Questions & AnswersDissociation & Dissociative Disorders

QUESTION: What are dissociative disorders?

ANSWER: The essential feature of the dissociative disorders is that they involve a disturbance in the integrative functions of identity, memory and/or consciousness. People can dissociate (block from memory) events, emotions and/or bodily sensations. Dissociation can be thought of along a spectrum ranging from normal dissociation, Dissociatve Amnesia (Fugue states), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (technically classified as an anxiety disorder), atypical dissociative disorders (called Dissociative Disorders Not Otherwsie Specified or DDNOS) and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
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QUESTION: Aren't all people dissociative?

ANSWER: To some extent, yes. For example, most people have experienced moments of "highway hypnosis" where they lose track of time while they drive. As with most things, dissociation is only a problem when it interferes with a person's ability to function and/or sense of well-being.
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QUESTION: I don't lose time and yet I have an awareness of inner "parts". Is it possible to have DID and not lose time?

ANSWER: I believe that everyone has parts -- it's just that most of us aren't aware of them. Some professionals would diagnose individuals who are aware of their parts (i.e., "co-conscious") as having DID and others would give them a different diagnosis. However, treatment for both types of individuals is very similar.
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QUESTION: Is hearing voices a symptom of DID?

ANSWER: It can be. Clinician's often differentiate between hearing voices inside your head vs. hearing voices outside your head. People with dissociative disorders are more likely to report hearing voices inside their heads.
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QUESTION: What's the difference between Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)?

ANSWER: Multiple Personality Disorder is the older term for Dissociative Identity Disorder.
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QUESTION: I have DID and one of my alters is totally evil and controls pretty much everything. How do I get rid of a part like that?

ANSWER: Getting rid of a part usually isn't the best approach. All parts of us, whether we have DID or not, have our best interests at heart. This can be hard to see with a part that's evil and/or destructive. However, what often happens is that we develop parts inside to mimic those people who abused us when we were young. The rationale for creating this kind of part is usually unconscious. One possibility, though, is that if you're like the abuser, the abuser might be more likely to leave you alone. A better approach in therapy is usually to try to get all parts to understand, accept and respect one another. Each has important strengths, even when that's not apparent at first.
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QUESTION: Is integration necessary in the treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder?

ANSWER: Not always. What's crucial is for the inner parts to find ways to get along and work together. Once this has been accomplished, some people choose to integrate and others don't. There's not a right or wrong.
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QUESTION: I have severe headaches and I've read that that's often a symptom of DID. Is that true?

ANSWER: It can be, yes. However, there are many, many causes of headaches — most of them physical — so I'd suggest discussing the headaches with your doctor first. If you don't have any of the other symptoms of DID, chances are the headaches are a symptom of something different.
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QUESTION: What's the best kind of therapy for Dissociative Identity Disorder

ANSWER: Therapy for DID, as with therapy for most disorders, is a highly individual thing. The important thing is to find a therapist who will work with you to find the treatment approach that works best for you. Therapy for clients with dissociative disorders is typically long and involved and trust is extremely important, so spending a little extra time to find just the right therapist for you will be well worth the extra effort.