Everything You Need To Know About Dissociative Identity Disorder
DID is often misunderstood: here’s what we need to get right
January 13, 2021
The origin, experience, and treatment of dissociative identity disorder (DID) are often misunderstood.
When patients come into Dr. Milissa Kaufman’s office for treatment for DID, they do not put on different hats, speak in different accents, or display different mannerisms. The thought that they would is a byproduct of misinformed popular beliefs and media, according to Kaufman. Milissa Kaufman, MD, PhD, is the director of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program at McLean Hospital and medical director of McLean’s Hill Center.
“What you see in movies and read in books, where individuals seem to have different people living inside of them, is not what DID is,” Kaufman said. “It is unfortunate and creates a lot of misconception with the public.” Although people with DID have a vivid internal sense of identity fragmentation, the point of DID is to remain hidden. “If you have DID,” Kaufman said, “you’re not going to call attention to yourself. It may feel very real inside, but it’s not on parade as is shown in movies or on TV.”
According to a 2010 Psychiatric Times article by Bethany Brand and Richard Loewenstein, only 5% of people with DID exhibit obvious switching between identities. Instead, they point out the majority of people with DID show barely noticeable signs of the condition. These are a mixture of dissociative symptoms (such as a sense of being detached from oneself and one’s emotions) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (such as flashbacks). According to the authors, people with DID also often have symptoms of substance use disorder, eating disorders, and self-destructive behavior.