Somebody found my blog by Googling the question, “How do you know you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)”? I think this is a great topic to cover, although it is not so easy to answer.
From a clinical standpoint, you have to meet the criteria outlined here. However, that is for diagnosing DID from an outward perspective, not an inward one, so I, personally, find this definition to be limited.
For me, the first red flag was feeling my face change. For a couple of years before coming to terms with having DID, I would feel my face change as I was lying in my bed at night trying to fall asleep. It felt like somebody was “stepping into my face.” My facial features felt more angular and simply did not “fit.”
Also, whenever I felt someone “step into my face,” I felt as if “I” was being pushed back from my face. It is hard to explain the feeling. It is like a thin layer of cold fog was separating me from my face. I could still see out of my own eyes, but I felt very disconnected from my face.
My second red flag was experiencing “loud thoughts” that did not originate from “me.” This is not the same thing as “hearing voices.” For example, I would be having sex with my husband, and I would suddenly have the thought, “If you keep your eyes closed, they all feel the same.” However, “I” was not thinking this at all.
My third red flag was when I stayed co-present while another alter part took over. This happened when my mother/abuser told me that she had gone into my then-two-year-old son’s bedroom during the night. This is not something that would have bothered “me,” but it triggered an alter part, who took over. I was along for the ride as my body picked up my child, slammed the door, and asked him repeatedly if “that crazy woman” had hurt him. My mind became flooded with deep pain and terror, and my body wept. However, “I” was simply observing all of this from a corner of my head, thinking WTF??
My fourth red flag was the realization that I had numerous holes in my memory. I had always prided myself in having a good memory because I had a few very vivid memories from a young age. However, when I actually sat down and tried to recall basic events, such as Christmas morning, I found no memories at all. In fact, I could not even recall any Christmas memories with either parent through age 23. That is clearly not normal.
My final red flag was acknowledging that my moods could change rapidly when I became upset. I used to joke that I had the world’s longest fuse. I would let other people walk all over me most of the time. However, occasionally, out of nowhere, I would become very assertive, but I had no idea where this strength came from. Once I recognized that I had DID, I realized that this was an alter part taking over.
It is not easy to recognize DID in yourself. However, when you are ready to begin healing, the amnestic barrier will begin to melt, and you will start to notice red flags.
If you suspect that you have DID, don’t panic. People with DID are intelligent, extremely strong and resourceful, and caring. You are going to be okay. You can heal from DID, just as I have.
- Trauma Thursday: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the Traumatized Adopted Child
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- Trauma Tuesday: Dissociative Disorders and the Traumatized Adopted Child
Photo Credit: Lynda Bernhardt