Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
“Do I have dissociative identity disorder?” If you’re asking yourself that question, then one of two things may have happened. Dissociative identity disorder or DID is a mental condition that affects a small portion of the population. This makes it a relatively rare condition that clearly has a lot of uncertainty behind it. However, the experiences that individuals have when they experience symptoms are unique and very telling. They’re so unique, in fact, that it might not even sound like something possible, but it absolutely is!
After giving a brief rundown of what to expect from DID symptoms, stories of people experiencing DID symptoms will be shared. Maybe you will find that you don’t see yourself experiencing any of the symptoms, but you do see yourself or a loved one sharing an experience with someone who has DID. It’s alright. Sometimes, symptoms sound very exacting or specific, and you don’t equate them with your own experiences. Reading someone else’s story can make things clearer about your own personal mental state. It’s easier to think, “Do I have DID?” in response to a story than to the cold medical language of symptoms. While reading, taking a dissociation test might also provide some clarity.
What Is DID?
Disassociate Identity Disorder is one kind of several types of dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are all characterized in slightly different ways while still possessing similar characteristics overall. For example, they all have a core set of symptoms that everyone may experience with a dissociative disorder. These symptoms include:
- Severe memory loss of specific situations, people, or time that can’t be explained away by simply forgetting naturally
- Having an out-of-body experience. This is most commonly described as watching yourself act and move as though you’re an outsider or like you’re watching a television show of yourself.
- Experiencing a traumatic event that might have also caused the development of depression.
- Suffering from anxiety
- Emotional numbness or a sense of emptiness; feeling separated from your emotions
- Not possessing a self-identity, feeling unsure of who you are
These are all symptoms of a general dissociative disorder and are not restricted to exclusively those experiencing dissociative identity disorder.
DID is most commonly identified and explained as one person having multiple personalities. Each personality might act different from the other, and they even might insist that their name isn’t the same. They might have their own unique mannerisms and voices as well. The person experiencing DID symptoms might feel like one or more voices are warring inside of their mind, trying to take control.
Researchers believe that DID is triggered when the person undergoes a traumatic event making the trigger for DID similar to that of PTSD. For example, abuse or engagement with the military through active duty in combat situations are the traumatic events that are often brought up when discussing DID. DID and other dissociative disorders most commonly form in children who were forced to experience long-term abuse of any kind.
DID is believed to be a way for the person to keep the memories of the event at bay and not have to deal with the effects of the memory. For example, someone who experienced domestic violence might develop DID while avoiding being harmed by the memories. If another personality and, as such, another person is in control of their body, then the individual does not have to deal with remembering the memories since, sometimes, individuals experiencing dissociative states (or having multiple personalities) do not share memories between the personalities. It also might mean that if another personality takes over the body, then the “original” personality does not have to be harmed at the moment and can stay safe since they won’t remember what’s happening.
A diagnosis is developed when the person undergoes an evaluation by a medical professional who asks a series of questions and analyzes a person’s behavior for anomalies. There are no dissociative disorders tests that result in an immediate diagnosis. Instead, the process is typically lengthy as physical explanations must be ruled out first for the strange behaviors.
Women are diagnosed with DID at a slightly higher rate than men, but this doesn’t mean that men cannot experience symptoms of DID and potentially be diagnosed with it. Men may simply be less likely to admit to symptoms of DID and discuss past traumatic experiences. This could make a diagnosis more difficult and lead to a false negative diagnosis.
There are many personality disorder tests, and this short dissociative identity disorder test might help give some insight into experiences that you or a loved one might be having. The quiz could also realistically function as an OSDD test (OSDD is basically a category of dissociative disorders that cover symptoms that don’t neatly fit into other categories). This personality disorder test is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool; it’s simply meant to give direction as to what to do. After taking the quiz, evaluate your result, and determine whether or not further guidance from a medical professional is necessary. Only medical professionals can provide an official diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan that is right for you and your specific situation. This DID test should not replace their guidance.
