For any Moon Knight fan, it’s clear that one of the main aspects to Moon Knight’s character is his mental battles. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has been portrayed in many recent Moon Knight comics, and in others – but how accurate is that portrayal?
We hope to post a repository of information regarding DID in order to dispel many myths and get a more accurate picture of what it may be like to have this disorder. One of the kind Loonies, Leyna, has offered to be our guide into understanding DID more, and we look forward to their many articles which we will post here but also feature in our episodes!
Firstly, a great website as recommended by one of our ITK Loonies (thank you Leyna!) is a non-profit organization called Beauty After Bruises . Highly recommend you check out this website for any information regarding DID. Below is an article from the website that shows just how wrong some of our thoughts on DID really are!
DID MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Dissociative Identity Disorder is by far one of the least understood mental illnesses out there. It
is enshrouded in misinformation, outdated material and coursework for students and clinicians
alike, and a seemingly unending barrage of attempts at defamation. The latter seems ridiculous,
but probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when you consider that DID is caused by
longterm, recurrent trauma in childhood – most often abuse. There is a rather hefty incentive for
entire organizations to want to squash its credibility or deny its existence, particularly when
some of the founders of such organizations were accused of child sexual misconduct themselves.
But, that is NO excuse. In fact, it’s a massive reason for why we exist at all and why we are so
passionate about getting solid, credible information out there to everyone.
There will be no shortage of information here on what DID is not, coupled with clarifications
on what it is, but let’s at least provide a brief summary for those of you unfamiliar enough so that
you can better follow along. DID is a dissociative trauma disorder in which a survivor has
undergone longterm, repetitive trauma in early childhood. This trauma, combined with some
other factors, results in a fairly dramatic interruption of psychological development – especially
as it pertains to identity. This results in “differentiated self-states” – also known as alters/parts –
who may each think, act, and feel considerably different from one another. These parts of the
mind – who may have their own name, age and personality – can take executive control of the
body leaving the survivor without any awareness for the time they were gone. These amnesic
gaps in memory can be for just a few moments, a few days, or even entire chunks of their
childhood. These alters exist to help the survivor cope with deeply painful and unconscionable
trauma, holding it out of their awareness to the best of their ability. But often, once they begin to
find safety and/or enter adulthood, this once supremely creative and protective mechanism can
quickly become a maladaptive skill that causes real life consequences. And, all of this can be
going on alongside the effects of PTSD (flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, etc) or many of
the other potential co-occurring disorders that frequent trauma survivors.
So, now that you know a bit more about the very basics of DID, LETS GO DEBUNK SOME
MYTHS! Since this is a lengthy one, we divided them into three parts: myths the general public
tends to believe, misconceptions that even those familiar with the condition still hold onto,
annnnnd then some of the crazies 😉 Let’s do this!
Part One: The General Public
✘ Myth: DID is very rare.
Not even close. Its prevalence rate (~1.5%) is actually more common than young women with
bulimia and even on par with well-known conditions like OCD. While it is very hard to gather
statistics on a community of survivors who are built on secrecy, afraid to receive such a
stigmatizing diagnosis, therapists who are untrained to recognize it, a condition laden with
amnesia (leading many to be unaware something “is wrong”), and intense denial of trauma — it
is still inarguable that it is anything but rare. It is a major mental health issue.
✘ Myth: People with DID are dangerous, villainous killers or have alters who
do extreme harm.
Contrary to popular belief, survivors with DID are no more dangerous than those with any other
mental health condition or the general public. The crime rate, violent use of weapons, domestic
disturbances, etc. are no greater than (and often less than) the general population. In fact, due to
survivors’ prolonged exposure to trauma and violence, it is far more common for those with
DID to be re-victimized and on the receiving end of violence and/or abuse than to
perpetrate it. Many even take very staunch stances on pacifism after a lifetime of aggression
✘ Myth: DID isn’t real. It’s a condition created by therapists / exaggerated
BPD / attention-seeking / HPD and compulsive lying / etc.
Research begs to differ. DID has distinct markers that separate it from all other disorders already
in the DSM and it’s conclusive that DID results from longterm childhood trauma – nothing else.
It’s the only condition that has such pronounced amnesic gaps (“missing time”), differentiated
personality states, as well as unquestionable exposure to extensive trauma; it did not just
materialize from thin air or without solid precedent. Iatrogenic cases (“therapist created”) do not
present the same as authentic DID and can be distinguished (just as malingerers and factitious
presentations can be separated). For more information on those: here.
