Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Recently a reader asked how to get over the feeling that her sister is faking dissociative identity disorder. If you doubt your friend or family member's diagnosis, I think it's important to identify why you're skeptical. What in particular has you questioning it? Write it down, and be specific. Now find out everything you can about each of those nagging suspicions. I'm willing to bet a healthy majority of them are based on common misconceptions about dissociative identity disorder. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong. Sometimes people who say they have DID don't have it at all. That could be because they're pretending for some perceived gain, e.g. sympathy. But I believe the discrepancy is more likely due to misdiagnosis and genuine confusion.
Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder Online
A few years ago I was in a chat room frequented by people with dissociative identity disorder when a regular visitor entered and made a dramatic announcement. She'd been driving a familiar route and arrived at her destination with no memory of the trip. She said she had DID, but was alarmed about highway hypnosis, a mild form of dissociative amnesia. Either she was newly diagnosed and still wrestling to understand herself and her life in this new context, or she didn't have DID at all.
Was she faking dissociative identity disorder? I don't know. I encountered her many times when I was visiting that chat room and got the overall impression that she - and some other regulars - didn't really have DID. But purposeful manipulation isn't necessarily the explanation. If she didn't have DID, my guess is she genuinely believed she did.
A Misdiagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder Isn't Faking
Therapists make mistakes. And unfortunately there are still clinicians who are fascinated with DID, but don't recognize their own lack of necessary education or experience with it. Take someone with PTSD or some other dissociative disorder who's desperate for answers, send them to one of these overconfident therapists with little to no experience diagnosing and treating DID, and you might very well end up with someone who believes she has the disorder even though she doesn't. That isn't faking dissociative identity disorder. That's a misdiagnosis, plain and simple.
Don't Assume Anyone Is Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder
Ask yourself how you know what you know about DID. If a movie, television show, or bestseller is one of your top three sources of information, you're in no position to judge whether anyone has dissociative identity disorder or not. Psychology Major, you say? No, you don't know nearly enough about DID to determine the legitimacy of someone's diagnosis. Ultimately no one but a skilled clinician with experience diagnosing and treating DID can make that call.
If a friend or family member tells you they've been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, give their doctor the benefit of the doubt. If you have reservations, that's understandable. Ask questions and do your own research. But don't just assume they're faking dissociative identity disorder. You're more likely to be wrong, I think, than right.
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Gray, H. (2010, December 30). Faking Dissociative Identity Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/12/faking-dissociative-identity-disorder
Author: Holly Gray
My tumblr is a way to publish pictures of vapourwave/aesthetic that I or others create and has NOTHING to do with my mental health; in fact, it's something that helps with my issues.
For those wondering: it's not so much that we take on a whole new IDENTITY, it is a state of being or mental state as a whole. Alters are really just alter-egos of oneself. For me personally, each alter is something that's a former part of me (i.e. when I was 17 or something) and other parts of me that I'm not proud of (such as during my teen years when I frequented punk and metal shows and wasn't a positive person). That's where I get iffy about others who have it; where their alters are robots, otherkin, animals, nonhumans, etc.
Although it isn't my place to judge at all, I can see why a lot of us aren't taken seriously. There's already a lot of invalidation towards people such as myself who legitimately try to keep it hidden and go about our day. Good article though!
This friend before acted as an average (albeit slightly aggravating) "tumblr type" girl. Now she'll come up to me and our friends either talking like a baby or rambling about how other alters told her not to do something but she did it anyways (and she's begun speaking in third person?)
I don't want to be a gatekeeper or rude or anything, but it seems strange that all of this came out of the blue, and presents so strongly (as I've researched, DID is usually 96% of the time undetectable from those outside of the system)
Then again, I have OSDD and perhaps DID itself does present this strongly? My friend will go from using baby language (tawlkin' wike dis) to growling like a dog or threatening to murder people. It just feels really forced and my friends with DID also share to me that they feel like she is scripting these alters and switches. I don't want to seem mean, though, so I play along. Any advice/insight would be heavily appreciated.
With confused regards, Matthew.
