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Age Regression in Dissociative Identity Disorder

November 30, 2017 Crystalie Matulewicz

Age regression is a common occurrence in mental illness, especially DID. What does it feel like to regress in age? What can you do to cope with it? Learn here.

Age regression occurs in dissociative identity disorder (DID) particularly, but also in other mental illnesses such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. While many people with DID have young or child alters, called littles, age regression is something different. So what is age regression, and how do you cope with it?

What Is Age Regression and Who Experiences It?

Age regression, in its simplest definition, is when a person regresses, or goes backward, in age. Age regression can occur spontaneously, or as is more often the case, because of a trigger. While not inherently harmful, regressing can be dangerous if the person is not in a safe place.

Age regression is common in people who have experienced trauma, especially abuse in childhood. There is no limit to how much a person can regress. People may or may not be aware they are regressing.

Age Regression in Dissociative Identity Disorder

Because people with DID have a history of childhood trauma, they are more susceptible to age regression. When people with DID age regress, it's not always a full dissociation or switch to another alter. They may feel like themselves, but yet not feel the right age. They may talk in a more childlike voice and have childlike mannerisms. Sometimes they are aware of these changes, but they don't feel like they have control of them. Other times, they are fully dissociated and not aware that they have regressed. They may look in a mirror and not see themselves.

It is also possible to age regress while experiencing a flashback. These instances are especially difficult because it can lead to reliving the trauma, which can increase suffering and keep the person stuck in a dissociative state.

Tips For Managing Age Regression in DID

While it's not possible to prevent age regression entirely, there are ways to manage and cope when it does happen.

Safety scripts are useful for those who experience age regression and flashbacks frequently. What the safety script says is up to the person and his or her needs, but including "My name is . . ." "I am [however many] years old." and "I am safe." are good statements to include. Keep the safety script in an easily accessible place, like a wallet, bag, or desk drawer, so you can read it when you feel yourself regressing.

Another way of coping with age regression is age progression. Try to determine what age you feel like you are. It's okay if you don't know the exact age -- take an educated guess. Then, work your way up slowly. If you feel like you are 10 years old, acknowledge that age and then slowly increase it at a pace that is comfortable for you, until you get to your actual age. Remind yourself that you are safe.

The best defense is to notice the warning signs. How do you feel before you experience age regression? What are the changes in your body? How does your mind feel? When you start to notice the signs, you can begin working on a plan to keep you as safe as possible when it does happen.

Lastly, don't be afraid to utilize your support systems. Let them know the signs of your experience with age regression. Tell them how they can help you get back to the present moment.

When you have DID, you won't always feel your age. But there is a way to get back to being yourself.

APA Reference
Matulewicz, C. (2017, November 30). Age Regression in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2017/11/age-regression-in-dissociative-identity-disorder



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.

Randall
September, 1 2020 at 7:30 am

having several traumas my love cartoons toys my room is in winnie the pooh design i have an adult size tricycle and hobbie horse feel safer as a toddler

Lizzy
June, 13 2020 at 12:11 am

I have a problem.I regress under stress and at night time.My marriage failed also because I regressed around an unsafe person.I now don't trust anyone.I miss being held.Being safe.I have regressed and it doesn't always feel like I have control over this.It scares me very much.I was told by my doctor that I have a dissociative disorder of some sort.But I feel deeply ashamed and very scared for myself.E.What if it happens again.How do I protect myself.

Missy
June, 26 2019 at 3:51 pm

Ok what do you do it’s the dominant regressing to the age he was abused and the only way to keep little davie sober is to have his submissive spank him I’m worried for him we are in the ddlg too he’s talking about giving me a training collar I want it I love the child in him but sometimes his little submissive needs her daddy and daddy is regressed

Bill
May, 5 2019 at 8:35 pm

In my case I don't have DID, but do live with CPTSD due to on going trauma as a kid. I have found personal utilizing regressive behaviors such as going the whole weekend around the house in a tee shirt and diaper much like a 3 year old. In a way to both embody and comfort my younger self as a method of therapy. I think more needs to explored on this. Cause technically it's good to Pampers yourself.

me
February, 20 2019 at 1:49 pm

does age regression ever stop?