As for the idea of it being “just attention-seeking”: It should be observed that ALL disorders,
even physical illnesses, have groups of individuals who will pretend to have them. But DID has
no higher rates of this than other conditions, and there is even a specific set of criteria that exists
for clinicians to confidently determine if someone is faking the condition. But, primarily: there
are far easier, more believable, more profitable, and more “rewarding” conditions to fake
for attention or to garner sympathy than DID. DID is a condition riddled with stigma, vitriol,
and people from all corners of the world eager to tell you that you’re a liar, it’s not real, or (even
if they do believe you) still hurl a bunch of insults at you just because you’re a trauma survivor
or have a mental illness. This is not what most are looking for when they hope to cultivate
sympathy or attention. While some do try, many tire very quickly when they realize how many
small quirks and minor details about their alters they must be able to recall and maintain
seamlessly, and most are not trained actors to manage this. Then, there are much, much greater
hurdles to clear for anyone trying to seek treatment or therapy (as opposed to just claiming it in
their personal lives or online) – so most do not.
We do not disbelieve the existence of eating disorders, cancer or OCD merely because some
people fake it, do we? …even though the rates of malingering or factitious disorders for those
conditions are higher. Why should DID be any different?
✘ Myth: If you have DID, you can’t know you have it. You don’t know about
your alters or what happened to you.
While it is a common trait for host parts of a DID system to initially have no awareness of their
trauma or the inside chatterings of their mind, self-awareness is possible at any age. Particularly
once starting therapy, receiving a diagnosis, or becoming familiar with the condition, the entire
path to healing relies on gaining access to all of that information, as well as establishing
communication with parts inside. But, even without therapy, some can be aware of a few
traumatic experiences, be able to recognize the signs of switching, or learn about themselves
through old journal entries, self-photos, reading back old letters shared with loved ones they
don’t recall writing, and more.
✘ Myth: Switches in DID will be dramatic, noticeable/detectable, or involve
parts who want to wear different clothes/makeup, etc. “If you really had DID,
everyone would know it.”
buzzer noise False. Only a very, very small percentage of the population with DID have overt
presentations of their alters or switches (5-6%). While some hints of detection can be seen
amongst friends and therapists, most changes are passable as completely normal human
behavior. DID is a disorder built around concealment. Dramatic switches and changes in exterior
or behavior would attract far too much attention, which could be dangerous for the survivor.
Alters learn how to blend in, and many who do have considerably different personality traits,
mannerisms, accents, etc. often do their VERY best to mirror the host’s behaviors instead. In the
presence of loved ones, or those “in the know”, some of these acts of concealment can fall away
and alters may feel freer to express themselves individually – but it won’t be anything like what
you’ve seen on TV. Child alters, however, are sometimes the most distinct when fronting in a
survivor who is very adult, and are often what wins over even the most stern of DID-doubters —
but this is one of the primary reasons that DID systems tend to keep these parts away from the
front at all costs in public settings. As for switching, it can often look like an inconspicuous
fluttering of the eyelids, a little muscle twitch or facial tic, or some other small movement of the
body that looks like anyone repositioning themselves (or, y’know, breathing). Switches can be
detected if paying very close attention while being aware of the condition, but it’s extremely rare
for strangers or acquaintances to ever recognize one themselves. They’d sooner assume
something else was responsible entirely.
✘ Myth: DID is a disorder of “multiple personalities” — that is all that’s going
on for the person afflicted and is what makes it an illness.
Having separate identities is merely the byproduct of something greater, not the sole disorder.
The real “disorder” lies in the complex trauma and the effects it had on the child’s mind and
neurology. Most of the healing from DID revolves around processing traumatic memories and
digging through the layers and layers of pain, hurt, sadness and anger that each part holds. Yes,
having alters poses very distinct challenges which are often tackled in therapy, too, but DID is a
trauma disorder – NOT a disorder of personality.
✘ Myth: DID happens because the mind is so traumatized that it splits into all
kinds of alters. The mind just shatters into pieces under all the pressure of
This was a long-believed model for DID, and one still held by many therapists today who have
failed to update themselves with the current understanding of dissociation and identity
development. The Theory of Structural Dissociation states that DID results from a failure to
integrate into one identity, NOT a whole that breaks, shatters or splits. We have a more detailed
(but also very “layman-friendly”) explanation here: You Did Not Shatter.