Although depictions of DID indicate otherwise, DID is not controllable in that way. Dissociation occurs not by force, or choice made by the main person (host), but out of necessity. Some people can be conconscious, aware of what their parts are doing, but not necessarily have control over it (at most, control is shared with the other part).
What happened? This doctor had been woefully inexperienced and got caught up in the current fashionable psychiatric climate which embraced MPD as all the rage, MPD springing not merely from CSA but from the sexy, sensational ritual satanic abuse, the more florid the better. These were the post inner-child days, times when abreactions, sodium amytal interviews in 4 point restraints & flashbacks ruled. It was a good time to be a shrink or to own stock in HCA & other psychiatric care hospitals. Back then, HMO's, PPO's & other insurance- saving schemes hadn't been formed, and folks admitted to these hospitals could stay as long as their insurance lasted, typically several months to years. Folks were gettin paid!
Those unlucky patients who were misdiagnosis with MPD were victims of psychiatric abuse, not satanic cult abuse. But, their lives from that point on were equally marred and doublely affected. They'd been brought to the brink of insanity, and most of them fell, suffering horribly in the ensuing downfall.
Sometimes, not now, but occasionally, there is a rash of psychiatric misdiagnosis. Certain ones come into vogue, and when they do, it can be fatal. In the MPD case, because of what was done, many patients went on to earn their actual label. Unwittingly, a post hypnotic suggestion had been given and because of the extent of the trauma, their minds produced what they were told.
The reason you may not have heard about this is because it is not discussed openly. Several patients settled out if court for damages and as part of the settlement are forbidden to discuss it. But its out there. It happened. They exist.
I've been saying nothing and just going with it (As I was told by my cop friend that due to the teenaged mind and some problems the system had, no one under the age of 19 is diagnosed with this disease, with exceptions of course)
And recently I've been assuming she's faking, just due to some little things.
She also calls them heads instead of others (Which I think is cool)
Her heads are;
Well..they all text/type differently, they all speak slightly differently, and sometimes they even snapchat differently.
However from what little I know about D.I.D, and from having a family member who suffers from it as well, I think she's a teenaged female whose mind is under stress due to her life structures, but isn't suffering, what do I do?
It's impossible for you to know whether or not your friend really has DID or not. I will say that it's possible, certainly. People with DID show symptoms as early as childhood, and can be diagnosed at any age (many are diagnosed under the age of 19, as there is no age restriction for diagnosis).
But there are also people that, unfortunately, do fake psychological disorders. I think it's important for you to show your support. Confronting her may only make things worse. If you can, encourage her to get help.
And recently it has blown up on me, the fact that I let that claim of her slide. Because recently I've gotten into an argument with her; she literally blames the fact that she never messages me back or how she indirectly insults me sometimes onto her persona "Hatred". Quite literally the last time I spoke to her, she used her cowardly persona "Hatred" to dis me and make me blow up on her further. "Hatred" apparently claims that she tells him to stop talking to me and leave me alone. Which brings me to these question I hope to receive some sort of answer to:
-If my friend claims to remember nothing at all, and have no sense of control over "Hatred", why does "Hatred" say that she is asking him to do things or reframe from doing things? Does that, or does that not mean that she's lying about "having no control over"?
-How do I know she's just doing all of this to seek attention from me, or make me angry?
-Also, what does it mean if she always thinks about sexual fantasies with herself & "Hatred"? Does "Hatred" represent how rude, mean, cold, and possibly...slutty she is?
-Or am I being over critical, and irrational at the moment?
Please help, I'm not very good at figuring these things out or not...since I'm not very smart at social interactions...=_="
Things really felt out of control for me when I was first diagnosed and I've read on here that others have experienced the same thing. This diagnosis is hard to accept....but that doesn't mean that the diagnosis isn't real. The thing that helped me, especially in the early days of diagnosis, was reading the blogs on this website and reading the book The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook. It sounds like you have had multiple traumas that would be hard for anyone to live through. The way we with DID survived was to create different identities. So, the way I look at it, we are all survivors thanks to our alters. Being grateful for the alters and towards the alters will help settle some of the confusion you may be experiencing. Whether you know the names or not I would encourage you to trust your mind. You are obviously not making this up and no one knows your alters more than you do.
