Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative Identity Disorder is also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It is a highly controversial subject, and many psychologists and psychiatrists refuse to recognize it as a real mental illness. In other words, a lot of doctors think a person with DID is lying about his or her condition. This is infuriating to those of us who suffer from it. It’s absolutely ridiculous to believe that I would fake something so serious and so stigmatized. All I’ve ever really wanted was to be “normal”, but that’s just not in the cards for me.
The major symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder experienced by patients are:
- AMNESIA– occurs when a person blocks out certain information, usually associated with a traumatic event, leaving them unable to remember important personal information. With DID, the degree of memory loss goes beyond normal forgetfulness and includes gaps in memory for long periods of time or of specific people, places, or events.
- DEPERSONALIZATION– an abnormality of self-awareness. The person feels divorced from their own personal physicality by sensing their body sensations, feelings, emotions and behaviors do not belong to themselves. They may report feeling as though the world is hazy or that they are “in a dream”.
- DEREALIZATION– an alteration in the perception of the external world so that it seems unreal. While depersonalization is a feeling that your body is not your own, derealization is the feeling that the world around you is not real. DIDers often report feeling as though they are “in a movie”.
- IDENTITY DISTURBANCES– a person with DID has multiple identity states or different personalities who can manifest either by being triggered (such as by a stressful situation) or else these alters come out unexpectedly, sometimes when the other alters refuse to present or want to do something else or sometimes for subconscious reasons.
- VOICES-Approximately one third of patients complain of auditory or visual hallucinations. They hear voices in their heads but usually these are merely the personalities within, communicating with one another. Often times, the patient is misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic due to hearing voices, but the multiple hears the voices inside their head in contrast to the schizophrenic, who hears voices from outside of themselves. Often a multiple before diagnosis will speak of noise or clatter inside, making it difficult for them to concentrate. It is possible for the multiple to hear many distinct and separate voices, of all ages talking at the same time.
- PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES– Each alter within a multiple has their own history, personalities that are unique to them, body movements, facial expressions, the way they communicate, voice tone, even accent. You might encounter a small child who hides her face and speaks in a childlike voice. Another child within the same system of personalities might be gregarious and charming. I have a very outgoing alter who loves to socialize, but other alters inside me are very shy and refuse to show themselves to others.
- HANDWRITING DIFFERENCES-In diagnosing DID another indicator is the difference in handwriting styles. This was my first clue that something was amiss in my life. Journals seemed to be written by a multitude of different people.
- TIME LOSS– Time loss is quite common with DID. For the non-conscious multiple, the lost time can be devastating. Time loss can occur when something triggers an alter; the host may be unaware of this. These individuals might find themselves in a place or talking to someone they don’t even know. The length and duration of the time loss depends on how the person’s system works and whether a more dominant personality can regain control.
- DEPRESSION– Suicidal thoughts and actions as well as self-mutilation is common in those with DID. Also common are body memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Depression, therefore, is usually a lifelong problem for the person with DID. Dissociative Identity Disorder is chronic and potentially disabling, or sometimes even fatal.
There are other symptoms of course, such as headaches, mysterious bruises or injuries, panic attacks, and spontaneous crying for no apparent reason. The symptoms vary from person to person, but the ones I’ve listed are pretty standard. While the symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder may be so severe that the patient is unable to function in a normal capacity, many people with DID can learn to manage and/or accept their symptoms. It is possible for people with DID to function very well and lead creative and productive lives, but this usually involves many years of treatment. I’ve been seeing psychiatrists and psychologists since 1986, but was only properly diagnosed as having DID last year. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but I’m eager to get on the path to healing.