There are many misconceptions about dissociative identity disorder. Because of how the media is able to profit off of the dramatization of this very real and harmful disorder, these misconceptions are often spread and widely believed by people who haven’t done extensive research on the subject. The spreading of these misconceptions is harmful because it creates a negative stigma around the disorder. It is always imperative to remember that most fictional books, television shows, and movies will not accurately depict mental disorders.
Other than what is shown in the media, there are many different causes and symptoms of this disorder, and it is important for people to understand the difference between fact and fiction within not only dissociative identity disorder, but all mental illnesses. There are three types of dissociative disorders. Undoubtedly though, dissociative identity disorder, or DID, is the most dramatic instance out of all of them. Before the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is better known as the DSM, was published in 1994, this condition was known as multiple personality disorder (Kassin, pg. 3).
In terms of the human mind, dissociation is the term that is used when part of an individual’s personality has been separated (dissociated) from the person’s whole personality, and they are unable to reassemble the fragmented pieces (Morris, pg. 559). Usually, the functions of the memory, consciousness, perceptions of our environment, and our identity as a whole are well integrated. The disruption of this usual integration results in dissociative disorders (House, pg. 97).
Dissociative identity disorder in particular is the disorder in which one body houses more than one personality, each of which will emerge in different situations and at different times (Morris, pg. 560). The two or more personalities will all appear to be relatively complete. The ever so popular case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an example of this. The difference though being, is that in real life, the transformation of creating a new personality is often tripped off by occurrences such as stress or emotional trauma, and not a magical potion.
Sometimes there will be a deeply established war between motives that can cause this type of dissociative disorder as well (Morgan and King, pg. 510). Researchers and clinicians alike have long struggled to comprehend and understand dissociative identity disorder (Morris, pg. 561). This diagnostic classification shows a sharp set of limits within the relation to what these researchers and clinicians are able to comprehend concerning all of the different variations and progressions of the general public’s personalities, as well as their identities and senses of self (House, pg. ).
Although this particular disorder is often spoken about and even dramatized, cases of dissociative identity disorder are actually relatively rare. In all reality, there have only been a scarcely limited amount of cases that were comprehensively studied by credentialed professionals in the clinical community (Morgan and King, pg. 510). Surprisingly enough, it isn’t an unremarkable or uncommon phenomena for children to have varying dissociative episodes. In fact, it’s relatively normal.
It is, however, considered to be more uncommon if these dissociative experiences cause any kind of marked distress or social/academic impairments (House, pg. 98). Women are actually nine times more likely to develop this disorder than men are. Although dissociative episodes may be uncommon in children, dissociative identity disorder in itself is a considered to be more rare. From 1817 to 1970, less than two hundred cases have been recorded in psychiatric journals. 1817 is the year in which the first case was reported.
DID may have occurrences throughout most societies, but how often the disorder comes about and how it behaves varies greatly between different cultures and generations (Kassin, pg. 623). A fundamental part of dissociative identity disorder is the alternate personalities these people have. In the DID community, these are very often referred to as alters. For many people, it is hard to imagine how there could be more than one personality living within a single person person, but with DID that is exactly what is happening (Understanding, ln. 1).
While the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t mention the term alter, it does recognize and acknowledge the fact that multiple personality states must be present within an individual in order for them to be accurately diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (Understanding, ln. 5). To be considered a true alternate personality, each of these personality states have to have their own separate way of perception, in concern to themselves and their environments (Understanding, ln. 7). Many things go into the makeup of an alter, because they truly are a separate identity altogether.
Very often there won’t be simply small differences between these alternate personalities, but rather sharp contrasts and large differences between the alters (Morris, pg. 561). Alters show a discontinuity throughout a person’s sense of identity (Understanding ln. 8). One could think of it as if these different personalities all depict different sides of a person (Morris, pg. 561). From identity to identity, changes in things such as cognition, memory, perception, consciousness, behavior, and even sometimes sensory-motor functioning usually occur (Understanding, ln. 8).
