If you’ve been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID), you probably went to a mental health care professional because you knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. You may be shocked and frightened to learn you have a condition that used to be known as multiple personality disorder. You may be thinking of movies like “Sybil” and thinking that you aren’t like that. Most of all, you may be wondering what the future holds for you.
At the same time, part of you may be feeling relieved. It really was a relief to me to find out that my condition had a name, that there were professionals that knew what it was and how to treat it, and that I could find support groups where I could meet other people with similar experiences.
Accepting the Diagnosis
You may have trouble accepting the diagnosis. Ask your mental health care professional to explain how she decided on the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder and share your thoughts about it with her. It might help to attend a support group or find a group online where you can talk to other people that have DID. Give yourself some time to find out what the diagnosis will mean to you and how it will affect your life.
Most people with DID need professional help at some point in order to cope with their condition. Look for a therapist that has experience treating people with DID; not all do and some even don’t believe the condition exists at all. If you need more intensive treatment, there are a number of inpatient treatment centers that specialize in treating DID across the country, including Forest View Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Del Amo Hospital in Torrance, California; McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts; and Shepherd Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
Telling People and Seeking Support
You may be wondering who you should tell about your diagnosis and how people will react when you tell them. It’s important to find people you can count on for support but you don’t have to tell everyone you know. Tell the people you trust the most. You might even want to take a few close friends or family members to a therapy session with you; your therapist can give them more information about your condition. Let friends and family members know what they can do to support you. You might want to join a support group for people with DID, too, to get some advice and support from people that know what it’s like to live with the condition.
Learning to Live with the Condition
Learning that you have DID may explain some things in your life, like why you sometimes have periods of amnesia or sometimes feel like a child or sometimes react to things in odd ways. But getting an accurate diagnosis does more than provide you with an explanation; it allows you to start finding ways to cope with those kinds of issues in your life. There are specific strategies you can learn and practice to deal with the various problems that DID may cause in your life. A good therapist can help you begin to identify coping strategies. There are also some good books out there for people with DID, like Amongst Ourselves by Tracy Alderman and Karen Marshall. A support group can also help you find real-life strategies for coping with this disorder.
Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder).
Alderman, Tracy and Karen Marshall. Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. 1998.