How to Act Toward Someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Опубликовал Admin
28-05-2019, 09:00
Updated: March 28, 2019 Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, can be a debilitating and frightening illness for both the person with DID and others in that person's life. DID is characterized by the development of alternative self-states or identities. It is a controversial disorder, so people with DID may suffer extreme stigma. Treat a person with DID with compassion to promote wellness.

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

  1. Know the symptoms. DID is characterized by the presence of alternate identities, often referred to as alters. These identities are often complex, with their own unique histories and physical and behavioral traits. For example, an adult may have a child alter. You may notice changes in voice and physical movement, in addition to changes of attitude and preferences. As different alters present, the person may report loss of memory or a sense of lost time, as he or she may not be aware when an alter is present. Moving between alters is referred to as "switching"
    • People with DID may also experience anxiety, depression, self-harm, sleep disturbances, and/or drug and alcohol abuse.
    • Severity of symptoms varies greatly among individuals.
  2. Suspend your judgement. People experiencing mental disorders often do not seek or comply with treatment because of stigma associated with being mentally ill. This may be particularly true for people with DID, as it isn't universally accepted as a disorder, despite its inclusion in the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describing diagnostic criteria for all mental disorders. Avoid contributing to the shame and embarrassment a person with DID may already feel.
    • Acknowledge how difficult it must be to manage the reactions of others. This will show you understand the complexity of living with a mental disorder.
  3. Ask questions, if you are familiar with the person. Is the individual is a friend or family member, ask about his or her experiences to show you care. Strangers may feel very uncomfortable with questions about their mental health, so do not pry.
    • Ask how he or she feels before and after "switching" to get a better understanding of his or her experience.
    • Express empathy by recognizing how frightening, confusing, and frustrating these experiences must be.

Supporting a Person with Dissociative Identity Disorder

  1. Just be there. Shame and stigma often lead people with mental disorders to feel very isolated. Help the person maintain a healthy relationship by actively engaging with him or her. You don't need to discuss DID. In fact, it may be better to spend time together not discussing the disorder. This may help him or her to feel "normal."
    • Try scheduling a weekly date to make sure you maintain regular contact.
    • Find an activity you can do together to focus your discussion on something other than DID.
  2. Join a support group. Support groups are great ways to find others who share similar experiences. Suggest you start attending a support group together to show support.
    • DID is pretty uncommon, so you may not be able to find a support group specific to that disorder in your area. Large cities may have groups designated for Dissociative Disorders but in smaller towns, you may need to look for support groups dedicated to mental health in general.
    • If you can't find a support group in your area, consider joining an online support group.
  3. Be an advocate. Show the person you care and want to support him or her by joining an advocacy group. This will provide further education and opportunity for you to feel helpful.
    • Encourage the person to join with you. Participating with an advocacy group may help him or her better understand his or her social experiences and overcome stigma.

Managing Switching

  1. Help a person with DID avoid triggers. Trauma is comma among people with DID, and dissociation is generally associated with severe emotional stress. This means intense emotions may trigger "switching." To help a person with DID avoid switching, help them stay calm in stressful situations. If you see an encounter is becoming emotionally charged, it is best not to make a big deal of it.
    • Drugs and alcohol may also trigger "switching," so discourage use.
    • Avoid asking questions of other alters if the person does switch because this could be dangerous.
  2. Introduce yourself. If you are present when an alter presents the alter may or may not know you. In the event an alter does not know you, the person may be confused or frightened. Help put the person at ease by introducing yourself and explain how you know him or her.
    • If the person with DID happens to be a spouse, you may want to avoid introducing yourself as a husband or wife with some altars. For example, a child alter may be respond as very confused and an alter of a different gender may become upset by the implications of sexual identification.
  3. Encourage treatment compliance. Treatment for DID typically includes regular counseling and lifestyle changes. People who experience depression and/or anxiety may also be treated with prescription medication. Treatment must be followed to be effective, so support the persons efforts to comply.
    • Encourage the person to attend counseling by offering to go with him or her.
    • Lifestyle changes usually involve eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. You can encourage adherence to these lifestyle changes by adopting them yourself, at least while you are with the person being treated.
    • Suggest the person set an alarm to remind him or her to take medication as directed.
    • If the person indicates he or she is non-compliant or is thinking about becoming noncompliant, urge him or her to speak to his or her doctor about treatment options.


  • Physical health contributes to mental health, so encourage a healthy diet and regular exercise.


  • Suddenly stopping some medications may be dangerous. Encourage anyone considering stopping medication to consult their physician first.
  • If you are concerned the person may harm him or herself or others, get help immediately.
  • Recreational drugs and alcohol may increase frequency and severity of symptoms and should be avoided.
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