Can You Voluntarily Give Yourself Dissociative Identity Disorder?

August 14, 2019 Becca Hargis

I have been asked recently, "Can I voluntarily give myself dissociative identity disorder?"  For most of us with dissociative identity disorder (DID), our first reaction is to wonder why anyone would ever want to develop a disorder that can be so challenging, if not debilitating. The truth is, however, I have shockingly come across individuals inquiring how they can develop the disorder. Well, the answer to whether you can voluntarily give yourself DID is unequivocal.

No, you cannot give yourself DID.

First, let me say I'm strictly talking about individuals that did not develop DID as children. For those that developed dissociative identity disorder as children in response to trauma, then yes, it is possible to continue to create alters and parts later on in life if the circumstances and the DID system necessitate it. But we are discussing something quite different. The issue is whether someone can consciously and purposefully give themselves dissociative identity disorder.

Why You Can't Give Yourself DID

DID Isn't Something You Can Give Yourself on Purpose

Having DID was not a conscious decision those of us with the disorder made when we were children. Dissociative identity disorder is not a selective disorder, meaning you cannot decide that you want to develop this brilliant coping mechanism and then you have it. "I have different parts of myself too," you may think. "Is that not what DID is, someone with parts to their personality?" you may ask.

The answer is yes and no. According to one treatment philosophy, everyone has parts. There is a therapy approach called the internal family systems (IFS) model which proposes the idea that singletons, those without dissociative identity disorder, have different parts to them, such as firefighters, managers, and exiles, that take on roles to create internal connections and harmony.

This IFS model sees individuals as being whole -- a summation of all his or her parts. For those of us with DID, you can't total our parts and have a whole individual. Though we might learn to work together and our parts cooperate, we will always be fragments. We cannot equal a whole person. We were never whole to begin with.

However, it is not uncommon to for someone to say, "Part of me just doesn't want to go to work today," or you might have heard, "There's a part of me that wants to improve my health."

Yes, these are aspects of our personality that come out in the language of parts. It is normal to talk in terms of parts, but this does not mean you have parts such as in DID. Our parts take executive control, make their own decisions, have different memories, ages, needs, and so forth. That is not the case with parts in the IFS model where the parts equal the whole.

The Nature of the Disease Necessitates It Form in Childhood

Another reason dissociative identity disorder cannot be voluntarily acquired in adulthood is due to the very nature of how the disorder is formed in childhood ("Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]"). Dissociative identity disorder is the result of prolonged and severe abuse to a child at a very early age who has not yet developed a cohesive and formed personality. A young child's undeveloped personality cannot handle the stress and trauma brought on by abuse, so the only thing a child can do is create a part who can deal with the abuse and involuntarily fly away in his or her mind.

The reason a part can be created is that children do not integrate their experiences, characteristics, and temperament into a formed and solid personality until later in childhood. Since DID is developed roughly before the age of eight, which is before the complete formation of the child's personality, the brain has not had the opportunity to fully integrate a child's experiences into a wholly developed mind, thus negating the child's ability to cope with trauma and leaving the child vulnerable to splitting and creating parts. Therefore, during the severe and damaging abuse, the child's core "personality" is abolished and the parts are created. All this is an involuntary process and the child has no awareness of what has taken place. 

Only children, not adults, have the ability to fracture off from the "core" personality to escape the abuse and neglect. Adults already have a fully formed and integrated personality and do not need to develop parts to cope with stress and trauma.

Be Glad You Can't Give Yourself DID

Lastly, though there are beneficial aspects to having dissociative identity disorder, most people with DID would advise against any attempt to acquire or pretend you have the disorder. Having DID means time gaps, memory loss, hearing voices, and finding random items you don't recall purchasing. It means flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, accusations of lying, and wild mood swings. It can sometimes offer only a debilitating and isolative life. 

So please be glad you cannot willingly give yourself dissociative identity disorder.

Dissociative identity disorder is not fun; DID is not a choice; DID is not voluntary.

APA Reference
Hargis, B. (2019, August 14). Can You Voluntarily Give Yourself Dissociative Identity Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Becca Hargis

Becca is a mental health advocate who is passionate about ending the stigma against mental illness. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with dissociative identity disorder. You can connect with her on her personal blog, TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.

