How Dissociative Identity Disorder Affects Daily Life and How You Can Help
It can be difficult to understand how dissociative identity disorder affects daily life. However, by learning more about it, you can begin to imagine the challenges. Living with DID is not only stressful for the person at the center of it—it is also stressful for the family. Find out how you can be helpful now by showing receptive support and by helping your loved one get life-changing clinical care as soon as possible.
What is it really like living with multiple identities or alters? Tristan says, “It frustrates me when people try to tell me my alters aren’t real. Even if they’re just trying to make me feel better, I end up feeling more alone and misunderstood. My alters are me. How could they not be real?”
It’s difficult to understand for someone on the outside. But the more we know about how dissociative identity disorder affects daily life, the better we can support someone who suffers with it.
Treatment goes a long way to helping a person integrate the distinct parts of themselves, develop supportive resources, and practice coping skills that really work. But over the long term, they are going to be discovering how the benefits of treatment really weave into daily life. And having understanding family members and friends will be critical in this continuing recovery journey.
Understand How Dissociative Identity Disorder Affects Daily Life
For people like Tristan who cope with dissociative identity disorder every day, their reality of selfhood is different from what the rest of us typically experience. At different points throughout the day or the week or the month, they see, feel, understand, and interact with the world through more than one identity. In a way, their “alters” take turns living their life. The various identities usually have unique names, personalities, voices, interests, genders, even ways of dressing.
At some point in their past, an experience was too intense, overwhelming, or painful, and their mind adapted by withdrawing and compartmentalizing certain sensitive parts of itself. It dissociated. It was intended as a way to protect the whole person, but this coping mechanism basically ruptured a complete consciousness so that they understand themselves as being a system of various individuals. And the mind is not in a position to reintegrate these different identities without help.
Some people with DID are aware that they have this disorder and that the various versions of themselves take turns living different moments and stretches of their days. Other people are not aware of the wider perspective and live out their days confused and destabilized by this disintegration. One very important truth is that these alternate personalities are all critical aspects of the original individual. When a person is able to gain a clearer perspective and some helpful coping skills, their alters may work together as a cooperative system. One personality might be best at interpersonal skills, another at organizational skills, and another at leadership, for example. So, they can manage life situations by compartmentalizing certain responsibilities.
But it isn’t always the case that a person’s system of alters is awake and prepared enough to cooperate. If the individual isn’t even aware that they are living with this disorder, it can be extremely destabilizing to endure a rollercoaster of personalities and thoughts and behaviors. The unpredictable patterns and inability to cope can severely upset relationships, school and job opportunities, and basic life responsibilities. And an individual’s sense of self is far from grounded in this distressing scenario. They may be at risk of other problems and disorders, too, as they struggle through their days.
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What Can You Do to Help Someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder?
People with dissociative identity disorders likely already feel isolated and alone in their suffering. One of the first things you can do is to help them feel supported and understood. Even if you can’t quite know what they are going through, you can be patient and receptive to the range of their experiences. When this person is living through the lens of an alternate personality that is unfamiliar to you, remember that this is still your loved one, and help them to feel accepted and supported regardless.
While your ongoing support is indispensable, you will not be able to help them through recovery on your own. This is a disorder that requires knowledgeable clinical attention and proven treatment options for lasting recovery. It is very possible with comprehensive treatment for someone to learn to integrate their alternate identities and significantly mitigate their dissociative symptoms. Not only was there an initial traumatic episode that provoked their severe dissociation, but there has also been trauma and pain resulting from the distressing symptoms that followed. Only an experienced therapist can help guide this individual to a harmonious sense of self and healthy coping strategies.
The realities of dissociative identity disorder are understandably stressful for the family as well as for the person at the center of it. Early treatment is the best assurance for a successful recovery. Residential treatment, in particular, allows an individual to be immersed in healing practices and perspective. It will take time to develop therapeutic alliances, healthier coping skills, and a productive relationship with their stored trauma. All of these important layers of treatment can pave the way to reintegrating the self. A residential treatment center can inspire harmony among the selves within a single person, as well as among the individuals within their family community. And you can be an integral part of that journey.
If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental health illnesses and co-occurring disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.