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Debunking Myths About Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a mental disorder that involves the presence of two or more distinct personalities


Individuals with DID exhibit gaps in their memories of themselves and discontinuities in their behavior, cognition, perceptions, and sense of self. It is a post-traumatic condition connected to psychological trauma. It generally comes with several other symptoms usually noticed first; persons with DID are likely to have symptoms related to food, personality, and psychosis.


Unfortunately, DID tends to be overlooked because people with DID exhibit many different symptoms. Patients tend to avoid seeking help due to shame about symptoms or trauma they have experienced. 


Historically, many misconceptions have existed about the relationship between trauma and symptomatology. However, there has been increased awareness of dissociation because there is now more recognition of the impact of traumatic events. 


One of the main misconceptions about DID is that it is a “fad that has died.” However, DID can be reliably diagnosed with interviews and clinical settings; DID patients are consistently identified worldwide. 


Additionally, DID can be differentiated from other psychiatric disorders, and patients benefit from psychotherapy to address trauma. The body research about the disease supports that it is a valid disorder. 


Another false idea is that overdiagnosed experts primarily diagnose DID in North America. DID is found in prevalence studies around the world, and from 2005-2013, there were 70 studies including DID patients from 48 institutions in 16 countries. Studies also show that clinicians diagnose DID with varying degrees of expertise. 


DID is believed by many to be overdiagnosed, but that is not the case. Most people who were later diagnosed with DID had been treated in the mental health system for 6-12 years before a proper diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is very common, and many studies have concluded that most cases of DID remain undiagnosed and untreated. 

Due in part to the fact that most physicians are unfamiliar with DID, skepticism regarding the condition is another explanation for why DID is underdiagnosed. 


Many people believe that DID is uncommon, yet the prevalence rates of DID in psychiatric inpatients and outpatients suggest otherwise; DID is also widespread in the general population since it is detected in roughly 1.1-1.5% of typical community samples.


Another myth is that DID is an iatrogenic disorder (caused by diagnosis and other medical activity) and not trauma. No research evidence indicates that DID is caused by inappropriate treatment. 


Still, many studies have found that many adult patients with DID had histories of being severely abused as children. Some believe that DID treatment is harmful, but I could not see a peer-reviewed study that showed that DID treatment harmed patients. 


DID is sometimes believed to be the same as borderline personality disorder. Those who suffer from BPD have less modulated emotions and can recall their actions; they think their behavior is expected. Individuals with DID can’t remember some of their experiences while in dissociated personality states and usually have a discontinuity in their sense of agency. 


Ignorance of DID can have devastating consequences. Since the treatment is underrecognized and undertreated, patients (especially younger ones) spend years in the mental health system before getting the diagnosis and help they need. 


These myths about DID also discourage clinicians from educating themselves and seeking training about how to treat patients with DID; misconceptions about the prevalence of DID can also prevent scholars from researching the disorder. Essentially, the cost of ignorance is high for DID sufferers and for the mental health system that is supposed to be supporting those with the disorder. 

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