Seen on Fillmore at Haight

Ten Bad Ways to Treat a Friend with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Seen on Fillmore at Haight
                         Respect Boundaries

You say you dearly love someone who has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Here are ten actions to avoid.

I base this information on my experience of DID and the problems I have met in my attempts to have friendships with other people.

This list may not apply to everyone with DID.

1. Do not condescend. Condescension is not love and I notice it in a flash. One of the best lines I have ever heard sums this up humorously: I’m mental, not stupid.

2. If you know what the triggers are, don’t mess with them. Your friend’s mind is not a toy or a private freak show.

3. If your friend is triggered and tells you that he needs a time out; don’t take it personally. I call a time out when I feel overwhelmed and confused. It is my way of protecting my friendships. Don’t take it personally and don’t insist on making contact.

4. Respect the alternates and expect them to emerge. It comes with the territory.

5. Do not act in ways that foster the split. The worst thing you can do to someone with DID is play favorites. There is only one person. You have no right to use someone’s illness for emotional or sexual satisfaction.

6. Do not foster dependency. Your friend must learn to stand on his own. Be there if he falls, but encourage independence.

7. The child alters are sweet, but your friend is not a child. Do not buy toys for a child alter. This fosters the split and is counter therapeutic. Appealing to the dissociative child when you know it is wrong is abusive.

8. If you are honestly baffled by his behavior or feel threatened, call his psychiatrist. If his psychiatrist doesn’t have permission to talk with you, he can still listen. If you had a friend in the middle of a heart attack, would you leave in a huff? If a person with DID is suddenly destabilized and potentially harmful to himself and others call his doctor.

9. Expect your friend to have rigid boundaries and respect them. He may not know how to set his boundaries differently and he may react badly to actions that feel intrusive to him but seem natural to you. NEVER enter his space without an invitation.

10. Don’t expect a friend who is in psychotherapy for Dissociative Identity Disorder to ‘be there for you.” Expect him to do his best but therapy is difficult, painful and requires emotional energy. Make sure that you have other friends and other outlets for your own emotional needs.

One last comment:

If you are playing games with his illness and behaving in ways designed to worsen his symptoms, expect him to ban you from his life. This means that he’s getting better.

Consider going into therapy to explore why you need an emotionally dependent cripple as a best friend.

RG 2015

Blog for Mental Health 2015mhwgmember2015

36 thoughts on “Ten Bad Ways to Treat a Friend with Dissociative Identity Disorder

    1. Many people think that it’s acceptable to treat people with mental illnesses with contempt. Consider that as a nation we casually send people with mental illness to live on the street. You have no idea how that kind of stigma affects everyone in our culture. We must see what homelessness is and end it as a cruel and unusual punishment that we inflict on the mentally ill because so many people wrongly believe that mental illness is a choice that deserves to be punished.

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  1. Very eye-opening. Thank you. And yes, I have discovered these things myself. And I broke a few rules at first, not noticing the bigger picture until I got to know them.

    Actually, I never know which person I am talking to until I listen closely to the tone of his voice. One of them actually speaks in grunts, so I am trying to learn grunts.

    Thank you again for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You wrote: “Actually, I never know which person I am talking to until I listen closely to the tone of his voice. One of them actually speaks in grunts, so I am trying to learn grunts.”

      That is exactly what my partner says. He senses a change but never quite knows what it is. I used to worry that I ‘acted’ like the alternates; I was appalled by the thought of behaving like a woman when Sara is out…but my partner says that the changes are very subtle and most of them have to do with a shift in emotional tone and voice. He says that my voice is softer but not really feminine. What he finds feminine is the ‘processing’. Sara will often come out to ‘process’ emotions. My partner calls these moments our ‘Lesbian moments’…no offense intended to lesbians. Thank you for leaving a comment that supports so much of what I’ve been writing. I appreciate them and thank you for reading my blog.

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    1. Thank you for your visit, comment and reblog. I hope my post helps other people with DID…but more than that, I hope that it helps to erode the stigma that gives mental health professionals permission to question the reality of this problem.