In addition to these traits, alters in the realm of DID may also have different names, genders, ages, physicalities, functions, accents, and memories (Understanding, ln. 12) Differences among and between these alternate personalities are often quite astonishing. To get more specific, differences in sexual orientation, voice and speech patterns, tendencies, memories, apparel, and even handwriting have been proven present in people with dissociative identity disorder (Kassin, pg. 623). Even more unbelievable, different personalities show different characteristic patterns in activation of variant areas of the brain (Morris, pg. 0).
Other physical differences may happen as well, such as differences in contact/glasses prescriptions, blood pressures, and reactions to different types of medication. An example of this would be a man who had one personality that procured a strong allergic reaction to orange juice, but another personality that had no such reaction (Kassin, pg. 623). “The host,” in relation to dissociative identity disorder, is the alternate personality that most often has control over the person’s body (Understanding, ln. 13).
While the host personality can be the individual’s original personality, it does not have to be and sometimes will not be (Understanding, ln. 14). Because of the fact that there isn’t one singular personality in people with DID many will refer to themselves with plural pronouns such as “we” or “us” (Understanding, ln. 3). All of the different alters within one person are together known as the “system” among people in this community (Understanding, ln. 13). Throughout this system, at least one of these personalities will be unable to recall what happens to the others when they are in control.
This happens in almost all cases of DID (Kassin, pg. 623). Because of this, the different personalities could be so separate that they are completely unaware of the fact that they’re inhabitants of a body that houses personalities other than their own. On the contrary though, these personalities could be aware of the other personalities and even make rude, snide comments in regards to them (Morris, pg. 560). More often than not, dissociative identity disorder alters can be classified into different types (Understanding, ln. 19).
Common types of DID alters include child and adolescent alters, protector or rescuer alters, persecutor alters, perpetrator alters, and avenger alters. While these may be some of the most commonly occurring alter types within dissociative identity disorder, there are still more (Understanding, ln. 35). There are a few main reasons as to why alters are able to be classified into certain types. These reasons can range from the purpose the alter serves, the age or situation in which the alter arises, and the types of characteristics the alter shows (Understanding, ln. 19) One type of a DID alter is a child or adolescent alter.
These alters are the most common type of alter. They will present with childlike characteristics found within the way the speak and their general demeanor. When a person with dissociative identity disorder goes to therapy, child or adolescent alters are often the first that the therapist discovers, therefore often being how the possibility of a diagnosis of DID comes forth (Understanding, ln. 20). These alters are usually created when the original personality within the body experiences a situation in which they are unable to tolerate, most often the situation being abuse.
They continue to come forth when the original personality finds themselves in a similar situation (Understanding, ln. 21). If the personality acts as if it were seven years old or younger, it can be called a “little” (Understanding, ln. 22). Another type of DID alter is the protector or rescue alter. Dissimilarly to the child or adolescent alters, these alters don’t have to be a certain age to fit into this classification, they could be of any age. They are however, created for a similar purpose as the child or adolescent alters.
They too come forth and are created if and when the original personality is in some type of intolerable situation (Understanding, ln. 23). Alters that fall under the protector or rescuer classification are usually much more brave when put in comparison with the original personality. Their demeanor is one of a “tough guy” (Understanding, ln. 24) A third type of alter is the persecutor alter. These types of alters believe that the original identity is to blame for being abused, therefore they make up stories that make it seem that way (Understanding, ln. ).
The persecutor alter will tell the original identity, or other people, that he or she should die in order to pay for what they have done (Understanding, ln. 27). If the original identity receives these messages they will sometimes act upon them. Because of the harmful directives being thrown at them, they could do things such as self harm or attempt to commit suicide (Understanding, ln. 28). The mental health community is often made known to the person at this point in time (Understanding, ln. 29).
This type of alter is usually very similar to the person or persons who originally inflicted the abuse upon the original identity (Understanding, ln. 26). Yet another type of dissociative identity disorder alter is the perpetrator alter. These alters are similar to persecutor alters as in they are also modeled to be alike with the abuser of the original identity (Understanding, ln. 30). The persecutor alter directs their anger and frustration inwards, choosing to blame the original identity for everything that has gone wrong (Understanding, ln. 26). A perpetrator alter does the opposite of this.