Landon drake
March, 4 2024 at 2:49 pm

I gave myself DID by forcing myself through trama

G Mericano
August, 1 2022 at 6:58 pm

I think it's irresponsible to say that somebody CAN'T develop DID intentionally as an adult, perhaps that it would be extremely difficult and rare..... Take MK-Ultra for example (please do at least surface level research before dismissing this outright as conspiracy theory) in which they were able to fracture and restructure the minds of both children and adults through combinations of various methods including sensory deprivation, physical and sexual abuse, torture, drugs such as LSD and Scopolamine (Datura) and Mescaline, hypnosis, etc. If it can be done by a 3rd party to adults it is reasonable to assume that through much maneuvering it could be done to ones self.

gelsomino .
September, 11 2021 at 4:36 pm

is it possible to create multiple personalities by yourself?
I've got a friend who told me she's got multiple personas inside her but she doesn't show or have any symptoms of DID or any other personality disorder; she told me she developed her alters by herself.
from what she told me she has experienced a lot of stuff during her childhood (mostly domestic violence and she still experiences such stuff nowadays from time to time) which brought her to develop pretty serious trauma and during her early preschool days she subconsciously developed 2 alters: the violent and aggressive one and the "fake" one (this is what she called her: it's basically the alter with social, friendly, and other characteristics that don't match her true personality which is why it's called "fake").
she then developed 2 other alters in elementary school between grade 2 and 4:
the sensitive one- this one is a boy and I don't know if it's normal for a female to create a male alter (please pardon my ignorance, I don't really know a lot about multiple personalities issues.); he is mostly responsible for her sudden mood swings and tears suddenly coming out of her eyes when not appropriate or shouldn't be crying.
and the "try too hard"- this is the one she developed after getting into cute stuff and anime, which led her to create a kinda cute persona that tries way too hard to look cute and acts/talks in a forced and cringe way to draw people's attention and in fact, she's the most hated by the other alters and all the people she's shown herself to, but strange enough, she's one of her most 'displayed' alters (I have no idea how to put it, I'd say it's the alter she 'uses' the most but she doesn't really use it because this alter switches even when my friend doesn't give her permission to and forces her way 'outside'; I'm sorry I'm very bad at explaining, English is not my first language.)
and the last one she created (for now) was within 5th grade -the last year of elementary school in Italy- and 6th grade -first year of middle school- ; she called them "the eloquent and sarcastic one" because of their remarkable intelligence, rich vocabulary and habitual use of sarcasm. (this one uses gender neutral pronouns in case you're wondering why i used they/them here.)
she always reminds me that she doesn't have DID but after reading this I started to doubt it, does she really not have DID or is she just not aware of having it?
but at the same time, she didn't show any of the symptoms mentioned here, such as memory loss/amnesia or wild mood swings even though i do admit she found herself having panic attacks, severe anxiety -especially in terms of socialising, opening up to other people or just communicating-, insomnia, hypersomnia, hearing voices, isolating herself from the world and has a terrible memory but of course these don't necessarily have to be symptoms of DID.
this may sound strange because people with mental disorders want to be cured and look for help whereas my friend doesn't want to get rid of her alters, "i feel more safe and comfortable with them than with anyone else" is what she said, and refuses asking for help from people that specialise in helping people with their mental health issues, like therapists.
when I asked why is that so she simply answered with "they help me lead a 'normal' life, being able to show my expressions because as you already know i've grew up being what you people would call 'expressionless/dull' and they're the part of me I'm never willing to give up, no matter what the reason is."
another thing she told me is that she's been hearing strange voices since she was little:
she described it like this "whenever I start hearing everything slowed I know it's happening: I'm about to hear voices and noises again.
I hear people screaming along with disturbing noises and I hear everything else beside that slowed; after that I hear multiple voices and black out: I get detached from the real world and get connected to a dark and empty part inside me where multiple voice speak out to me, whine, growl and scream as if they were trying to reach out to me, crying for help, trying to get in contact with me, but I couldn't understand anything they said as the voices were all mixed up together and they were speaking a language I did not understand, a language that probably isn't even spoken nor exists in the human world.
these days I can't help but think that those voices were my alters, begging for me to free them by willingly making them a part of myself, because I've never ever heard any voices or noises since I created them."
she seldom opens up to anyone about her story with her multiple personas, as people usually tend to associate her with those edgy teenagers that fake disorders for attention just because she is still young so "doesn't really understand what mental disorders are" so I'm here asking on her behalf: is it possible to develop multiple personalities even when you don't have any kind of personality disorder? do people with DID relate with any of the things that happened to my friend? could it be that she has some other disorder? and what about the hearing voices thing? she's been asking about it everywhere to see if it's normal for people to suddenly hear voices and/or noises and hearing everything else slowed but there's been no answer until now so she's really desperate; we'd very much appreciate it if we could get some answers, and thank you for taking time to read throughout this comment.

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