✘ Myth: DID can develop at any age.
DID only develops in early childhood, no later. Current research suggests before the ages of 6-9
(while other papers list even as early as age 4). Prolonged, repeated trauma later in life
(particularly that which is at the sole control of another person, or breaks down a person’s psyche
and self-perception) can result in Complex PTSD, which does have some overlapping symptoms,
but they WILL NOT develop DID.
It should be noted there are also other dissociative disorders, some that even mirror DID very
closely (OSDD and their subtypes), and age may be a very slight influencing factor in the
lessened alter differentiation and/or amnesia experienced there — but most are quite young for
their trauma as well. And, there are many reasons one may present as an OSDD-type system
instead of a DID system, but they are a conversation for another day! Understanding DID is
tough enough for most! Still, many of these myths will also apply to many of their symptoms,
systems and experiences, too.
✘ Myth: Survivors with DID can switch on demand if needed for a task or
someone just simply asks for them.
Plainly put, this is just not possible. Sure, for some there are moments where they can call upon
certain alters for certain tasks, but there are no guarantees or absolutes (and, for any number of
reasons). When it comes to outsiders trying to call upon parts, this could range anywhere from
“sometimes possible” (particularly in therapy or in extremely safe relationships), to “hit-or-miss”
(depending on the person, their intent, the state of things inside, being triggered forward but not
actually wanting to be there, and so on), to “never” (either because it’s completely inappropriate
and uncalled for, it’s unsafe, they have a highly protective reason for staying inside, they can’t
even hear you, or some other very important reason). Survivors with DID are not a magic
NOTE: DO NOT TRY TO CALL PARTS FORWARD, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT A
TRAINED PROFESSIONAL OR DO NOT HAVE THE SYSTEM’S IMPLICIT PERMISSION
TO TRY IN NECESSARY SITUATIONS. This is a violation of psychological and emotional
✘ Myth: Communication with alters happens by seeing them in front of you
and talking to them just like outside people — a hallucination. (We can thank
The United States of Tara for this one.)
Not so much. This is a very rare, inefficient, and an extremely conspicuous means of
communication. It also relies on a visual hallucination, which is typically a psychotic symptom
that most with DID do not have. However, it IS a possibility, and some do experience this; but
it’s typically due to extreme dissociation and mental visualization that just FEELS incredibly real
on the outside – as opposed to a true external hallucination of an alter. For most, survivors tend
to view and speak to their alters internally — sometimes through thoughts, face-to-face
communication inside the mind in their respective bodies (many have an internal world), or
through “voice” communication heard in the mind. This is why DID diagnoses can so
commonly be mixed up with schizophrenia because these internal conversations can SEEM like
“hearing voices” (especially if you have nothing to compare it to), but they aren’t actual auditory
hallucinations. Instead, DID voices are very “loud” versions of one’s own thoughts (versus, say,
hearing the radio or microwave talk to you, or voices of those whom you know do NOT belong
to you in any way). Alter communication is very much a part of you, even if the thoughts, ideas
and tones of it are considerably different than your own inner monologue.
Other frequent means of communication are things like: journaling, art, post-it notes, online
blogging; and now more commonly things like social media, voice memos, videos, and more.
✘ Myth: Parts in a DID system are all just variations of the host at different
traumatized ages of their life.
Nope. Parts can be any age, gender, or personality type. They can have entirely different
outlooks on the world, faiths, sexual orientations, political views, etc. Many are even associated
with no specific trauma at all but still have a very important and necessary role inside the mind.
Alters are NOT merely “frozen” or “stunted” aspects of the host, marked by when trauma took
place (and trauma “took place” every single day for years for a lot of people). This can happen
for some – and their parts’ names may all even be similar or variations of the survivor’s name –
but even then they typically show a great deal of variation from what the survivor was like at
those ages. Personality differentiation is a hallmark of the condition. Without it, it’s not DID.
✘ Myth: Because ‘x’ person lied about having DID, they’re probably all lying.
Generalizations have never gotten us anywhere in life. Do some people lie about having DID?
Yep. Do some ignorantly use it as a crutch to try and excuse bad behavior? Sure do. Does that
mean the millions who are struggling every day just to go on after an entire childhood of trauma
— who are fighting an uphill battle of perseverance to overcome the sky-high rates of suicide,
while warring with heartless stigma and the lack of access to even basic care — they’re just all
lying? No, no and no. Does it instead make the people who lied the ones we should be
shaming? ..the terrible jerks who appropriated someone else’s suffering for their own gain?
