FAQ: “Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?”

True story: some people say “no”.

They usually have opinions based on misguided movies or psych articles from the 80s, and they aren’t professionals. You should treat them the same way you treat climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers: they can be your friend, but you wouldn’t want one as your doctor.

On the other hand, a huge number of mental health professionals say “yes”. In any part of the world where mental health is studied, dissociative disorders are reported. The US, India, China, Europe, Russia, Canada, South Africa, and more. A lot more. It’s not a western trend and it existed long before the internet.

That said, I still run into people a few times a week online that are sure DID isn’t real. These are the most common arguments I see.

There’s no measurable sciency proof.

Actually, there is! Ah-hah!

Several studies show measurable differences between the brains of people with DID and those without. Automatic brain responses – that’s the responses you can’t control or trigger yourself – vary in patients with DID based on which parts are present for the test. The study is really interesting and it’s been repeated, showing that Apparent Normal Parts and Emotional Parts react to triggers with completely different sections of the brain. To double down, in this study they tried to induce these responses in people without the condition. They couldn’t.

Studies also show that patients with DID have smaller hippocampal and amygdalar glands, and larger putamen and pallidum volumes. I don’t know what those are, but this guy does.

There are several international, peer reviewed, measurable sciency studies that confirm dissociative disorders exists, and none (as far as I know) that present a scientifically-validated alternate theory.

Patients are subconsciously copying a movie or book.

Maybe, but it’s rare. Factitious disorder (where you pretend to be chronically or abnormally ill) is a serious mental health condition, but there’s no statistical correlation between it and DID.

The most noticeable behavioral difference between the two is that people with factitious disorder desperately want medical attention. Most people with DID dread therapy, are phobic towards doctors and hospitals, and will ignore or hide serious health problems. The shame is often so strong that patients dissociate at the idea they might have a trauma-related problem.

Therapists trick people into thinking it’s real.

Many people who say DID is fake actually mean that DID is iatrogenic, that is, a condition created by medical treatment like therapy. The thing is, I’ve yet to meet somebody that went to therapy and started hearing voices.

Most of us go because the voices are already there.

The book and movies “Sybil” are based on the story of Shirley Mason, a woman diagnosed with DID. Her case wasn’t fake, but it was an example of an iatrogenic disorder: her doctor used hypnosis and a drug called pentothal, among other things, and she went along with it. She confessed before she passed away and the follow up book is an interesting look at psychiatric misconduct and iatrogenic disorders.

It’s a conspiracy! Only a handful of therapists diagnose it.

Cool story fam, but it needs more facts. A guy called Mersky claimed this in 1995, but presented no evidence. At the time his book was printed there were 10,000 psychiatrists in North America who had independently diagnosed the condition. And tons more around the world.

Honestly, we could do this for days. People resistant to the condition being real are misguided, have some kind of objective, or are letting their emotions drive rather than their brain.

In most cases they’ve just watched too much bad TV.


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