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Inside the Minds of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Updated on March 18, 2012

A bit of background before reading the poem below about Dissociative Identity Disorder

Most people never have to think about Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is a disorder that sometimes occurs in a person after being severely abused, usually at a young age. Most sufferers report being physically or sexually abused in a cult-like scenario or by a member of their family.

Some people live seemingly normal lives to those around them. Inside their minds, many things are not as they should be. For the patient and mental health professional the goal is usually integration, the process of bringing all the personalities known as fragments into one whole person mentally.

It frequently takes years of therapy sometimes using tactics like hypnosis to bring the fragments together. Questions remain within the mental health profession as to the validity of the condition. Some mental health professionals have been accused of convincing their patients they have the disorder.

Sadly, some people fake the condition for attention or to get out of crimes they've committed and others do it for attention. Their actions leave true sufferers in a position to prove themselves.



People who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder sometimes don't even know they have it. They "wake up" from another state in a process known as switching or dissociating and they realize they've missed time. Usually they are not even where they were when they last remembered.

Less frequently, the person knows they have switched to a different personality or know they've been “someone else", or that they've been gone.

People around them tell them they've done things they do not remember. They run into people who call them by another name and do not remember seeing them before, leaving these people wondering what is wrong with them. Imagine your best friend of 10 years not knowing who you are.

The person with D.I.D. may have changed their appearance to something the other personalities would not appreciate. They see themselves differently depending on the personality that presents itself. For instance: In the fragment of a 7 year old the person my see themselves as blonde, blue-eyed and always wears dresses with pigtails and ribbons. When switching to an older figure they may see themselves with brown hair, polyester suits and green eyes. Some have accents, medical issues and different ideas of who their families are. Some fragments believe the abuser never harmed them. It's all part of the protection system built within.

Some of the fragments may spend money the person doesn't have to spend, causing them undue stress when they realize the bills cannot be paid. They often complain they do not know when they spent the money and cannot account for it's disappearance. Other times they may have several items they don't remember buying.

Frequently there is no control over the switching or dissociating as it is brought on by triggers or necessity within the fragmented system. When the triggers are unknown, dissociating is less controllable, if at all. Sometimes they experience headaches or other physical symptoms prior to switching, but this is not always the case.

Having already suffered the abuse which resulted in the disorder, D.I.D. sufferers are frequently outcasts in society. They feel alone and unable to fit into normal situations for fear of encountering a trigger causing them to "switch," or worse get ignored because people don't understand their odd behaviors.

There is no quick fix for Dissociative Identity Disorder and many who suffer from it fail to get proper treatment due to losing time and missing doctors appointments and trust issues. Trusting anyone can be quite a chore and mental health professionals have to earn that trust in order to make a break-through with the patient.

By the time the person gets help, the situation has usually gotten out control and they've lost their jobs, quit school or other life-altering situations have occurred. They begin to feel they have nowhere to turn and no one to trust.


Dissociative Identity Disorder is almost always caused by child abuse. How much do you know about child abuse?

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Sources used for dates and statistics


The public view of Dissociative Identity Disorder is skewed by television creating unreasonable fear.

People frequently hear about Dissociative Identity Disorder through crazy scenes in movies where the person is portrayed as a crazed killer. Others mistake Dissociative Identity Disorder to be the same as Schizophrenia. The two are very different.

It is important to know, a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder is no more likely or capable of committing a heinous crime than anyone else. Having the disorder doesn't necessarily make them unsafe to be around children or your family. As with anyone, the risks need to be weighed based on the individual.

The fragments, dissociations or personalites were created to protect the person, not to allow them to harm others.

Many of the fragments may be assigned to deal with different tasks or emotions. Some may be mathematically challenged while others are capable of doing the budget in their heads. One may deal well with anger and social situations while another is a recluse and switches at the first sign of anger or when in large groups. Most personalities are of a different age, some are a different gender or race. Sometimes they are even animals. (Dogs, cats, etc.) Some common triggers are sexual in nature, but can range to include simple objects used on a daily basis. As with any emotional response triggers such as smell, touch and sound can affect a person with D.I.D. A trigger isn't always necessary. It could be a memory.