✘ Myth: People with DID will inevitably cheat on you/be unfaithful because
their parts will just go be with someone else.
I know it’s hard to believe, but everyone is different. What one person does, their system does, or
television leads you to believe will be inevitable DOES NOT apply to everyone. Many exist in
highly exclusive, monogamous relationships and instead live in fear themselves of being cheated
on; becoming inadequate, a burden, or dissatisfactory to their partners to the point that they are
the ones to be left. DID survivors tend to be more concerned with just finding a healthy, non-
abusive, communicative relationship than to “go wild” with the “promiscuous alters” (but more
on those later).
✘ Myth: You can treat DID with medication.
There are zero medications to treat DID. There are, however, medications that can be helpful in
managing some of the symptoms of PTSD or other co-occurring disorders. Medications to calm
crippling anxiety, alleviate depression, lessen nightmares, stabilize mood, help with
compulsions, aid in severe insomnia, etc. can all be helpful at various points in a survivor’s
treatment. But nothing exists to help the symptoms associated with DID, and many can even
make them much worse. Be extremely wary of anyone suggesting they can help with your
dissociative symptoms or switching. They are most likely misinformed, or possibly even lying
✘ Myth: Integration is a “must”, or is everyone’s goal in therapy.
As will be a theme here, everyone is different. Integration into one individual identity IS the
goal for some. But it is not, and does not have to be, for everyone. It is possible to achieve full
healing by processing memories, establishing communication across the whole mind, lowering
dissociative barriers, and showing aptitude in all working toward a common goal – without
actually integrating. Others may choose to integrate SOME parts, or “downsize”, but still leave a
small system to go about their life. There are many, many reasons for why someone may choose
any of the above. But integration is NOT a must, and anyone insisting that it is or refuses to
accept your decision to remain distinct, does not have your best interests in mind and heart.
Part Two: Supporters, Therapists/Clinicians and Survivors
✘ Myth: The term alter stands for “alternate personality”, “alternate identity”,
or “alter ego”.
No, it came from “altered state of consciousness”. That’s what extreme dissociation is, an altered
state of consciousness. When you access another part of your mind, an alter, your mind is
operating on a different plane of awareness than it was only a moment ago – feeling different
feelings, accessing different memories, and cognizant of knowledge and information that other
parts of the mind are not.
“Alter ego” has zero relevance in DID whatsoever. It can stay with Beyonce and Fight Club.
✘ Myth: People with DID only have a few alters.
Some can only have a couple or a few, but it’s more common to be in teens and twenties. It’s
also extremely common to only be aware of a few for some time, and then discover many many
more as therapy progresses and it is safe for them to be known by the others. Systems in the 30s
and 40s are not uncommon either. For those with backgrounds of ritual abuse, mind control,
human trafficking or other organized violence, it’s incredibly common to be well past 100 or
even impossible to count. System size does not validate or invalidate a survivor.
✘ Myth: All systems have specific types of alters (i.e. “The Rebel Teen”, “The
Promiscuous Alter”, “The Loving Mother”, “The Adorable Child”, “The
Dreaded Introject”, etc.)
Sure, some do have these alters – and it’s often for good reason and themes that exist in abuse,
and less so because of themes within the disorder. Many will have none of these parts, others
have completely reversed takes on them, and so forth. While it makes for easy book and film-
writing, and some survivors do find themes or similarities within their system and others’, there
is no universal recipe for a DID system. And getting too specific or trying to organize alters into
subtypes can be incredibly damaging and lead to a whole host of new issues (none too dissimilar
to trying to fit regular humans into boxes or “types”).
✘ Myth: All alters will be (or should be) the same gender/race/sexuality as the
As mentioned before, different genders, sexualities, and even races can exist within one system.
Sometimes this happens at complete random, others stem from positive childhood influences,
and other times these changes were bred out of traumatic necessity.
✘ Myth: Inhuman alters are impossible (robots, wolves, ghosts, cats, etc).
Not impossible at all and instead very common. For many children, being a human is scary. It
gets them hurt. Being invisible, incapable of feeling, becoming a scary entity, a loving creature,
a shapeshifter even — these may all feel infinitely safer and more protective. Alters do not come
about by conscious choice. They happen within a child’s mind, through their understanding of
the universe at the time, and whatever seems dramatically safer than what they’re currently going
through. Just as some human alters have no voice to speak, are deaf or blind – these inhuman
alters who may be unable to do some of these very same things are just as valuable and important
as the humans. They are protective, not weird or unbelievable.
