Dissociative Identity Disorder: Part 2/2

Today, author Robin E. Mason concludes her two part series on Dissociative Identity Disorder. You can find Part I here

The problem with DID is identifying it. Patients often live with DID for several years before they seek treatment. Even then, they may go through an extensive process of elimination before it is properly and correctly identified. The difficulty lies in that its symptoms are parallel to other mental and emotional disorders, and include:

  •      Depression, suicidal tendencies
  •        Mood swings
  •        Flashbacks, memory problems, selective loss of memory
  •      Insomnia, night terrors, sleep walking
  •      Anxiety, panic attacks, phobias
  •      Alchohol and drug abuse – it is interesting to note that DID is not cause bysubstance abuse, but may, in fact, trigger it.
  •      Disorientation and confusion
  •      Compulsions and rituals – OCD behavior
  •          Auditory and visual hallucinations
  •       Eating disorders

Perhaps the hallmark symptom of DID is its fugue states: periods of time, from minutes to days, in which an individual has no memory of events, or of time itself.  Different personalities, or alters, will surface in specific circumstances. Each alter splinters off for that purpose, to cope with various life events. The consensus theory on the cause of DID is extreme childhood trauma, usually associated with sexual abuse. Triggers can be a visual setting, a voice, photo, food – any stimuli that brings unwanted memories to surface. It is at this point an alter steps in to cover for the host or primary personality. Typically the host has no memory of what his or her alter does. Alter personalities, however, mostly are aware of other alters and their actions.
Treatment for DID is found through long-term psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and/or art, music or movement therapies. The objective, of course, is to integrate the alters into a singular and whole – multidimensional – person.  As DID is not physiologically induced, there is no medication to treat it. However, accompanying disorders like depression or anxiety may be treated with medication and thus alleviate some of the DID symptoms or triggers.
There is some school of thought that DID is not legitimate, but is iatrogenic, or that it is created by suggestion of the therapist. However, brain imaging studies have provided evidence of physiological changes in some patients.

As for Sybil, some question arose at the authenticity of her diagnosis. Dr. Wilbur was accused of falsifying her findings. At one point, Sybil, whose real name was Shirley Mason, admitted to making the whole thing up. She later recanted that admission.

It seems to me that whatever Dr. Wilbur’s motivations were, Sybil’s story was not entirely untrue If, on one extreme, the whole thing was the wild creation of her and Dr. Wilbur, that speaks of something horribly wrong – which would then be another issue and sickness. We will never know if what happened in her childhood triggered panic attacks and black-outs. I believe there was truth in her story, 10% or 100%, I can’t say. I believe it stirred an interest in the condition, and in turn childhood abuse.

Previously, I said I learned why Sybil’s story intrigued me. Not because of sexual molestation, because I wasn’t. And not because I ever suffered DID, because I haven’t. But something about her dark childhood rang true with me, however different that might have been. I felt that I was in a dark hole, unwanted, unwelcome, and unloved. In that, I can identify with Sybil. And in that, my fascination with DID and crises of identity. I know now, too, that I am whole, I am wanted, and I am loved.


Robin Mason lives in upstate South Carolina where she began writing as self-proscribed therapy in 1995. Life threw a few (dozen) (thousand) hiccups and curve balls, and she got serious about working on her debut novel, Tessa, in 2013. Robin’s greatest priority and highest calling is to honor God in all she does, especially with the talents and abilities He’s given her. Like writing.

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