Dissociative Identity Disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis whose essential feature is the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of a person's behavior. It is also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Memory loss which goes far beyond normal forgetfulness accompanies this condition when an alternate part of the personality becomes dominant. At least two distinct personalities must be present in order to receive this diagnosis.
Symptoms of DID: (I have 14 of the following 20 symptoms)
- Current memory loss of everyday events
- Disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states
- Distortion or loss of subjective time
- Flashbacks of abuse/trauma
- Frequent panic/anxiety attacks
- Identity confusion
- Mood swings
- Multiple mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs
- Pseudoseizures or other conversion symptoms
- Psychotic-like symptoms such as hearing voices
- Self-alteration (feeling as if one's body belongs to someone else)
- Somatic symptoms that vary across identities
- Sudden anger without a justified cause
- Spontaneous trance states
- Suicidal and para-suicidal behaviors (such as self-injury)
- Unexplainable phobias
Individuals diagnosed with DID frequently report severe physical and sexual abuse as a child. The psyche splits into separate identities so as to distance the abused person from the trauma which is happening. Many people, myself included, block those traumatic memories in their mind because they are unable to process and accept what has happened to them. DID is a coping mechanism.
Co-morbid mental illnesses are the rule rather than the exception in all dissociative disorder cases, with 82% of DID patients being diagnosed with at least one other psychiatric diagnosis in their lifetime. DID co-morbidities include anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (up to 80%), social phobia, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other common co-morbid conditions include mood disorders such as major depressive disorder. Also common are substance-related disorders, eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, and somatoform disorders. In addition, a majority of those diagnosed with DID meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder. Studies have shown that DID patients are diagnosed with five to 7.3 co-morbid disorders on average - much higher than other mental illnesses.
I have a number of co-morbid disorders, but at this point I'm uncertain just how many. This is probably the reason I've had so many different psychiatric diagnoses over the years, and also the reason it took so long for a doctor to conclude I have DID. While I was first labeled with a dissociative disorder more than a decade ago, I have received very little treatment for it. This is because the first doctor to diagnose me had barely scratched the surface of our therapy when I suddenly had to move to another city. My next doctor, whom I currently see, has diagnosed me as definitely having a dissociative disorder, but we are just now starting to explore my condition. This is because I hid it from her for two years, and she had no idea about my symptoms until I came to therapy one day in a switched state. A very different K had therapy that day. Dr. H was very understanding, which is a blessing, for many doctors believe that DID is just a myth.
OK, so now you know about my disorder, probably about as much as I know. No, I cannot remember my childhood abuse specifically, but I do have certain memories which seem to support the existence of trauma. Namely, I have childhood memories which are completely inappropriate for children to have. That's all I'm going to say about that subject.
Now, I would like to someday introduce you to the K's. However, the truth of the matter is this: I don't know them all. I have a number of "alters" which I can recognize, but I have no idea how many of us there are. I'm still learning about this condition and I know very little at this point. I know that my "switching" can happen at any time but seems to coincide with stress. I know that I very often leave my body, and sometimes watch as another "me" interacts with the world; it's very strange to hear a voice coming out of your mouth when you are not talking. I also have a persistent feeling that I am not really living my life, but rather that I'm watching a movie of this life, with me being the lead character.
All of this is difficult to explain. I have trouble talking to my psychiatrist about my thoughts and feelings. I feel strange. Disconnected from the world. I've always, my whole life, felt different from everyone around me. I've been hearing voices and hallucinating since I was 4, but I didn't realize that this was abnormal-I thought everyone experienced these things. By my teens, I'd realized that the hallucinations were not supposed to happen, so therefore I kept them a secret. I told no one. When I was first sent to a psychiatrist at the age of 16, I was careful not to tell her very much about the real me, for fear she'd have me locked up in an insane asylum. This fear has followed me to this very day. In fact, just last week while I was in therapy, I was crying but unable to tell my doctor what was wrong for fear she'd have me hospitalized. For this reason, I believe my DID therapy is going to be a long and difficult process. Thank God I have a doctor who does indeed believe in such a disorder. Now we just have to figure out who K really is, and what happened to her to cause this splitting of her mind. I think that scares me most of all. I'm not sure I want to remember my childhood trauma(s). Supposedly you can't heal unless you come to terms with the cause of your pain. I'm just afraid that once I remember the cause, it'll just create MORE pain. I already have problems with feeling guilty; I don't need to be made to feel even more guilty, in addition to feeling dirty and ashamed. Plus, what if I find out my abuser was someone I was close to, and it destroys my relationship with that person? What if I'd rather not know who hurt me? What if I can't handle the truth?