✘ Myth: All “littles” are broken and damaged. Or, conversely, all littles are
happy, bubbly kids that hold the survivor’s “innocence”.
Theme here: all humans, systems, and alters are different. Some child parts ARE deeply
traumatized, hardly able to function. While, for others, their kid parts really are the most
innocent, endearing, and happy little souls. But then there is every shade in between. Some
systems have TONS of kids – hundreds even – each vastly different from the other. Happy, sad,
energetic, daring, lonely, scared, adventurous, genius, illiterate, precocious, shy, athletic, girly,
mean, messy, pristine, posturing, infantile, newborns, brave, hidden, exuberant….. the
possibilities are endless in child parts.
✘ Myth: “Introjects” are inherently evil and are just like the abusers in that
The word introject refers to any part who is modeled off an outside individual – mirroring their
characteristics or behavior, sometimes even going by the same name and visual presentation.
These can be positive or negative; some are even fictional characters. (Again, it’s NOT a
conscious process, and it happens within a young, traumatized child’s mind. Pulling from fiction
makes complete sense to children.) While positive or fictional introjects are very much a
possibility, negative/abuser introjects are far more common in DID systems. And, colloquially,
introjects are often talked about in terms of being “the bad guy”. But, it is important to
remember they serve a very valid and important purpose, and they are NOT the actual person.
They are a part within the mind, the survivor’s essence, and are just copying behaviors that were
shown to them because they feel it’s for the system’s own good. Even if they are hurting the
body, or internal system members, they are not “evil” in the same way the real abusers are.
These parts are just very misguided in what they feel to be ultimately protective – especially
when it feels like the exact antithesis.
Introjects can only model these individuals so well because they’ve spent copious amounts of
time with them. And, in the case of abuser introjects, it usually means these parts were
themselves the most abused by that person. But, by “becoming them”, they may keep you stuck
and afraid – which can mean you are far less likely to talk in therapy, tell a family member or
friend, seek justice or file a report, go seeking any more information in your mind, talk to certain
parts inside, and more. ….all things your real abuser would have threatened great harm against
you for if you tried to do them. Introjects’ insults may leave you timid and afraid, so you won’t
“put yourself out there” anymore (which, to them, may be exactly what they feel is necessary to
keep you safe). Even healing or becoming well might feel too threatening or unsafe (for
countless trauma beliefs), and by being a menacing part who terrorizes your mind and body,
you’ll stay safe from whatever those “threats” may be. …even if behaving that way creates new
threats to your safety. Helping them to see this paradox can often be the first step to getting them
to take pause so you can eventually mend. Many of these introjects are actually even extremely
young child parts who are just posturing as this ‘big bad adult’ for some semblance of control
But, it’s important to remember that THEY are not evil; they’re usually just extremely
traumatized and were given a manipulated understanding of safety and/or love. But also YOU as
a whole are not evil just because these parts live inside of you. They are just mimicking
behaviors/thought patterns they’ve seen in someone else for years because they believe they’re
keeping you safe. Most don’t honestly feel any gratification in causing harm nor do they have
any sadistic feelings in their body like real abusers do. There is a dramatic difference between
going-through-the-motions and having true malevolent intent like the REAL bad guys.
✘ Myth: Alters who persecute (via bodily self-harm or harm to other parts
inside) are bad and should be tamed/gotten rid of/ignored/killed/etc.
In a similar vein, most of these parts are doing these things for a reason – a reason they feel is
extremely important or keeps you safer (even if that just means safer from PAIN if they are
profoundly suicidal). It’s important to remember that just because these things may not make
sense to YOU, since you can clearly see all the destruction and harm it’s causing in your regular
life, they aren’t working with the same information, life experiences, or emotional connections to
the world as you. If you were locked in a dissociative barrier for years, only able to pull from a
select number of life experiences (most that were pretty horrible), you might not be the most
empathic or understanding person either. But, moreover, many adopted their concepts of
“safety” when you were a child. ..a traumatized child. They aren’t always going to make sense.
Ignoring them, trying to shut them up or restrain them, punishing them, or any of the various
attempts at “getting rid of them” will not only never work (their needs will only become greater
and louder), but they’ll also become more traumatized as you confirm their every belief about the
world. Also, you can’t “get rid of them” anyway. So, it’s far better to try and understand them.
