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Normalizing Dissociation Part 5: Identity Alteration

Normalizing Dissociation Part 5: Identity Alteration

The two dissociative symptoms that, once described clearly, are the easiest for people to relate to and understand are also the ones that have earned Dissociative Identity Disorder its undeserved reputation as a bizarre aberration. Identity alteration (experiencing the self as multiple) and dissociative amnesia (gaps in memory) are the two manifestations of dissociation that are mythologized the most. But it’s not because they’re too foreign for most people to grasp. On the contrary, in their mildest forms they’re downright normal.

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Do I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Do I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?

We were talking about dissociation when a man I once knew told me he’d been entirely unaware of a hospital stay until he got the bill. I didn’t say it, but I immediately thought, ‘he obviously has Dissociative Identity Disorder.’ I now know how presumptuous that was. Though his experience was clearly indicative of something outside of everyday experience, it’s taking a lot for granted to assume that something is DID. And looking back, it’s absurd that I was so convinced. Not satisfied with a second opinion of my own diagnosis, I sought out four. One would think someone as hesitant to jump to conclusions as that would exercise a little more caution.

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What Is Dissociation? Part 5: Identity Alteration

What Is Dissociation? Part 5: Identity Alteration

If you’ve ever seen a television crime show featuring a suspect with Dissociative Identity Disorder, you’ve seen a theatrical depiction of identity alteration, the fifth of the five main dissociative symptoms. A bewildered man suspected of murder is brought in for questioning. Eventually his manner, style of speech, and affect change dramatically and he says something like, “Sam didn’t kill her. I did. I’m Joe.” That switch in personality states is identity alteration at it’s most extreme.

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