Mental Health Monday–Dissociation

Young Adult writer, Erin Danzer, asked me about DID–Dissociative Identity Disorder. She’s hard at work on her WIP, so why don’t you pop over to her blog, say “Hi!” and give her some encouraging words. 😉

Here’s a reprise of one of my earlier posts highlighting DID:

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) categories various forms of dissociation (a disruption in memory, awareness, identity, and/or perception).

  • Depersonalization disorder: period of feeling detached from one’s self; this is often seen in anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder…or if you stare at yourself in the mirror for too long. Go ahead, try it. Go on.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: a person experiences significant impairment in recall of personal information, often resulting from a serious trauma; duration varies; often spontaneously remits
  • Dissociative fugue: a person “forgets” who they are and may travel to a different city & pick up an entirely different life; this may last hours to days or longer, depending on how severe. It can spontaneously remit and is usually the result of a significant traumatic event.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder): a very rare disorder where a person’s psyche is fractured into several (2-100) different personalities. These personalities are known as “alters,” and each has his or her own way of behaving. Depending on the severity of the situation, the person may or may not be aware of their alters. If the individual is not aware, the times when alters “take over” are experienced as black outs or “lost time.”

It is purported that DID develops as a means of self-protection. Often, those with DID have experienced significant abuse as a child and the personality fragments into several different “people.” This allows the “main personality” to compartmentalize trauma and function in the face of it.

People with dissociative disorders do not choose to become another personality. The idea is that it is out of their control. With therapy, a person becomes more aware of their alters and learns to communicate with them until they are reintegrated.

Dissociative disorders are challenging to treat because people are often reluctant to come into treatment and co-morbid conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and substance use disorders can occur.

Several well known movies and books about individuals with DID exist. Three Faces of Eve, Sybil, and the United States of Tara are more entertaining views into this tragic disorder. There are several textbooks discussing the identification and treatment. Click here for a link to an Amazon search page for DID.

Psychiatrist Richard Baer documented treating a woman (Karen) with 17 personalities in Switching Time. Here’s an excerpt as presented by ABC News. A linkto a video with Karen by Good Morning America.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and is NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Dissociation

  1. I can imagine the difficulty in treating a disorder like this. Obviously, it depends on the patient seeking treatment in the first place, as you’ve mentioned. But I’m sure once in treatment it can be tricky to treat as well, depending on the severity of the disorder. Either way, it sounds complicated.

  2. Ciara Knight says:

    I’ve always found DID fascinating. I studied it in college. I’ve never met anyone with this disorder, but I’ve seen documentaries on it.

  3. Very interesting, but scary. I’d hate to have that or to live with someone with it.
    Staring into the mirror until you almost don’t recognize youself– my sister and I used to do that as kids. We’d stare at our own noses or eyes long enough and start laughing because they began to look so strange. 🙂

  4. Linda Gray says:

    Fascinating, and frightening. Thank goodness DID is rare (up to 200 personalities????). On the mild end–depersonalization disorder–that is really interesting as a reaction to major stress for characters in novels that readers would relate to. (Most of us have probably done the staring in the mirror until the reflection phases into something unknown. Such a freaky sensation!)

  5. I loved the first two seasons of United States of Terra. After it was uncovered what had caused the DID though, the story had nowhere to go.

  6. Leigh Moore says:

    so weird. So if I stare in the mirror at myself too long, I can experience #1? even weirder. I think the mind and the ways it can cope and split up are so interesting and scary. But mostly interesting. Always love these posts! :o) ❤

  7. Another great post!

  8. As with all the other commenters, this subject interests me as well. I have written a novel where one of the characters has gone on a fugue. Fascinating.

  9. I think the US of Tara is on Netflix. I’ll have to check it out. How the brain functions fascinates me. Interesting post.

  10. erindanzer78 says:

    Thank you, Laura, for answering my question! This helps a lot! The way the mind copes and functions in the face of stress and trauma has always interested me, as have different personality types. 🙂 This book is going to be the most challenging thing I’ve ever written and I hope to do it justice!

  11. It’s a fascinating disorder. it’s a good thing it’s rare though.

  12. J E Fritz says:

    Interesting and also a little scary. To separate from your personality, your self, must be like trying to separate from a limb. Also, now I’m kind of tempted to go stare at myself in the mirror…

  13. Carol Riggs says:

    This was fascinating! I think I could use this in my writing/stories. 🙂 Off to go stare in the mirror. LOL

  14. Vicki Tremper says:

    I’ve never seen treatment information for this before. DID is used quite often in movies and on TV, but they never talk about treatment. Very interesting, thanks!

  15. I read recently (in some reputable journal) that a person with DID might have a disease like diabetes which occupying one personality, and not have it in another of their personalities. Thanks for this list.

  16. I meant to write: “when” occupying one personality.

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