✘ Myth: You can kill alters.
Even if mock deaths or temporary experiences of alters “dying” from old age or otherwise have
been acted out in some systems, they aren’t actually dying. You cannot kill off a collective part
of the conscious mind like you can a person. Their thoughts, memories, emotions will all still be
there, and so they must be as well. The part may have gone into extreme hiding, been
momentarily immobilized, or merged with another part of the mind, but they most assuredly did
not and can not completely disappear or “be killed”. Moreover, THIS IS EXTREMELY
DANGEROUS AND TRAUMATIC TO EVEN ATTEMPT. Do not do it.
✘ Myth: Alters can’t have their own mental health issues if the main survivor
doesn’t have them.
They actually can, and many do. It’s extremely common for individual alters to battle
depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, eating disorders, self harm, etc. while other members of the
system experience no such thing. Some extremely differentiated systems may even need that
part to come forward and take medication that the rest of the system does not need and will not
get. ..and their brain’s neurology responds accordingly.
One note about some disorders, however. Non-verbal, poor eye contact, savant-like, or sensory-
processing-disorder alters CAN be extremely common in DID systems. However, it’s important
not to just jump to calling these parts “autistic” if the system as a whole is not autistic. It’s
possible for alters to behave in ways that mimic their understanding of SYMPTOMS in disorders
they know about, while not actually possessing the neurology for them. This is a complicated
subject we could try to elaborate more on at some point, but it’s just an encouragement to pause
and not automatically label certain parts as having certain conditions just because they show a
few traits from them. It can cause a great deal of conflation and misrepresentation of those
But, make no mistake, most expressions of mental illness amongst alters are incredibly real and
valid and should be treated as such.
✘ Myth: It’s impossible for alters to have different vision, health conditions,
strengths, and so on. “Those are physical. Even if the mind is different, the body
stays the same.”
Not impossible at all, and instead, extremely normal. We must remember that the mind and
body are extremely connected, but that DID also isn’t just “in the mind”. There are all kinds of
changes that take place neurologically to encourage these harsh separations. Alters can
genuinely operate on entirely different neural pathways of the brain, which then dictate a lot of
what the rest of the body experiences, feels, or tells the organs to do. This may mean allergies to
different foods, different glasses/contacts prescriptions (reading visual input better or worse),
over- or under-production of various hormones, and so forth. The brain is wildly powerful and it
not only dictates how the rest of the body operates, but also how it interprets cues, sensations and
feedback based on which areas of the brain are most engaged at the time. Much of this is still
being studied because it’s so fascinating, but there is no shortage of anecdotal examples as well
as those already existing in current research.
✘ Myth: Anyone can treat a DID patient. All trauma-informed therapists are
capable of seeing a DID client through to healing.
DID is extreeeeemely complex. Even some DID specialists can find themselves frequently
surprised by the endless curveballs or be overwhelmed by the prospect of unforeseen
complications. Most psychological programs that lead to a degree and clinical practice may take
only a week or two max on DID (and the majority of the information is out-of-date anyway).
Trauma-informed care is rare enough, and is something that most passionate MH professionals
must go out of their way to find, and then invest extra time, coursework and continued education
in order to competently treat a trauma survivor. And yet, even they are sometimes not fully
informed on the nuances of dissociation, personality differentiation, system dynamics, common
pitfalls of therapy, memory-processing, or alter integration (if that’s what a patient desires).
These are all absolute musts when it comes to rehabilitating a DID patient. And when daily
safety is often in jeopardy (either due to self-harm, eating disorders, drug/alcohol use, or ongoing
abuse), as well as suicide attempts being very common in this population, there is limited room
for mistake. Additionally, just knowing this reality can be extremely (and justifiably) upsetting
to many therapists, which can leave them anxious, feeling desperate, or becoming very protective
over their clients – which can lead to more accidental mistakes. Specific training in DID, or at
the very least, a sincere dedication to learning about it (and quickly) while working with a
patient, is highly advised. Not just anyone can treat this condition, and trying to while ill-
equipped can be catastrophic.
Part Three: The Bizarre and the Out-There
✘ Myth: People use DID as an excuse to get away with crimes -or- people with
DID can commit all the crimes they want and just blame it on an alter.