Lou
April, 11 2020 at 9:01 am

Age regression episodes stop but I don't think it does as a whole. I'm not completely sure though. That's a really good question

Robert Westover
January, 27 2019 at 1:09 pm

Both I and my wife had very traumatic child hoods. I tend to be the in most part. When she gets home from work she instantly regresses which I'm glad she has found a safe spot. I myself when I get to stressed also regress at those moments when I know we're both stressed.. we have a safe zone for both of us. The first thing we do is call my sister in law... she likes babysitting us anyways... from there we just interact with each other in our purest form. Just remember you never know how a person feels till you've lived there life. Be yourself that's all that you can do.

Nak
January, 27 2019 at 10:14 am

So, I am an age regressor. It started a couple years ago when I needed a way to cope with sexual abuse I went through as a child. Often times when I regress and never realize it until my friend points it out. Half the time I don't remember what happens when I regress, I know I regressed because ill ask my friend about it in the morning, and if I do its splotchy memories. I was doing research on DID when I thought to myself, "Could I be experiencing this?" Honestly, I just want to know if it's a possibility I am going through this and if so, how to I go about treating it.

Mae
January, 2 2019 at 4:49 am

I'm sorta sure I have this, but I'm REALLY scared to get tested for it because I've already been tested a few other things and the psychologist confirmed I have most of them. I can definitely see myself regressing (still learning my triggers for this and my trichotillomania) then slowly coming back, but I guess I just don't want it confirmed but at the same time, I just want to know to make sure I'm not a Freak or something.

Teddy
December, 28 2018 at 7:48 pm

Hi, in the case of age regression with DID, what work accomodations can be utilized to help support an independent lifestyle? Thanks

Abr
December, 5 2018 at 2:29 pm

Hi. I do not have DID, but this is one of the few sites that gives a helpful explanation of age regression, which I think I may be dealing with.
When I was younger, I was met with quite a handful of traumatic experiences, and I realized at some point that my family can't provide the comfort I need to feel safe. My mother is emotionally abusive, and my dad abused my sister when I was young and then shut me out of his life. At about age 12, I would wrap my baby blanket around my arm (a blanket I've slept with since I was a baby and still sleep with), and I'd sit on the floor and cry and rock myself. Before/during this time, I would talk to myself as if I had an imaginary friend, which I've been doing as a coping mechanism since I was 5. So that's that. Let me explain some more recent events.
Lately, I can't seem to take care of any responsibilities that I have. I'll stare at the screen (at work I need to do) and suck on my fingers. I also dissociate a lot and nothing ever really gets done throughout the day. I need to clean, do work, etc, but those things give me anxiety so I just suck on my fingers instead. When I was a child, I slept on the floor a lot, and a year ago I began doing this again. I have slept on the floor every single night for a year. It's where I feel safe/like a kid again. I'm also a really quiet person and often mute throughout the day, for reasons I don't fully understand. It feels as if I CAN'T speak, like my mouth is wired shut. And there's something else... I like wearing diapers, and I wish I could have pacifiers and bottles. It's not a kink thing. It's just something I'm drawn to. I don't have those things, but I've used baby diapers a few times and this provided a sense of security. It's hard to explain...
The bottom line, I sometimes get the sense that I'm regressing to a much younger age. This became apparent after the conception of my baby sister (last year). That's when I made the choice to sleep on the floor and when I started sucking on my fingers for comfort. Is it possible that I've been regressing back to infancy? I'm 18 years old and I don't wish to act like this...

Carrie Grehoski
February, 12 2020 at 9:03 pm

Hi I'm like that too I know what your going through, my name is Carrie Grehoski if you want you can message back it's nice to know I'm not alone in this

alyssa
November, 18 2018 at 10:58 pm

Is it possible for this to be consider as parts? I have been diagnose with DID, however I have been told that I do not switch into a different person just different ages and that I have several different ages, They all hold their own memories and act different but only in like maturity and the things that they like and how they feel. I have been told this all by my therapist who has talked to my so called part countless of times. I never remember switching to these parts or acting like them or abything to do with them. I will just black out and then come back. I have how ever seen note that i have writen and the hand writing will look different and the spelling will be messed up depending on what age had wrote it. There is this huge part of me that wants to prove to my therapist and mostly to myself that I do not have this and that there has to be some other reasoning for all of this happening, I do have a very long history of all kinds of abuse and this is why I have been told that my brain developed this. I have heard of people switching to other people with different names and they act completely different in every way possible, and as I have been told that I do in ways act different, its just hard for other people to notice. There have been times that people have told me that i seem younger as well. I guess what I am wondering is that is it possible for this age regression to be the main cause of switching and does this on a more serve level be consider as parts as I have been told that I have?