When I was first diagnosed was one of the hardest parts of the journey for me. Battling whether the diagnosis was true or not but also seeing more and more signs that it was true. Over time this type mental anxiety did settle down for me. I hope the same for you.
I have been recently diagnosed with DID after the most traumatic event in my life (that I remember) happened 2 years ago at age 58. First I was diagnosed with PTSD. The 'event' caused an almost physical reaction that I called a 'shift' at the time, but will also describe as a kind of 'tic' of my head or body to one side ever so slightly. Can anyone here relate to that? I went home from there and didn't know my name and then called myself ***, when my actual name was *****. (I'm in the process of a legal name change). There have been many, many events which of course I won't go into, mainly because I DO feel like a TOTAL FRAUD! But then I think, OMG, nothing else makes sense! I am the worst critic I could EVER possibly have if I were to tell 100 people! A couple things of note. I always remembered standing outside my bedroom door as a child watching a baby tied down to a crib with the next door neighbor standing over it. I couldn't tell if it's my brother or sister. 2 months ago my mother told me that when I was 2-3 years old I told her "***** tied me down in the crib". It was me. I had disassociated. And I knew I had done it all my life. BUT, I don't THINK I know any of my alters names; well maybe I do, but I think I'm just trying too hard. And one is a fictional character anyway so that's weird. Does any of this make a bit of sense?? I'm SO overwhelmed! And scared. And I have SO a much anxiety. Thanks for your help.
We are currently without a moderator on this site. I have been diagnosed with DID for this past year. I know it can be a confusing time before and after a diagnosis. DID is very difficult to diagnose but there are tests that experienced psychiatrists use before giving that diagnosis. Have you thought about asking your sister if the two of you could go to her clinicians appointment together? That way you could get your questions answered and know more about how to handle the circumstances that you now find yourself in. If she is not comfortable at this time to go to a meeting with you there then you will need to respect that. But, I think you can be assured that if her psychiatrist, that has been trained to spot manipulation and evasiveness, diagnosed her with DID then that is more than likely what she has.
It may be helpful, if your sister isn't comfortable with you going with her to her appoinment, that you schedule an appoinment for you with a counselor. You could explore your questions and why the diagnosis makes you uncomfortable and what affect this has on your life.
My sister has had many different diagnoses in the past and we caught on to her being a good actor when it to that new diagnoses. I know she studies her diagnoses, but then she tends to play then to the fullest.
I want to know if she could be faking her DID diagnoses. She can create alot of problems in the house and blames everything on her illness or alters. If it is real we can cope with it but if its fake like all of the symptoms from her other diagnosis in not sure how to handle that.
Please help me figure this out!
There is a lot of shady propaganda around those claiming to be ritual abuse survivors. I believe both that ritual abuse is most certainly going on, and that there are posers claiming to have DID and be ritual abuse survivors with the intent of creating a mass collection of unbelievable trash. It makes it a nightmare to search out the authentic cases, say for determining the fact that it is a fact. If any of this makes sense.
You need a full personal history, clinical quaifications and training in assessing dissociative disorders to make or disconfirm a diagnosis. DID is pretty much the diagnosis that nobody actually wants - the amnesia is very hard to handle and it is very scary to feel not in control of your actions - it takes time to understand that *another part of you* is in control, and usually doing their best.
DID affects 1.4-1.6% of the US population and 1-3% globally, making it more common than OCD (around 1%) and Schizophrenia (0.7%) for instance. Like all the dissociative disorder it is a hidden disorder.
Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation: A hidden epidemic by Marlene Steinberg is great - her website is called Stranger in the Mirror and she wrote the long, clinical interview for dissociative disorders known as the SCID-D.
I'm still going through lots of psychology appointments and what not trying to understand my brain.
Does anyone know if it's possible for one particular alter to have a mental condition of it's own? (Be it a real condition or not.)
I was just diagnosed with DID last week by my therapist. She is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of DID. I have been in and out of therapy
for over 20 yrs. I am 51 now and it is the first time
that I had other Identities come out. It happened in her office while in a severe dissociative state. I was scared but mainly extremely confused. I was afraid that they might come out in public but she said it would only happen in her office where I felt safe. Is this true?? I am still worried.
