Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder). Some people with DID can have one or more sexual alters. These alters may engage in risky, sexual behavior, and if the alter is in control of the body, the core person may have no way to stop the behavior.
It's possible and common for alters to have compulsions or addictions that are not shared by the other alters or by the host. It's also possible for risky behaviors to trigger dissociation, or specifically, a certain part to come out. For example, when a person consumes alcohol, it can trigger another part to come forward. That part may cease the risky behavior, or they can continue the behavior to a point where it becomes harmful and out of control, increasing suffering within the whole system.
Awareness and Cooperation are Key to Reducing Risky Behaviors in DID
Just as with any other mental illness, awareness is essential. A support system you trust can help with awareness of risky behaviors, and can even help reduce or eliminate some of them (Minimizing Risky Behavior Caused by Substance Abuse). You and your support system can come up with a plan to keep you and your system safe by reducing vulnerability to these risky behaviors in DID in the best ways possible. Eliminating access to drugs and alcohol is easier when others are aware of your needs.
If possible, communicate with the others in your system and let them know that risky behaviors hurt the body. It is important for all parts to cooperate. A therapist can also help you work with your system to make this possible.
It can be difficult to avoid risky behaviors in DID, but it's not impossible. Avoidance can lead to a healthier life, even with DID.