Indigo
July, 19 2019 at 9:08 am

I would suggest asking your psychologist about/looking into OSDD-1a (Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder), because this is what it sounds like. I'm in no way qualified to say that is what it is for sure, this is merely a suggestion.

Mystic
November, 16 2018 at 9:30 am

Being an Age Regressing teen is very difficult for me, most view it as a "kink" but it is far more than something so juvenile and its not just a "phase" as my grandmother seems to think, i've always been like this, but you've always been to destracted to notice. My caretaker is the only one who seems to get the serverity of this disorder. I am open about it however and i wish that other people would grow to respect it.

Alyssa
November, 18 2018 at 11:03 pm

do you remember things when you seem younger? I have been diagonsesd with DID and have been told that my parts arent other people but different ages of myself and that I switch to them. Its just that I never remember switching. I do find letters that I have writen in younger hand writing and things that I have gotten from the store that I would have of never of gotten like stuffed animals and toys and kid stuff and some stuff that a teenage girl would like. Apperently I have about 7 different ages that I switch into.

Libby Lou
May, 15 2019 at 1:08 am

I don't think it's a kink either. I think that the only thing that makes it 'seem' like a kink is that the only way to make connections with others with similar feelings is to go to kink sites that accommodate age regression. I am a chronic age regressor and have made contact with a few people and most of us have the same story...it's a coping mechanism to deal with our traumatic past. I've done alcohol abuse, ,eating disorders, self harm, all of which I am recovered from, but age regression works well for me and even my support teams are seeing an overwhelming change in my state of mind, mosyt of which has been very positive.

France Leandre
August, 27 2018 at 1:56 pm

Do you have any references that you can share?

Hajung
July, 11 2018 at 12:54 pm

So now I get that I am actually age regressing because if I am littles then it's a alter right? Like another me? I'm now trying to explore this world by myself because like this year I just knew it and some months ago I broke up with my bf while the only one who knows and tends to my need was him. Any suggestion for me to cope with this alone bcs like I've been suppressing it all these months and it's kinda sad though sometimes I want to let it out.

Markee
June, 25 2018 at 12:01 am

Hey I've recently gotten into a relationship with a guy that age regresses into a 3 year old.without sounding rude or inconsiderate,how can I help him get over this or through it so that he doesn't regress? I'm trying to be supportive and help him get past it so that it doesn't rule his life.

Michael Willis
June, 26 2018 at 5:48 am

In my honest opinion I myself think that it's not a good idea to help someone get past something if it's our problem as their partner I'm not their problem as an individual because a lot of age regressors do it because it's their safe place it's the last place of peace and innocence I myself and married to an amazing woman that has disassociative identity disorder she has 9 personalities and unless they cause her a problem or they're dangerous to her then I would never dream of changing her or her Alters her mind's created them for a purpose and one of them is 3 years old 1 is 11 and the rest are adult age and no matter which one they're in at any given time it's taking me a little while to get all the personalities confident and comfortable enough 2 conversate with me and confide in me but now that I have her trust in every form I found it that's the best way that I can help because she comes to me for comfort safety and advise because I'm understanding and not attempting to change her or her safe place no matter how frustrating or irritating one of the personalities can be it's an issue that she deals with daily so if you think it annoys and bothers you imagine what it's like for them every single day to never know who you're going to be next I know when it's going to change at any given moment and the greatest thing that I've ever done as build her confidence up to where she loves herself it would be cruel for me to take away the love for herself Supercross some things about one of her personalities wasn't fitting for me or bothered me if that was the case I'd say I didn't really love her so honestly the best I can explain to you from my own personal experience is don't help him change it or get over it helping embrace it and show him that there is absolutely nothing wrong with his alter if that's where he feels safe or comfortable then show him that you support him so that he feels that he has someone besides himself I need doesn't feel alone like I said this is all subjective and my opinion but I can tell you that I saved an amazing woman's life and she went from trying to kill herself daily coming out of a bad marriage 2 actually coming off of it medications now and smiles and laughs everyday and will tell anybody that for the first time in her life she's happy and feels free and loves who she is and that is the greatest feeling in the world to me to know that I was able to give that to her simply by showing her that it's okay to be herself no matter how young or irritable or whatever it is that it does just let him be there self you'd be amazed how much just showing them support for that will do I hope this helps if you have any questions feel free to email me jweasel52@gmail.com me and her both enjoy reaching out to people that have issues or are dealing with similar life experience life and let people know that there is hope Eid isn't something that you have to give up because of you can live happy with it

