Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
If you’re dealing with symptoms that seem like they might match up with dissociative identity disorder, it’s natural to be alarmed. Dissociative disorders can be very complex and hard to identify, so you may be experiencing symptoms even if you haven’t sought a professional diagnosis.
A good way to begin thinking about the topic is to consider what sort of symptoms you experience. As we’ll discuss in more depth below, there are several types of dissociative disorders, and some symptoms of these disorders can overlap with other mental health issues.
Our dissociative identity disorder screening tool, provided below, is a great tool to help you reflect on symptoms.
What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?
Dissociative identity disorder, also known as DID, is a mental disorder characterized by the existence of two or more distinct identities and changes in memory, thought, and behavior.
DID was previously referred to as multiple personality disorder. Still, its title has since been changed to better reflect the experiences that accompany the disorder (a split in identity or fragmentation rather than growth of completely unrelated personalities).
The symptoms and experiences associated with DID are usually the results of intense trauma or distress during childhood, though the condition is lifelong and generally requires long-term treatment.
DID is one of the multiple dissociative disorders, but it is perhaps the most common and well-known. Other dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, depersonalization/derealization disorder, and OSDD (discussed in more depth later).
Each dissociative disorder has its unique symptoms, but they all involve problems with memory, perception, behavior, emotions/mood, and one’s identity or sense of self. Feelings of detachment or struggling to remember things (short-term, long-term, or both) are examples of common dissociative symptoms.
As the name implies, dissociative disorders also involve varying degrees of dissociation, usually in response to a stressful or traumatic situation. Dissociation, in general, is a normal part of life, but the way it impacts those who experience dissociative disorders is much more severe.
What Is Dissociation?
Dissociation can be defined as a disconnect between reality and a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, and even identity.
Daydreaming is a great example of a common, normal form of dissociation, as is getting lost in a movie or book. To simplify, you can think of it as moments where your mind is disconnected from your body.
During moments of intense stress, fear, or other emotions (such as traumatic incidents), dissociation can be the mind’s way to cope with what otherwise might be too much to handle. Dissociation is also a key symptom of dissociative disorders, as are lapses in memory or thought.
What Is It Like Living With DID?
Living with DID can be confusing, frustrating, and upsetting. This is especially true if an individual is unknowingly dealing with the condition or is unable to/has not received professional treatment for it.
As mentioned above, DID is usually (but not always) the result of significant trauma during early childhood, usually when an individual is five years old or younger. In addition to living with the heavy burdens that come with experiencing this trauma, individuals with DID often also deal with unique symptoms that are disruptive and may feel uncontrollable.
It’s important to understand that DID is not merely having an imaginary friend or experiencing moments of disconnect from the events around us. DID is a chronic and life-altering disorder that dramatically alters how an individual functions.
With proper treatment and support, it’s entirely possible to live a long, healthy, and happy life while living with DID. Treatment for DID generally involves some form of psychotherapy, usually long-term therapy.
Symptoms Of DID
The clearest and most unique symptom of DID is alternating between multiple different identities. An individual with DID may experience different moods, behaviors, and characteristics from one identity to the next.
Many symptoms of DID are related to this identity-switching phenomenon. Examples include:
- Feeling as though multiple people/voices are attempting to control the mind
- Experiencing gaps in memory, especially surrounding moments of trauma
- Developing unique, complex identities (they may have names, different voices, interests, appearances, etc.)
- Other mental health symptoms, often due in part to DID’s stress (depression, anxiety, etc.)
To meet DSM-5 requirements for diagnosis, DID’s symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in school, work, the home, and other parts of life.
Though it may seem rare, DID is not as uncommon as you might think. Some estimates suggest that between 1-3% of the population may have the disorder, though general estimates for the world population suggest that .01-1% is more accurate.
However, it’s also believed that around 7% of the population may have some form of dissociative disorder, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. As the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and treatment lowers (and people become more aware of their symptoms in general), the number of diagnoses may change.
Do I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?
If the symptoms we’ve discussed in this article sound like some that you relate to, it’s natural to wonder, “do I have DID?”
If you feel like you’re experiencing symptoms similar to those of DID, it’s understandable to be concerned, overwhelmed, or even just confused. However, it’s important to remember that the information provided in this article is not meant to diagnose you (or encourage you to diagnose yourself).
There are some steps you can take to think about your symptoms if you are concerned, though.
When to Take a DID Test
Dealing with the symptoms of DID can feel debilitating, especially if you’ve been dealing with a case of an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disorder. If you feel like your symptoms align with the symptoms of DID, or if you’re just concerned about your mental health in general, you might be wondering where to begin.
Fortunately, we can provide access to a free, confidential, and easy screening tool to help you assess your symptoms, as discussed below. Our DID test, along with any other dissociative disorder tests you might find, however, are not substitutes for receiving the diagnosis of a doctor.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Test (DID Test)
If you’d like to learn more regarding how your symptoms align with those of DID, you might benefit from taking our confidential, and free DID symptom test. This dissociation test is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, it is a tool to provide insight and help you assess your symptoms.
Keep in mind that it’s possible to have a dissociative disorder other than DID, so if you experience some symptoms of dissociative behavior without meeting the criteria for DID, it’s still possible that you may be dealing with a related disorder.
A prime example of a related disorder is Another Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD), which closely mimics many of the symptoms of DID and other dissociative disorders without meeting full diagnostic criteria. The symptoms experienced by those with OSDD are not necessarily less severe or less deserving of attention; these experiences are also distressing and require medical care and long-term treatment.
While our test may not specifically be an OSDD test, it may give you a better idea of what some specific symptoms of DID (as well as other dissociative disorders, potentially) are.
Of course, the best way to determine whether or not you have DID, another dissociative disorder, or another mental health concern entirely is to speak with a healthcare professional. Even if your symptoms seem compelling or definitive, it’s always best to seek out the care and guidance of a professional.
Not only does this allow you to receive an official diagnosis (which, for many, is very relieving and validating), it also gives you access to the resources you need to begin treatment.
Again, it’s also possible that you may be dealing with another mental health concern or disorder entirely, and without proper treatment, symptoms may worsen.
Suppose you believe that you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of DID or another dissociative disorder. In that case, it’s important to seek (or encourage your loved one to seek) proper treatment. Now that you’ve got an idea of what the symptoms of DID look like, you might feel more comfortable speaking with a healthcare professional about your concerns.
DID is a very real, very challenging mental disorder. It significantly alters a person’s identity, which may split into more or morph over time and their mood, behavior, and more.
It’s also important to remember that not every individual will present the same symptoms to the same degree. If your symptoms cause you real distress and cause consequences, you are more than worthy of professional treatment.
Just as every mind is unique, so is every case of a mental disorder. If you think it’s time to take a DID test, it may also be time to schedule an appointment with your doctor or a mental health therapist.