I want to reassure you that dissociation, even severe dissociation, is not unusual during/after a traumatic event like the one you describe. Similar to the way a fever may develop to fight off germs when you're sick, moderate to severe dissociation may develop temporarily to fight off painful feelings when you're exposed to traumatic stress. And just like the fever alerts you that your body is ill and needs care, severe dissociation alerts you that your mind is struggling and needs care. It's important to tell your parents or a trusted adult about these experiences so you can get that care. In terms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, well that's very difficult to diagnose. Clinicians with experience diagnosing and treating DID have diagnostic tools at their disposal to help discern if someone has a dissociative disorder, and/or specifically DID. I encourage you to start by talking to an adult - a school counselor perhaps - honestly about what you're dealing with right now.
I'm so sorry about your girlfriend. Know that the death of a loved one can be a kind of trauma. The fact that you're struggling is 100% understandable.
Thank you, Holly. That means so much to me. I have also read how very important it is to have an external support system.
Yes, absolutely.....the validation that I am finding from others who also have DID does help to meet that need.
When I stumbled across your blog right around October / November, it was at a time when I thought I couldn't possibly handle another day of ridicule and isolation. I believe it truly saved my life to know that I was not alone!
My thoughts on people faking having DID is that whether or not someone really has DID, if they are pretending they do either consciously or unconsciously there is another problem they need to deal with. Life is not easy for anyone and I feel it is unnecessary for anyone to judge another persons struggle through life's journey.
Thank you Holly for broaching this tough topic.
"I know that by the people in my life seeing who I really am and knowing parts individually I am doing my part to help remove the stigma of DID from the public view."
I'm glad you know that, because it's 100% true. You may not know this, but you helped me get to a place where I'm able to publicly write and speak about DID and do it comfortably, safely. When I met you, I met someone who had no shame about the fact that they have DID, whereas I was crippled with it. Honestly, I didn't know any other way. Interacting with you showed me that it's possible to live life as someone with DID without hiding in humiliation and fear. Thank you. You are absolutely doing your part.
"Life is not easy for anyone and I feel it is unnecessary for anyone to judge another persons struggle through life’s journey."
I love that. Thank you for saying it.
I can totally relate to absolutely everything that you said. Once per month or more, I really do want to just walk into my therapists office and tell her that I'm done, but deep down I know I need to be there, and that I have barely scraped the surface of healing
As far as my family, I have only revealed to them that I have anxiety, and they have done nothing but ridicule me, and make fun of me ever since. So there's no way I can tell them about my DID. I don't even want to imagine the humiliation they would put me through if they knew that.
Most people whom I encounter day to day would only peg me as having a little anxiety. My day to day life appears very normal and functional.
It really is so helpful for me to come here and read scenarios that are so similar to my own. It is validating, and it also keeps me comfortably grounded by helping me to learn that I really am quite the norm, rather than the exception that the myths out there might make one believe.
I'm so glad you said this:
"It really is so helpful for me to come here and read scenarios that are so similar to my own. It is validating, and it also keeps me comfortably grounded by helping me to learn that I really am quite the norm, rather than the exception that the myths out there might make one believe."
Or rather, I'm so glad that's been your experience. It's amazing how much it helps to feel normal, at least within the context of Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I'm very sorry you don't have the support of your family and, in fact, feel ridiculed. Genuine validation is so important. I follow NAMI on Twitter, and they report often how important having support is in coping with mental illness. I hope that the validation you're finding from others with DID helps to meet that need.
As for people who don't believe relatives and friends, I can understand, because I appeared so "normal" to others, apart from anxiety issues and what seemed to be moodiness. No one around me, including my immediate family had any idea I was being abused by my father. So their perception of my history and life was totally out of sinc with what was really happening right under their noses.
I think people disbelieve for many different reasons, but one of them is because they don't think it is possible for these things to happen to their children, siblings etc. Because they believe they would have known or noticed things if this was the case. But as we DID people know a whole universe of reality can co- exist right beneath the perceptions of others. I once told a therapist that I could be screaming inside my own head right in front of him and he wouldn't know, because outside my face could be quite impassive or even smiling. And I could be having a cohesive conversation with him and be switching and appear to not even miss a beat.
