Common DID myths

I was asked today by email if I’ve encountered any common misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Where to start I wonder?? Here’s my reply:

  • We’re all serial killers.
  • We’re all dangerous.
  • We cannot be trusted.
  • We are liars.
  • We are attention seekers.
  • We are all messed up victims with nothing to offer anyone else and no capacity to function without extensive support.
  • We are so weird, different, and bizarre that we are basically aliens, utterly unlike other people in any regard.
  • We are psychics, in touch with the spirit world and merely misunderstanding our gift and thinking we have DID instead.
  • We are gullible vulnerable people our shrinks have implanted with the idea that we have DID. (see Is DID iatrogenic?)
  • All people with DID are the same. (See Multiplicity and relationships)
  • DID is only ever the result of the most extreme, inhuman, unimaginable child sexual trauma you can possibly think of.
  • All people with multiplicity lose lots of time. (See What is co-consciousness?)
  • People with DID can’t work.
  • Everyone with DID has an inner self helper, an inner protector, an inner wounded child (and so on).
  • All people with DID should integrate.
  • Integration means you are now ‘well’ and all your problems go away.
  • The goal of every person with DID is to become a normal person.
  • DID is basically just a complex way to try and avoid your problems.
  • DID is just a way to avoid taking responsibility.
  • DID is just an excuse to be lazy and confusing.
  • Everyone has DID.
  • People with DID are extra special people who are nicer, more intelligent, more creative, and more wonderful in every possible way than all other people.
  • People with DID are all conscientious and loving and would never hurt anyone.
  • People with DID are crazy.
  • DID is the same thing as schizophrenia.
  • DID is the same thing as PTSD.
  • DID is the same thing as BPD.
  • People with DID have ESP and other otherworldly characteristics.
  • People with DID can never recover.
  • People with DID are impossible to work with.
  • People with DID are manipulative.
  • People with DID should pick one stable part to be out all the time. (See Parts getting stuck)
  • People with DID are merely under the delusion that they have alters.
  • People with DID always have a ‘real person’ and a bunch of alters.
  • If you hear voices inside your head you have DID, if you hear voices through your ears you have schizophrenia. (See Parts vs Voices)
  • It’s not possible to have DID and psychosis.
  • If you have lots of parts you have less chance of recovery.
  • Switching is always really obvious.
  • It’s always easy for other people to tell the difference between parts.
  • If anyone you knew had DID it would be easy for you to tell.
  • Alters always know who they are. (See Multiplicity – Mapping your system)
  • Alters always have a complex back history of their identity.
  • People with DID can never control their switching.
  • People with DID always know they have it.
  • People with DID are always in control of their switching. (See Multiplicity – switching and relationships)
  • People with DID make each other worse if they spend time together.
  • People with DID only get better in therapy.
  • People with DID never have any other challenges (disability, poverty, discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation etc).
  • All people with DID are white, straight, cis women. (See Another coming out)
  • DID is always formed when an abused child imagines that the abuse is happening to a different child instead.
  • People with DID never spontaneously integrate.
  • People with DID who integrate never split into parts again.
  • People with DID always have lots of parts.
  • DID is the worst thing you could ever wish on someone.
  • DID is caused by things other people do to you. (rather than your response to those things)
  • DID is all about pain. (See I am not Sarah)
  • You either have DID or you don’t, there’s no spectrum of multiplicity.
  • If you have more than one diagnosis, you are sicker and weaker and less likely to recover.
  • All people with DID are going to recover horrific memories of traumatic events they hadn’t been aware of.
  • People with DID understand each other in far deeper way than a singleton will ever understand a person with DID.
  • DID is an adaptive gift and never really causes any problems for anyone. (See Adaptation and Control)
  • People who say they are DID are just trying to get out of a crime.
  • The United States of Tara is an accurate representation of all people with DID. (See my review here)
  • People with DID have to be careful not to encourage or allow their parts to become any more separate than they already are. (See Multiplicity – Is naming parts harmful?)
  • Parts will always hate each other. (See A poem conversation between parts)
  • Most psychiatrists, psychologists, and doctors know a lot about dissociation and DID (See DID Card)
  • There’s lots of good resources for people with DID
  • It’s easy to find quality, reliable information about DID
  • Most therapists are willing and capable of supporting someone with DID
  • Carer supports don’t need to be tailored to the experience of loving a person with parts.
  • People with DID are the most unwell, challenged, vulnerable, and needy members of any family or group. (See Caring for someone who’s suicidal)
  • Regular mental health services are appropriate and good supports for people with DID.
  • People with DID should all be locked up away from the regular community.

Yeah, I know I changed first to third person. I’m tired, and you get my point. I don’t think the list is complete, that’s just off the top of my head at the end of a long week. Have any to add?

Edit: Just to be very clear that I’m presenting all these ideas as myths. I don’t agree with any of them. The links in the text are to other posts I’ve written that explain why not in greater detail, and what I do believe instead. I think that maybe reading such a big chunk of myths, particularly very common ones, perhaps it’s more difficult to remember I’m presenting then as myths. I think I’ll put up a counter – post where I summarise what I do believe about DID…. Watch this space! 🙂

For more information see articles listed on Multiplicity Links, scroll through posts in the category of Multiplicity, or explore my Network The Dissociative Initiative.

16 thoughts on “Common DID myths

  1. Thank you Sarah. As with all individuals and as Terri points out, lots of these are actually true for various multiples. My husband Darrell, for instance, does lose time. In fact, have of his life is a mystery and some parts of our book about his life “Which One Am I?” are told by some of the insiders. What scares us is the parts that are true: There really isn’t much information out there about DID — at least not true information — and few medical professionals are equipped to deal with DID.

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    • Hey, thanks for sharing, yes, absolutely, and as far as losing time goes, losing at least some is part of the diagnosis as defined in the DSM… but different people lose different amounts of time, and also different amounts between parts. Eg. for some people one or two parts never lose time while other parts have little to no co-consciousness and lose lots. And there’s certainly plenty of people with DID who lose very little after therapy or lots of system work, but because they were diagnosed with DID they tend to still be referred to in that way, even though they now really don’t meet the criteria (partly because the criteria are inappropriate, in my opinion). As for all the multiples who get put into the DDnos box, some of them don’t lose any time, but because they are multiples they are still thought of and often referred to as ‘DID’ by the wider community. Losing time is common! But it’s not everyone’s experience, and it’s not everyone’s experience all the time. 🙂

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    • Hi Cal, I think all of these are myths about DID, that are hurtful in some way to some people. It sounds like maybe some of them are a good fit for you or your situation though, if they make you glad. Would you like to share what one of them is? Some of these myths do apply to some people, just not all people with DID. 🙂

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      • Talking about these as absolutes totally makes them myths however it’s the fact that without an absolute these can be quite common for some people. Some are not myths for me, even with the absolutes.
        I understand where you’re coming from and do find that a lot of what you have listed are things that make me want to facepalm when I hear or read them and people think they are True Facts.

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        • Some of them apply to me too. 🙂 The more people I talk with, the more I’m aware of the tremendous range of ways people understand and live with DID, so I’m always looking for the most inclusive language. 🙂

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  2. I think that’s pretty good work for end of the week and tierdness, you are such a inspiriation SArah, in your way you can reach/teach evenen in tierdness and dark times, thanks.

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