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Dissociative Identity Disorder - The Ultimate Safety Feature

Dissociation is one my specialty areas. As I have come to understand, it is disconnection; between thoughts, memory, expression, and identity. The ability to dissociate is one that everyone has. In it's mildest form, dissociation is "daydreaming" - an altered state of consciousness in which you are both aware and not, simultaneously.

Dissociation is also the ability to forget painful or traumatic experiences. It is that feeling of "knowing" something happened but not being able to recall specific details. It is the ultimate safety feature keeping us safe from events that are too harsh remember, process, and deal with in real time. When we experience trauma as a child, our brain compartmentalizes the painful experience.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is dissociation in it's most severe form and is characterized by alternating between multiple identities. A person may feel like one or more voices are trying to take control in their head. Often these identities may have unique names, characteristics, mannerisms and voices. People with DID will experience gaps in memory of every day events, personal information and trauma.

Once called multiple personality disorder, DID has historically been misrepresented by the media. With the release of A&E's docu-series "Many Sides of Jane," depicting the life of multiple and advocate Jane Hart, the general public, for the first time has an accurate view of what DID truly is. It is a brilliant coping skill.

This blog is intended to challenge what you "think" you know about DID. They say knowledge is power.


1. One of the biggest misconceptions is that DID is rare. The truth is that 1.5% of the population has been diagnosed DID or Dissociative Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Just for perspective, 1-2% of the population has red hair.

2. Another misconception is that survivors with DID are dangerous. The media has perpetuated this myth with films such as "Split." Survivors with DID have lived through

horrendous acts of abuse in childhood. The truth is, survivors are no more dangerous than any other individual in general population. It is far more common for survivors with DID to become subjects of re-victimization, rather than victimize. Due to having survived abuse (physical, mental, emotional, and psychological) survivors are more vulnerable to being subject to abuse again.


3. Again, due to media, many individuals believe that "switches" or personality changes are obvious and dramatic, and if they are not then it can't be DID. Only about 5-6% of DID presents overtly; the remaining population has a covert presentation. A majority of survivors with DID have subtle switches, sometimes only detectable to their partner, or therapist.

4. Many individuals use "multiple personality disorder" and "schizophrenia" interchangeably. This is incorrect, and here is why. Schizophrenia is a neuro-degenerative disorder, onset can happen with or without trauma, and there are medications to lessen symptoms. The audio/visual hallucinations seem to stem from an external source for the individual. DID, is dissociative disorder that is developed in early childhood, and there are no medications to assist in treatment. Survivors with DID treat symptoms rather than the disorder.


Let's #stopthestigma together!


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© 2019 Heather M. Scarboro M.Ed., LCMHC, LCASA, NCC