Age Regression in Dissociative Identity Disorder
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.
Matulewicz, C. (2017, November 30). Age Regression in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2017/11/age-regression-in-dissociative-identity-disorder
Author: Crystalie Matulewicz
To Haley-I am 17 and like you,i have periods when i also feel like i am two years old and want to held and cuddled! My dad is in the military so he is not around.I too throw fits and then feel like a two year old again! What helps me is,i have a 14 year old niece who is a bedwetter and wears cloth diapers and rubberpants to bed everynight.i have seen her wearing them and she looks like a toddler,as she wears a footed ,zip up the front,footed pajama.I took some of her diapers and rubberpants and when i am feeling down and like a two year old,i put on the diapers and rubberpants and regress to a two year old.My boyfriend cuddles me while i am wearing the diapers and rubberpants and after a while i feel much better! Maybe you might try them and see if they help you when you feel like a two year old.
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?
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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?
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
Can people with DID let out their alters willingly and control when they come out ?
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.