JTH
February, 11 2019 at 1:42 am

So very well put articulated and a lot of thought went into your post here Michael.
I've been diagnosed with did age regression I regress to 14 years old and it's been going on most of my adult life but just recently finally got it diagnosed and it clear and so many things up for my wife and I on so many levels. As long as the age regressor isn't putting an undue over the top experience constantly on the other in the relationship it's already hard enough to contemplate an actual LTR with that knowing it going into the relationship
I don't know I think it could be a real deal breaker for most once they really get an idea of what it can entail for the extremes.
for myself it doesn't work that way, it's I'm able to know when I'm there it's the most odd feeling it's it's hard to function it's hard to maintain a train of thought of anything because I'm just so hyper-focused on the staying in contact with the {{me}} that is not regressed/ but 14 years of age isn't bad at all it's certainly a lot better than two or three oh my goodness I couldn't imagine that

max
June, 11 2018 at 7:58 pm

I myself am an age regressor, and can easily say there is nothing wrong with being one. im not trying to sound rude when I say this, but hear me out. when regressing, its ones safe place, and or safe state of mind, and there is nothing wrong with it. you shouldn't feel wrong for it, because its actually quite common. also, age regression is also not 100% of the time linked to DID, but is more commonly linked to childhood trauma, like you said. but, its better to let yourself regress rather than attempting to force yourself out if it. you can't really sit here and write and article about something unless you've experienced it first hand whether that be yourself or someone you know regressing.

Haley
June, 2 2018 at 10:43 pm

Hey my name is Haley. I have moments when I feel like I’m two years old. I don’t really want to talk and all I want is to be held. Then it’s frustraiting because I don’t have any one to do that. When I’m angry I feel like an impulsive ten year old...but after I throw my fit I get sad and feel like I’m 2 again. Could I have DID?

clarice A.
September, 27 2019 at 7:56 am

To Haley- I am a girl in my late teens.I was never baptized as a baby,so when i was 14,my parents finially had me baptized at Easter vigil on Easter sunday with all the other preteens and teens.All of us girls had to wear the required white,poofy,short sleeve,top of the knees baptism dress and bonnet,with a tee shirt,cloth diapers,plastic pants under our dresses and lace anklets and white 'mary jane'shoes.My mom and gramma dressed me in the outfit and i felt like a little toddler girl!I liked the feeling of being like a baby or toddler and everyone thought i looked very cute! Later that summer,i was in a wedding as the senior flowergirl and i told mom i wanted to wear my baptism diaper and plastic pants under my flowergirl dress,so she put them on me.The next May when i was 15,i made my First Holy Communion with the other kids and us girls had to wear our baptism diaper,plastic pants and tee shirt under our communion dresses.Again,i felt like a toddler and loved the feeling!After my party was over,i got up on my dads lap and he cuddled me and i felt so happy and content! I started wearing the diaper and plastic pants and tee shirt more often after that and even to bed at night sometimes and before i would get into bed ,dad would cuddle me.I am now 18.going on 19 and still like wearing my diaper and plastic pants and feeling like a baby and being cuddled.

Hannah
March, 15 2020 at 8:06 am

I finially made my First Holy Communion at age 15 with the class of 2nd graders! My parents,along with my gramma and aunt bought my communion outfit and told me i would be dressed as a little girl! They got me a short sleeve,quite poofy,top of the knees communion dress and veil with lace anklets and white 'mary jane' shoes.They then got me a white tee shirt to waer as my top under my dress and then a cloth diaper was made for me from sewing a package of baby diapers together to make the one diaper.They got a pair of white adult size plastic pants to go over the diaper which fit me loose and crinkled! The morning of the ceremony,i was put into the outfit and joined my class.I felt somewhat weird being 15 and dressed like the little girls.The plastic pants over my diaper crinkled the whole time when i walked and mom and gramma and aunt thought it was so cute!My boyfriend,Justin,who was 16,came to my party and was blown away by the fact that i was like a 'little girl'! After my party we were alone and started kissing and after a few minutes he put his hand under my communion dress and felt my diaper and plastic pants and became very aroused!Sadly to say,he got my communion dress off of me and got me to my knees and made me give him oral sex!

