Disclosing Dissociative Identity Disorder

September 13, 2010 Holly Gray

I Can't Tell You I Have DID. You Don't Understand.

I no longer hide the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder. The major players in my life know I have DID. When it comes up in conversation, when not mentioning my diagnosis would require lying or warping the truth, I tell people I have DID. It's a new way of living for me and it's teaching me a lot about myself and others. One of the most surprising things I've discovered is that just as there are assumptions about DID in the general public, there are assumptions about the general public in the multiple community. Those assumptions obscure the potential for acceptance and support, and create barriers to understanding dissociative disorders.

[caption id="attachment_432" align="aligncenter" width="364" caption="Photo by anna gutermuth"]Photo by anna gutermuth[/caption]

I Can't Tell You Because ...

Most people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have at least one story about mistreatment because of their disorder. We exchange these stories in support groups and online. They justifiably frighten, anger, and humiliate us. They bear witness to the sometimes devastatingly painful consequences of disclosure and we tuck them away as reminders of what can happen if we tell. And because acceptance and support are rarely as dramatic and emotionally potent as rejection and cruelty, the painful stories loom larger and foster assumptions that preclude greater understanding of dissociative disorders. We think you don't understand. And that's part of the reason you often don't.

You Don't Understand Because ...

  • You don't believe it. I've no doubt many people have a hard time swallowing the idea of Dissociative Identity Disorder. But part of that is likely due to the reputation entertainment media has created for DID. If everything I knew about DID came from Sybil, The Three Faces of Eve, and crime dramas, I'd be hard pressed to believe in the disorder myself. With limited information that's designed to titillate rather than educate, it's no surprise that there's a lack of acceptance of the very existence of DID. That lack of acceptance creates reluctance to share legitimate information about dissociative disorders. Which in turn leaves disbelief unchallenged. It's a self-perpetuating cycle. You don't understand because I can't tell you. And I can't tell you because you don't understand.
  • You don't get it. Dissociative Identity Disorder is complex and confusing, even - perhaps especially - to those that live with it. People that don't cannot know what it feels like to have DID. But do they really need to? I have a friend with Bipolar Disorder. And though I can't put myself in her shoes, I can relate to pieces of the bipolar experience. She knows I don't understand. But it's only because she chooses to tell me about some of her struggles that I am able to offer support.

Telling Others About DID

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that outing yourself as someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is a pre-requisite to broadening understanding of it. But cutting people some slack probably is. It's awfully difficult to accept and understand, even to a limited degree, a disorder that's as veiled in secrecy as DID is.

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APA Reference
Gray, H. (2010, September 13). Disclosing Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Holly Gray

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