What Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not
Thursday, October 26 2017 Crystalie Matulewicz
There are hundreds of articles describing what dissociative identity disorder (DID) is, but there aren't many articles describing what DID is not. With all of the misconceptions and stigma out there about DID, it is just as important to write about what DID is not as it is to write about what DID is. Let us clear the air about DID.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not a Made Up Illness
There are still many people, including professionals, who believe that dissociative identity disorder is a made up illness and that people fake their DID symptoms, either consciously or unconsciously, for a variety of reasons. This is not the case. DID is a legitimate disorder, just as real as depression or bipolar disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not Acute
DID is chronic. Unlike some other illnesses or psychiatric disorders, dissociative identity disorder doesn't run its course and resolve itself within a short amount of time. Dissociative identity disorder is for life. Treatment often includes long-term therapy, sometimes even life-long therapy. Even if the person chooses integration, they will always be susceptible to dissociation and still be affected by DID -- just not to the degree they were before.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not a Psychotic Disorder
There has been a huge misconception over the decades that DID is related to schizophrenia, a disorder that includes symptoms of auditory and visual hallucinations. People with DID often experience auditory hallucinations, as they can hear the voices of their alters inside. These auditory hallucinations are not the same as those experienced in psychotic disorders.
While some people with DID also have a comorbid diagnosis of schizophrenia, the two disorders are unrelated. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder with a genetic component that is treated primarily with medication, while DID is a dissociative disorder caused by trauma that is treated primarily with therapy.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not Dangerous
Another misconception people have is that DID makes a person violent. In the media, people with DID are portrayed as serial killers, murderers, and violent people who should be avoided at all costs. The truth is that DID is not a violent disorder. People with DID are not inherently dangerous or abusive; in fact, people with DID are just as, if not less likely, to engage in violent behavior as people without psychiatric conditions.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not Easy or Lucky
I've come into contact with a few people who, upon finding out about my DID diagnosis, said that I am lucky to have all these alters to do the work for me. While I understand where they would get that idea, having DID is definitely not lucky, nor does it make life easier. Dissociation complicates everything: relationships, work, school, family, and life.
Dissociative identity disorder is not a benefit, nor is it a curse. It's a disorder, a real disorder, and a lifelong disorder. But it is a disorder that can be managed with the right support, and more understanding of what DID is and is not.