James O.
September, 9 2020 at 9:22 am

To Hannah and Clarice-Both of you were dressed correctly for your First Holy Communions! At my parish,the girls are required to wear the cloth diaper and plastic pants and white tee shirt under their poofy white dresses for baptisms,First Holy Communion and Confirmation! They are especially required for the teen girls since they are the ones who become sexually active and the cloth diapers and plastic pants and tee shirt send them a message that purity and innocence is perfectly acceptable before marriage!

Meredith Melton
April, 15 2018 at 7:48 am

Hi, I was in an abusive relationship all through high school and then some other things happened as well, I haven’t officially been diagnosed with PTSD but my therapist said it’s likely I have it and I saw that age regression can be part of that. I feel like I experience age regression constantly when I’m around my boyfriend wether I’m happy or angry or sad, and then when I leave I feel so awful and stupid for acting like such a child...he’s made comments about not acting like a child before because I guess I’m just frustrating in that state but I don’t know how to explain all this to him without sounding like I’m just making up excuses..do you have any tips or ways I could talk to him about it?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Crystalie
April, 15 2018 at 2:45 pm

Talking to him about it can be difficult, especially if he doesn’t have a good understanding of mental health issues. If you are comfortable with it, it might be easier to talk to him about the PTSD before age regression specifically. Send him a few links of articles you find relate to you. Your therapist may even be able to help explain things to him.

Katherine
April, 8 2018 at 1:59 pm

Hi- I was reading your article and saw that you mentioned age regression can also happen in other mental illnesses such as PTSD or MDD both of which I have. MDD is officially diagnosed; the PTSD is not official but my therapist says that it’s highly likely that I have it. I was just wondering if you had any articles that I could read about those associations with regression as opposed to just in DID or if it acts the same way. Thank you very much!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Crystalie
April, 15 2018 at 2:46 pm

I don’t have any articles talking specifically about age regression within MDD, but the mechanisms are the same. You can use the same methods to reverse the regression as the ones listed in this article.

Bre
January, 15 2018 at 1:02 pm

I've gotten into a new relationship about 2 months ago. He's into the whole ddlg lifestyle. I'm aware that age play and age regression are two different things. How can I explain to him that when I regress it isn't in a sexual way? I get nervous around him when I feel like I'm getting PTSD triggers because I'm worried he will take it the wrong way. I don't mind what he is into. I'm into it to an extent as well. I just need to figure out how to help differentiate between the two since I don't go as far as to wear diapers or anything for age play. So I just think it will get misunderstood. I guess one way is that I feel in control with age play and with regression it just happens on its own. Usually I find my inward self as an adult and my outer self is childlike. Normally I feel a little the other way around. Is that normal to feel that way? Like to feel like I'm a child on the outside and an adult on the inside. Because I can still think like an adult. But what comes out in words or actions is childlike.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Shae
December, 15 2018 at 2:39 pm

Hi hi, I regress too but I have found in that community even if you are a regressor it can be kinda weird on where to start lace yourself. I found ddlg but I’m leaning more towards cgl ( I do have a caregiver when I do regress). Talk it out with him. My last person who was into ddlg took advantage of me when I slipped into little space (I regress about 4yrs to toddler) & no I don’t want wear diapers.
I usually feel little always have but couldn’t never figure out why until recently when I started regressing all of a sudden. Sorry if I’m rambling. All in all sit him down & go over things that you are comfy with also research. Best of luck?

Evalinn
January, 3 2018 at 6:28 pm

Hey so I don’t know if I have this or not but I was sexually abused and physically abused as a child from infant to 4 and got adopted at 6 and I find myself talking like a baby a lot more at the age of 20 and it it started at 16 . I twirl my hair like I used to when I was a kid and I currently find my saying mama while I’m like half asleep . My gf had Calle dme out on talking like a baby and being immature and I tell her I can’t help it and half the time I don’t even realize it . I don’t know what to do ! I have PTSD, ODD, ADHA, OCD

Renzo
December, 23 2017 at 6:18 pm

Can people with DID let out their alters willingly and control when they come out ?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Crystalie
December, 28 2017 at 6:01 am

Hi Renzo,
Some people do say that they can control their alters in that way, but that’s not common. It is possible to reduce triggers that can lead to alters coming out, however. That takes a lot of time and work within your system to get to that point.

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