Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder): My Two Cents
As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), I have the unique opportunity to walk with people through lots of different life circumstances and trials. These are things that are both genetic and environmental, caused by mental illness and life’s pain and not many have grabbed my attention and heart the way Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has. My understanding through experience leads me to look at DID as the ultimate level of compartmentalization. This is a simplistic way to look at it, and that is intentional for this blog.
Someone who compartmentalizes well may be able to have a demanding job, thriving marriage, well nurtured children, and be the life of the party when with friends. They are able to wear many hats, just one at a time. Some people compartmentalize well, while others struggle to keep their roles separate. Like the normally calm co-worker who brings their family struggles to work by being short with people in a meeting. Those people wear many hats at the same time. In the mental health field, people who do not compartmentalize are called “integrated.” And that is actually the goal in mental health.
People who dissociate have brains that allow them to “check out” during difficult situations. This is a survival technique that may happen when someone is repeatedly abused and/or traumatized. It is also why you may not know your co-worker or friend at school goes home to a not-so-happy place. Often times this is learned at a very young age and it is unintentional. The body and mind take over to save the other “parts” of self from the abuse. There may be a young part, a protective part, a quiet part, a wild part, a responsible part. They all have a role in the person’s life, but each is available one at a time.
DID used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), but has been changed to recognize they are not completely different personalities rather different parts of the same person. Some people are afraid of those with DID and DID in general believing that it is evil and even a sort of evil possession. This narrow thinking is a disservice to us all and truly needs to be corrected.
So my two cents: learn, research, seek to understand and not sensationalize. Trauma is ugly and deep; it reaches places so sensitive that we are often never the same. And people struggling with DID are highly traumatized people who need friends, kindness, compassion and no judgement, just like every other human. And while you are learning, find out more about PTSD as these two things go hand-in-hand.
Some of the most beautiful people I know are fully integrated. Whether they had DID, have DID or they are your mild-mannered co-worker who loses it when they are feeling attacked, let us be people who accept authenticity, vulnerability, and brokenness. May we realize that we all have “stuff” and where we have been shapes us but does not define us.