On DID Awareness Day, we examine some of the damaging myths that people hold with regards to people with Dissociative Identity Disorder - formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder and wrongly equated with schizophrenia. It’s important for people to really understand this condition, because the stereotypes can prevent those who may be struggling with symptoms of the disorder from getting the right treatment or therapy. 

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

Myth #1: Everyone with DID has multiple personalities

Dissociative Identity Disorder did used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder until 1994 when the DSM-IV was published. Research into the condition showed that it is more accurate to describe a person’s “alters” as being separate parts of their one personality, rather than several personalities in one body. Plus, someone with DID may not have any distinct alternative “personalities”, rather they simply regularly experience moments of dissociation, separating their usual self from the environment around them for a time, before coming back to themselves with little to no memory of what might have occurred in their dissociative state. Thus, the focus of the illness is now on a person’s dissociation, and not their “alters”.

Myth #2: DID is the same as schizophrenia

The biggest misconception in the history of mental illness is that people with schizophrenia have a “split personality”. Schizophrenia is a completely different mental disorder, characterised by frequent episodes of psychosis, and hallucinations and delusions that sufferers may not be able to distinguish from reality. It is possible to suffer from both conditions at once, but not all people with schizophrenia dissociate from their own selves.

Myth #3: DID is a rare condition

While it’s not the most common mental illness out there, it certainly isn’t a one in a million. In fact, as much as 1.5% of the population are thought to have the condition, and 3% of those admitted to psychiatric hospitals also have DID.  

Myth #4: People with DID are faking it

It’s easy to accuse people with several, distinct, fully “fleshed out” personalities, that have names and their own likes and dislikes, of flat-out lying. It just seems like something out of a movie, and it’s almost impossible for the average person to imagine. But myriad scientific studies have been undertaken to confirm the existence of this singular disorder, such as examining parts of the brain during amnesia and looking at the data that links 90% of cases to childhood abuse or trauma. If it was a “fake” illness, there’d be a lot more people walking around saying they have multiple personalities with no history of trauma whatsoever. 

Myth #5: DID is a personality disorder

Perhaps another good reason for changing the name of this illness is the fact that “multiple personality disorder” might suggest that this condition is a personality disorder (like borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder), but it most certainly isn’t. Personality disorders are characterised by patterns of behaviour or emotional responses that make it difficult to maintain relationships with other people. People with dissociative identity disorder may well function on a perfectly ordinary social level both in their non-dissociative and dissociative states.

MORE: The six biggest myths of schizophrenia

Myth #6: People with DID are dangerous

There is no inherent link between dissociative identity disorder and violent behaviour. People with DID may be aggressive, but they also may be timid, friendly, or not particularly interested or able to communicate with others at all. Of course, films like Split, Shutter Island and Secret Window give rise to this idea of having a violent “alter”, but really alters can exhibit any kind of behaviour.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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