Many people with the disorder are capable of holding jobs, maintaining a marriage and a family. Others are incapable of any of those things. They may find themselves in situations where they normally would never go and not know how they got there. Imagine "waking up" in a different state altogether with no idea how you got there.

Some sufferers of Dissociative Identity Disorder remain the "host" personality for long periods of time while others switch frequently, sometimes several times a day then not again for months.

It is highly dependent upon the circumstances of the abuse suffered and the numerous triggers and needs within the frail system.

Cases involving Dissociative Identity Disorder / Multiple Personality Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder, is also known as D.I.D or M.P.D or Multiple Personality Disorder. You may have heard people calling someone Sybil when they've done something seemingly outside their normal behavior and then not remembering.

This comes from a story of a woman named Shirley A. Mason a.k.a. Sybil Dorsett , with 16 separate manifesting personalities or fragments.

Sally Field played a phenomenal role in the movie, "Sybil" in 1976. Tammy Blanchard played Sybil in a newer movie in 2007, also named, "Sybil". A book was written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, titled, "Sybil" in 1973 to document the personalities of Shirley Mason.

Sybil Dorsett is likely the most well-known and documented case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, but her case has been widely questioned. There are many statements claiming she admitted her personalities were fake.

It still remains unclear what she was admitting to. Was she admitting she lied about the entire thing or parts of it. Possibly she lied about lying to stop the exposure as she was able to move into the integration phase. Her story is truly fascinating nonetheless and the movie will touch your heart based on the abuse alone. Even if the story was completely fake, there would almost certainly be another underlying condition to account for a person living such a lie.

Another well-documented case is that of, Chris Costner Sizemore, also known as Eve White. A movie and book titled, the "Three Faces of Eve," was created in the 50's with Sizemore being played by Joanne Woodward. In the movie she fragmented into three distinct personalites named Eve White, Eve Black and Jane. In 1975, Sizemore claimed to have had 22 personalities throughout her experience before, during and after treatment. It took Sizemore several years, but in 1977 she decided to publicly announce she was the woman portrayed in the movie.

Hopefully you're awareness is raised and you have a deeper understanding if you encounter a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The disorder not only affects the person suffering from it, but the people in their lives. Friends, family, coworkers and fellow students do not understand what the person is going through. After long disappearances and seemingly crazy behavior they frequently turn their backs on the person. As a general rule, we fear what we do not understand.

Now a short movie clip about, "The Three Faces of Eve." and then the poem I promised.

Clip from The Three Faces of Eve

STOP CHILD ABUSE. You may be their last chance!
STOP CHILD ABUSE. You may be their last chance! | Source

Fragmented but with all the pieces can be put back together.

Image: Pixomar /
Image: Pixomar / | Source

Who I am When I am Not - Dissociative Identity Disorder

I am who I am, when I am not

The person who was, but then forgot

The world goes dark and I emerge

Suddenly I'm me, but I'm not her.

She lives in silence while I exist

Her memories of me sometimes persist.

She cannot control me, though she may try

She left without so much as a goodbye.

In her mind she is the only one

She sits and plays all alone.

The night is falling and it's time for bed.

We all lay down our sleepy heads.

Suddenly she whispers, "I want to play.

I've been a good girl for you all day.

Comon please will you color with me?"

But I tell her it's time to sleep.

Angry she rebels and colors my walls,

All because I won't let her play with dolls.

She won't give up until I give in

But how do you let a 7 year old win?

Together we exist in one body; one mind

We run the system broken yet refined.

We are a fragmented puzzle missing pieces,

We leave it to Our Father, Our Lord Jesus.

- Author TamsR

Do you believe in Dissociative Identity Disorder?