Maybe education needs to be not just about DID, but how people can live incredibly different lives from the ones they portray, and how common this actually is.
"As for people who don’t believe relatives and friends, I can understand, because I appeared so “normal” to others, apart from anxiety issues and what seemed to be moodiness."
Yes! When I told my partner about my diagnosis - early in our friendship, before we started dating - she said, "I thought it was something like that." It shocked me. All my life people had told me I was "different" or "unique" but that's a far cry from having Dissociative Identity Disorder. Meanwhile those same people told me how smart, competent, and well-adjusted I was. I can easily understand why people who knew me for a very long time - unlike my partner when I told her - might doubt my diagnosis.
"Maybe education needs to be not just about DID, but how people can live incredibly different lives from the ones they portray, and how common this actually is."
That's a good point. I'm inclined to agree with you.
This is a very important post for people who have been diagnosed with DID, their supporters, as well as their doubters. I'm glad that you wrote about this.
I agree that research, research, and more research is the key here....whether you are struggling with your own diagnosis, or you are someone struggling to accept another's diagnosis.
My therapist is the only person I talk to about my DID other than coming here, but I wholeheartedly agree with Holly that with a lot of hard work, we can shift the paradigm of DID.....and we should so that we can overcome the myths that surround DID. It needs to be a collective effort, and I hope to be able to help with that one day.
"so many of us think we are frauds because of the natural mechanisms of DID. We are always questioning ourselves"
How true that is. I have accused myself of being a fraud many times...mostly in my attempts escape this diagnosis. I still find myself wondering...what on earth did I say to my therapist to make her think that I have DID? I must have fed her a total line of crap! But then someone will tell me about something I said or did but don't remember.....or I go back and read my journals, and then reality strikes again. So, like you said, acceptance is not something you obtain and then have it forever. We are constantly doubting ourselves....but I think a little self doubt can be a good thing. It actually forces me to do research and educate myself.
I would say the worst faking is when criminals use it as a legal defense. It's not that common, but it happens. And it usually happens without any previous diagnosis. It's an attack on those of us with genuine DID and I find it unappealing to say the least.
Faking is a tricky subject because so many of us think we are frauds because of the natural mechanisms of DID. We are always questioning ourselves (most of us at least). I have found that acceptance is the most difficult area of dealing with DID and that acceptance is constantly in flux. It's generally not something you obtain and then you have it forever.
One of the important pieces of information regarding DID is that it is a disorder designed to protect the system. Being "out" in public for all to see would be contrary to the diagnosis itself. Layman who know of DID think it's like the blatant changes like Sybil or Tara of "US of Tara" whereas in reality the switches are more subtle and come across as moodiness rather than personality changes. I agree that it takes a skilled therapist to diagnose and treat DID, but It also takes a strong person to accept the diagnosis of DID. Dissociative Identity Disorder can be disruptive and difficult in the day to day challenge to exist. I, for one, am still struggling with acceptance much less being "out" even to my family.
Thanks for your comment.
I agree that DID is an extremely difficult diagnosis to accept. I wrote an entire series, in fact, on the tumultuous experience of wrestling with a first-time diagnosis of DID. http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/category/impact-of-did-diagnosis/
"Being “out” in public for all to see would be contrary to the diagnosis itself."
Yes. However, with treatment and a whole lot of hard work, it is possible to - for lack of a better phrase - shift the paradigm of DID. There are people who are out about their diagnosis and their life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. And thank goodness for that, or we'd all still be stuck not understanding the disorder at all. DID wants to hide and the system is designed to go undetected - but at a certain point, that can't continue or the individual with DID will never even learn they have it let alone begin to recover.
In my experience, the battle to accept my diagnosis was essentially - though I didn't realize it at the time - a battle with my own pathology, between DID's insistence that it remain under wraps and my own drive to understand my reality. It was incredibly painful for me but if I hadn't trudged my way through I wouldn't be able to write and speak publicly about DID today. Thought DID is, like you point out, designed to protect the system, people living with it can move beyond that. It's hard, but it's possible.