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Dissociative Identity Disorder Awareness Day March 5

Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder is highly stigmatized, but awareness efforts are making it more well known and accepted amongst mental health professionals as well as the general public.

Predominantly caused by severe repeated childhood trauma dissociation is a marvelously brilliant survival mechanism that our minds are capable of to protect a child when no one else did. When long term child abuse occurs before the age of 7 - 9 while a child is still developing, it prevents the child from fully integrating into a single self-state. Because the child did not get comfort or soothing, the different identities hold specific memories so that the child can function without being aware of other identities. This mechanism of coping becomes what a child does to survive and be able to function while being abused it follows them into adulthood. Those with the condition struggle with life altering symptoms like depersonalization, derealization, detachment from emotions, addictions, self harm, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, as well as PTSD, anxiety and depression. DID Awareness Day was first observed in 2012 organized by Ivory Garden, a non profit organization to raise awareness and provide support to survivors of trauma and abuse and is now recognized by advocacy groups, mental health organizations, and individuals throughout the world. Observance of this day is to increase awareness, educate and teach about DID to promote a greater understanding and I would like to honor those who have the response AND acknowledge the challenges that each of them face. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding this mental health diagnosis along with being highly stigmatized and misunderstood.

Myth #1. Dissociative Identity Disorder is extremely rare. Truth: DID affects approximately 2 - 3% of the general population. Myth #2. People with DID are violent. Truth: People with DID are no more violent than the general population.

Myth #3. Movies portraying DID are true. |Truth: Movies such as Sybil, Split, and other movies may get some aspects of the disorder correct, but some of the symptoms shown are inaccurate. Much of what is shown in the movies is exaggerated and fictional to make the movie entertaining with a shock value more than to accurately describe the disorder. Some movies depicting multiple personality show kidnapping, murder, and make it look like someone with DID is violent or unsafe to be around. Switching between different alters usually doesn’t occur as dramatically as is shown in the media. The negative stereotypes of having DID perpetuated by Hollywood and TV may even discourage people from getting help for fear of being judged or labeled as crazy.

The hardest thing for me in accepting a diagnosis of DID was coming to terms with the reason for having it; the trauma that I had blocked out. It actually helped in that it made sense of something I experienced because now there was a name for it. Individuals with DID have a history of severe childhood abuse which is how the condition develops. As a survivor with DID, I want to raise awareness, but also do what I can to reduce the significant stigma and discrimination surrounding the condition, making sure that those who have DID receive the care, support and resources they deserve. I want to make a difference in the quality of lives of survivors, to offer hope and encouragement, so that symptoms can be better managed, to teach the skills I have learned for coping, so that they can go on to learn how to thrive with DID instead of just survive.

There needs to be more effective diagnosis and treatment as many people with DID may not be receiving the treatment or support that they need. Many individuals are misdiagnosed for an average of 7 to 10 years ine mental health system and may be diagnosed with depression or anxiety that can cause delays in proper treatment and worsening symptoms. DID has a significant impact on the person’s life including problems with mood, memory, work, school, relationships and performance. Effective treatment can increase the overall functionality and make a marked improvement in their lives. Treatment of DID can be a difficult process and has been a long road for me. I welcome the opportunity to share about DID even on days that are not awareness days. I hope to empower those with the condition to learn to accept and love themselves just the way they are, to find their voices, and to share their story with others. Those parts of us who hold what happened to us are courageous and brave and are our heroes. If it were not for them we would not have survived the abuse we went through.

People with DID are warriors and heroes courageously braving their way to recover from the trauma and abuse they have been subjected to and who are making the world a better place by treating their inside and outside people with the kindness and love that they were not given. By facing their truths, fighting for their freedom, they are willing to look at the injustices that were done to them and to others like them. They are strong, determined people who are speaking out, and paving the way for others by making their homes, their children and their corner of the world a safer place. By defying abuser groups, sharing their stories, finding their voices, speaking out, raising awareness, and teaching others the truth and facts about abuse, DID can become more accepted, more understood and those with DID can learn to embrace their humanity, knowing they're not really that different from anyone else and go on to live more wholeheartedly even with dissociative identity.

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Celebrating DID every day!

Sharri Burggraaf
Sharri Burggraaf

It is better to celebrate DID every day and not just one day or one month of the year. I agree!!!!

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