Image By: Nabeel Khan
What is the real meaning behind Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?
Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as DID, or sometimes referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a split in an individual’s identity characterized by two or more occurring personalities in one individual. It is characterized by each personality (also called alters) having their own effect, age, behavior, consciousness, memory and perception of life. These characteristics are based on one’s experiences in a lifetime. In some cases there is a difference in the voice of one alter from another alter. An example would be that of a young child alter would sound more childlike and/or would use more childlike grammar than an older alter. Often the lifestyles and even speech patterns are not consistent with the real age of the individual.
A common misconception among society as a whole is that the host body can control and prevent the alternates from coming out, and taking control of the body. In most cases this is simply not true. Most individuals have little or no control who comes out, or who is in control of the body. That belief is very harmful in some cases. For one thing, the idea that only a certain alter or the host person is in control at all times, relays the message to the other alters that they are not wanted, or that they do not exist at all. It also puts more stress on the host to need to be present at all the time. When an individual has had enough severe and frequent abuse to cause the splitting in the first place, sometimes life gets too stressful for them and they need a break; and they only way is to retreat inside and let someone else be in control of the body. This becomes dangerous or harmful for the body in some situation.
A hypothetical example is that there is a subject who feels that their host personality should be in control all the time. The true host personality, in reality, has not been in control for years. Through therapy, that host personality was concealed years ago because it could not cope with the stresses of life. The only way to stay alive, and out of the hospital, was to put the original host personality into remission. So to require it to be awake per say, and in control, would put that person’s life at risk. I realize this is difficult to understand. The thing to take away from this example is that the body makes conscious decisions about what’s best for its safety, and even the safety of its own mind. To have victory, one must have sacrifice.
Individuals with DID experience lapses or spaces in their past personal memory. For instance, one alter may go to the store, but once inside the store, another alter comes out, takes control of the body, does the shopping according to their unique likes and dislikes, and then proceeds to drive home. Once at home, the second alter, who did the shopping goes back inside, and the previous alter now comes back into control.
Causes and Experiences of DID
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a very complex post traumatic development disorder. Dissociation is an unconscious defense tool. All individuals with DID have experienced past trauma, and more often than not, severe past trauma. However, not all individuals who experienced severe past trauma develop DID. The severity and length of trauma all help to determine the number of different personalities an individual has if they develop DID.
Often an alter is stuck at the age the trauma happened and may not increase their perceived age without extensive psychotherapy, which comes in several forms, which can include art therapy and talk therapy. If they do increase in age, it is often at a slower rate than the body age progresses. Not all alters age at the same rate.
Although there has been research and studies done, there is still a great mystery surrounding DID. Because it isn’t fully understood, and has very diverse and complex aspects surrounding its subjects, there are several misconceptions about the disorder. I have already presented one misconception, the notion that an individual has freedom to control which personalities are present at any given time. Another persistent belief among some individuals, is that DID is a fad, or an intermittent phase in a person’s psyche. I admit that some people can abuse or even feign DID as a mask for an underlying attention seeking issue, although this is not the established behavior for DID subjects. DID can cause an individual to be very dysfunctional, but that isn’t a blanket statement for everyone. I personally know a few very high functioning DID individuals.
How can we be sure of these facts?
I can be sure, and you can be sure too, because I am a living example.
Some DID individuals experience some kind of hive-mind conscience with the alternate personalities, meaning they all chare common knowledge of what each alter is experiencing in the present and share their collective memories. They are aware of what each other is doing while each alter has control of the body. Other DID’s do not experience these symptoms, like myself. For me, this means when Gracie is in control of the body, Martha isn’t aware of what Gracie is doing. This can be very troubling because there are gaps that occur in everyday memories. On the contrary, this can be very interesting, and at times, even comical. For instance, I was laying on the floor coloring with my left hand when I’m actually right handed. Then there are those embarrassing moments when I find myself, or I have been told, that I was in a public place curled up sucking my thumb. Now that is humiliating! For the DID individual, life is not usually boring as we never know what to expect at any given moment.
I developed DID as a coping strategy. I was introduced to satanic ritual abuse as an infant so my abuse was severe and long. Maybe sometime I will write about more of my experience, but now it’s time to switch gears and discuss how, for me at least, the DID made the bipolar diagnosis difficult to identify.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by experiencing periods of wide ranging emotions, from rapid speech, to frenetic phases, and even poor situational judgment called mania, to the complete opposite end of the spectrum characterized by crippling, dark episodes of depression. An example can be while manic, a person can have a liberal approach to spending, and when they are depressed they won’t want to spend any money on anything. Another example can be varied lifestyles and beliefs, for instance a person experiencing mania can have a very grandiose opinion of what they can accomplish, possibly even conflicting with their standards of reality.
As a person who has Bipolar Disorder, I can tell my mood swings are far more dramatic than the average person with Bipolar Disorder. I can be sky high by morning but by lunch I am extremely depressed to the point of being suicidal.
Some of my alternate personalities are very anxious, and some are more manic in nature. This can change very rapidly at any given moment. I can, and often do, switch from alter-to-alter rapidly, which can really confuse people, and has led many to poor diagnoses and attitudes not only from the medical community, but also family and friends.
A common comment I hear is “you just reported that you were manic, but you are not looking or acting manic now.” Often the underlying reason is that a different alter has taken over, and most likely does not even know who just reported being manic, and may or may not even know what the word “manic” even means.
Another difficulty in attaining a proper co-morbid bipolar and dissociative identity disorder diagnosis and subsequent treatment, is that each alter can react to medication differently. Some medications I use to treat my bipolar disorder worked more effective with one alter than another alter. One way I have tried to get around this, is that the alter that normally takes the medication must be in control for 30 minutes to give the medicine enough time to get into the bloodstream.
So to answer that original question, yes, a person can be both dissociative and bipolar. But, I am also so much more. I am, at heart, a person who has feelings and needs to be accepted, like everyone else.