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    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

      We've been watching "The United States of Tara" recently. I don't know if it is medically accurate, but it is sympathetic and emotionally powerful.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'd never heard of this disorder. Thank you for sharing something so personal and opening my eyes. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      A very powerful and interesting article. Although you focused toward DID, the phenomena, from my view is larger. Dissociative disorders alone are expounded in the DSM-IV-TR covering a gamut of associated disorders.

      With five distinctive and definitive sub-classifications I am always amazed with the mystery of #5 - Dissociative disorder not otherwise specified.

      Knowing of #4- Dissociative fugue, intimately while thinking of Alzheimer disorder and its close association I ponder.

      A friend with Depersonalization disorder I am intrigued with the complexity of this category within the DSM-IV-TR.

      Although appearing as critical, this comment is reflective, with the hope of helping to create awareness to this disorder. Though rare for DID to occur the other four DXD = diagnosis are more common.

      I personally would like to thank you for taking the time to write a very thorough article. However, my feelings with abuse is that a comorbid dxd of Dissociative amnesia dancing with PTSD to a band named depression may be more prevalent within the larger population.

      Two thumbs up to creating awareness to Mental Health, providing accurate information on DID while opening the door to curiosity. Bookmarked in "Mental Health Awareness - Research" file for future linking. Awesome and interesting for sure

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Pcunix, While I haven't personally seen the show I've heard from a friend it is more accurate than most portrayals of the disorder.

      I don't know that is true, but I heard they aren't making new shows. Thanks for reading my post and commenting.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      alocsin, I'm glad I could increase your knowledge as this is the point in telling people about it. Many people know nothing about it, but awareness can help the sufferers in the long run.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      tsmog, You are correct, while I focused directly on Dissociative Identity Disorder and not the sub classifications, D.I.D. certainly exists in a larger scheme of personality disorders. I do not find your comment critical, but extending further information in the spirit of sharing knowledge. Thank you!

      In studying Dissociative Identity, I've found many descriptions which always point toward the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - 4th edition - Text Revision for those who don't know.)

      I find these articles to be informative for more advanced study, but less effective for someone generally seeking to learn the daily life of a person suffering for each classification of personality disorders.

      When I originally started studying personality disorders I found the medical terminology a turn-off to readers seeking the basics.

      Upon trying to find the basics, I found the writings from others generally aimed at gaining answers about daily life vs. providing them. That is the basis of my article, to breakdown a single classification in terms of daily life vs. going into descriptions of each classification, sub-classification, axis I -V, etc.

      In response to :“However, my feelings with abuse is that a comorbid dxd of Dissociative amnesia dancing with PTSD to a band named depression may be more prevalent within the larger population. “

      If I'm hearing you correctly, DID, is a less common dxd in the scope of mental illness resulting from abuse. I agree and feel this is due to some mental make-ups being more suited to “handle the abuse more effectively” through suppression without development of alters. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a near absolute (my opinion) dxd as result of any trauma resulting in the mental disorders we've spoken about, as is depression.

      My understanding of Dissociative Amnesia, people tend to gain the memories over time, whereas in DID can lead to further dissociations/ alters to deal with the memories.

      I'm looking forward to DSM – V inclusions.

      Thanks again for your comment!

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      It was about my second cup of coffee and getting a dopamine fix. Reading carefully discovery of DA is a friend I know very well, and DF was a common trait once long ago. My old bio shared tids and bits regarding that. Today, the mystery is ill affect of stress, PTSD, mixed with an experience with retrograde amnesia, which I pursue today, while pondering with my pdoc med eval or early signs of Alzheimer (that took about 15 tires to spell (note upon re-reading I see tires and not tries then ponder Freud thinking I am in the tire business) - LOL). I look forward to reading more of your hubs that so far has spoken dearly to my heart, yet caused a nap - see my article on amnesia for info on naps.

    • jenslibra profile image

      jenslibra 3 years ago

      Very informative article. I'm glad you mentioned the film Sybil. I own it and it is very interesting! I have yet to see Three Faces of Eve but I've heard if it. Coincidentally, Joanne Woodward plays the psychiatrist in Sybil.

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