Very rarely is this ever used as a criminal plea, and when it is, it’s almost always publicized
because it’s preposterous to most. Despite what Primal Fear may have taught you, no, people
don’t really lie about DID just to get away with crimes (if for no other reason than it’s very easy
to prove they don’t really have the diagnosis nor do they demonstrate any of the behavior
consistently). But, oh wait, there’s an even bigger reason: this is not a viable excuse in a court
of law. DID is NOT insanity. Regardless what any alter does outside of one’s own awareness,
the whole person is still responsible for their crimes and will be persecuted accordingly. If
someone uses that as their defense, it will fail them.
✘ Myth: People with DID are possessed by demons.
This sounds like something to laugh at, but one short gander in DID communities online and you
will find all KINDS of people who firmly believe this and offer unsolicited offers or demands for
survivors to be exorcised. Regardless of your faith, this is NOT what is happening in DID, and
research has provided us with a complete explanation of what IS going on here. Demonic
possession, even if you believe, would not present in such a highly organized, specific, and
intelligent way, while also happening to meet all the criteria for a well-documented mental health
condition. And, attempts at exorcisms, “praying it away”, or even the mere suggestion of
something more sinister existing within them can be so extraordinarily damaging and traumatic
to the already-suffering survivor. It was a somewhat-understandable explanation in like, the
1600 or 1700s — but in 2017, this projection onto survivors who simply switched? Is absolutely
✘ Myth: This is just something the Americans made up.
Patently false. It’s been found worldwide, and some of the leading research in the field has come
from countries that are not the United States.
✘ Myth: DID and schizophrenia are the same thing.
Not even a little bit. There aren’t really even any universally overlapping symptoms from person
to person. Schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative disorder (frequently labeled a psychotic disorder which carries its own unfair stigma to overcome), Dissociative Identity Disorder is a trauma
disorder. It is PREVENTABLE. No medication can make it better.
✘ Myth: Films like Split, Sybil, Three Faces of Eve, and Frankie and
Alice taught me everything I need to know about DID! And, The United States of
Tara is amazing representation!
Shocking that media might be terribly inaccurate, but when it comes to Split, Sybil, Three Faces
of Eve, Frankie and Alice, etc, you would think most are pretty aware that they are garbage.
…..but a quick look around and you’ll find that disproven almost immediately. These films
specifically are not only abysmal representation, but they are actually severely DAMAGING to
the understanding of DID. And, it’s not just the general public who seems unsure. I heard a
mental health professional very recently, who treats both C-PTSD and DID, refer to some of
these as “good” and “informative”. …a reference point for people to consider. So, I wouldn’t say
that knowing just how harmful they are is “a given” even in the MH community, either.
Even when it comes to The United States of Tara, while it is absolutely BETTER than the others,
it is not “good representation” by any stretch. Yes, it did touch on some important topics, but
most of those are moot when it also displayed the most commonly stigmatizing and damaging
tropes in droves and got so dark by the end many with trauma histories couldn’t even finish it. A
simple scroll back through these myths and you’ll find MOST of them in the show. (She was
violent to strangers and abusive to her family, cheated on her husband, was deemed unsafe to be
around children, switches were SUPER dramatic, alter differentiation was absurdly extreme and
predictable characterizations of alters, she introjected a therapist without any traumatic premise
for the addition, sought extremely toxic “therapy” without ever fully defining it as such, safety
was dealt with irresponsibly, and soooo much more.) We could write an entire article on this
(and we may even one day), but for now, let’s just squash the myth that it’s “positive
representation”. I know that as survivors we tend to think of anything that isn’t actively abusing
us as being GREAT!, but just because something isn’t a total disaster or has some redeeming
qualities does not mean that it’s positive. At all. And we shouldn’t accept it as such. USoT is
great for some laughs and entertainment, but it is not good DID representation. We save our
choice words more for films like Split, however — but hey, we still managed to exercise some
restraint while discussing that one in this article here. 🙂
No doubt there are far more myths than this. We encourage you to add some of the most wild
things YOU’VE heard in the comments. What are some misconceptions you’ve held onto or that
you believed when you first heard of the condition? And what are some things you still hear
from those around you or online? …possibly even from clinicians? While none of these are a
laughing matter, and we hope that we’ve educated significantly, it’s still okay to get a laugh from
things now and then, especially when they’re so absurd. If we didn’t, we’d all go a little mad.
We sincerely hope this was very useful to you, and we hope to see you sharing it with anyone
who needs some clarity!