Now that the symptoms of DID and other dissociative disorders have been listed, you might have a better idea about whether or not you should seek further guidance. If you’re still not certain, though, a story of a person who experiences DID symptoms and lives their life with the symptoms in conjunction with proper treatment has been recorded below. This story is based on real people's experiences, but identifying information has been changed to protect the individuals’ privacy. Please note that some parts of the story have also been changed to avoid potentially sensitive language.
Sandra was a woman in her 20s who experienced lapses in memory and sudden behavior changes with seemingly no trigger. She didn’t know where she was, unable to tell doctors the hospital's location she had been taken to as she instead told them that she believed she was at a hospital over 500 miles from where she actually was being housed. During her initial stay, she received several diagnoses, but the treatment for all of them was not effective. It didn’t feel like anything was working. Despite the treatment’s ineffectiveness, she was released from the hospital and allowed to go home.
However, it would not be the last visit she would have as shortly after she was readmitted. Though this time, it was to a different hospital, and she had appointments with different doctors. Due to the change in medical providers, she had to go through the previous experience she had. This explanation helped her to reorient herself in the current time and place. It was revealed that she experienced frequent lapses in memory that she couldn’t explain through further conversation. She didn’t know how it all happened either since it wasn’t just small, mundane things she forgot. Sometimes, entire stretches of time just didn’t exist in her memory. It was also during these conversations about her experiences that something else was shown to be amiss.
At one moment, Sandra would be helpful and amenable to the doctors’ questions; she was a largely pleasant woman most of the time, it seemed. Moments later, however, she would be angry and hostile. Doctors couldn’t recall anything that they had done that might upset her either. She just seemed to change suddenly as though a switch had been flipped.
More and more anomalies of Sandra’s life came out the more she spoke. She recalled friends and loved ones or even just acquaintances telling her things that she had done or said that she knew she would never do and which she vehemently denied. She didn’t remember doing anything that they said she did, and she didn’t remember making any of the hurtful or concerning statements that caused them to ask after her.
Most concerning though, was an instance in which Sandra recalled showing up dirtied and tired at a friend’s house when they had plans for that night. When the friend asked what happened, Sandra said that she just fell. That explanation, though, didn’t cover why Sandra instead looked like she had rolled down a hill or spent the day in the woods without any regard for her own safety. She was damp and cold, and her clothes were splattered with mud and dirt while leaves clung to the bottom of her shoes--shoes which no one would willingly wear into the forest as they weren’t even sneakers.
Once again, that strangely aggressive part of Sandra made herself known and identified herself as Mary. When asked about that strange event, Mary said that she had done that. She was bored being stuck in the house all of the time, and she decided to walk instead. She was then asked why she was so rough in her hiking, and she said it was to punish Sandra for what she had done. Sandra had left her to deal with her mother’s abuse for years, and it was Mary who dealt with the pain. It was Sandra’s fault that she felt like she did. If one of them was suffering, then the other one should suffer as well.
After this meeting with doctors, she was formally diagnosed with DID, and treatment could begin. She was told to try to see herself and Mary as parts of the same person, just poorly combined at the moment. Doctors encouraged her to create harmony between herself and Mary, creating a bridge between them and seeing Mary as a part of her and one that couldn’t be separated. She didn’t want to at first, as it would mean taking accountability for everything that Mary did and said, but she came to see it for what it was: owning all of herself.
She reached this part in her life and her acceptance of Mary by discussing the trauma that she went through. Appointments with therapists allowed her to come to terms with what she went through and to work through it healthily and in a safe environment. Over time, she developed more and more healthy relationships that only grew healthier. Although she was diagnosed with DID, she was living her life fully, and she was happy. She still is happy.
A diagnosis is not a life-long label. Everything can still be beautiful, and treatment and support can make it easier. Everyone deserves a happy and fulfilling life regardless of what conditions they may experience. Reach out for yourself or for your loved one and help to make treatment a reality.