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  2. Your list is compelling on lots of levels. But it’s so sad how little people (myself absolutely included) know about this illness. I am aghast at some of the things you’ve listed in thinking that there are people cruel enough to even consider doing them. Well-written post and I hope it helps people learn how to be more human and humane.

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    1. Thank you for reading my blog…Sadly, I am drawn to malignant narcissists the way flies are drawn to–umm–honey. In the mind of the malignant narcissist an emotionally dependent hostage is the closest they get to love. They’re sad people and death to those who are vulnerable and not strong enough to break away. Thank you for reading my blog and leaving a comment.

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    1. I think that most of these rules go for being friends with anyone who is learning to cope with a mental illness. I don’t know why it surprises me to discover that there are people who see a person with a mental illness a a potential hostage. It is the most bizarre thing to discover that I’ve trusted someone who is working against my attempt to heal…the tell-tale sign is the gas lighting; the attempt to turn a normal reaction to seeing the truth into some kind of offense. I have to stop myself from diving into the black and white thinking of “good” and “evil”.

      ..it’s mostly just sad and sadly pathological, but that doesn’t make the anger at being toyed with go away.

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      1. I don’t think the vast majority of people realize how manipulative they are. Their defense mechanisms are in play and they don’t even know it.
        I wish you more self-actualized people 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Dear Billy…. and commented:

    This is a must-read. I don’t know many people with DID, but I feel what is in here applies to how you deal with any person suffering from a neurobiological or mental health disorder. I myself wish I’d read something like this back in the days when I had no idea what was going on with me, but had friends with such problems. Incredibly true and useful. Please go through to original poster for comments and feedback too.

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  4. This is wonderful and incredibly helpful. The only person I know specifically with DID is you but I feel that this applies to all sufferers of a mental health condition or a neurobiological disorder. Most of it certainly applies to me, even the aspects of personality (I am pretty sure when I was younger I was going through Borderline Personality Disorder, and I know what it feels like to have someone pull out, draw out the aspect of you that most appeals to them :/) and I would like my friends to read it. It also applies to myself when dealing with friends who were in trouble and I didn’t know enough about this stuff for my own but also for their sake. Short sweet and to the point, thank you. (I will attempt to share but nobody in my physical life reads my stuff anymore!! :D)

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    1. One important factoid I’ve learned is that people with DID are often misdiagnosed with rapid cycling Bi-Polar illness or with borderline personality disorder. The secret to sussing out what’s really going on is this: medications either don’t work or work inconsistently. (different alternates have different reactions to medications) and behavioral interventions such as DBT work very well for people with borderline personality disorder but only work inconsistently for people with DID which is why CBT and DBT are adjudicative treatments for DID and not the primary treatment.

      Obviously when an illness disrupts memory the alternate that learns DBT is the only alternate that learns DBT.

      If you’ve tried everything and nothing ‘really’ works it is not unreasonable to expect a mental health professional to assess you for DID.

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      1. When I was younger, my symptoms were far more severe. I have a tattoo that is meant to say “Come tu mi vuoi”, from a play by Pirandello, Italian author, a play about changing yourself completely into a new person depending on who you were facing. I had delusions and psychotic events I didn’t know were such (of course). My memory of childhood is almost nil asides from photograph-related incidents until the age of about ten, and even that is foggy. New stuff is coming back bit by bit and is not pretty. However, I feel that after my first child was born it all became more like Bipolar, without the psychosis. So what I hope to do now once I get in the mental health assessment process, is to get diagnosed retroactively and now and see what is happening and (my greatest fear of all) how and what will I be likely to relapse in. I will most certainly bring up DID as one of the possibilities, at least for the past, if that’s even possible. I definitely feel the past was more Borderline Personality Disorder WITH the social anxiety and bipolar as part of it all. I have always been terrified of being “sectioned” as they say in England (forced into hospital, give up all your citizen rights). That fear is partly what has always led me to keep moving, and keep my “crazy” to myself, stay away from people, keep me careful.

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      2. The only way to get past the stigma is for us to do exactly what we are doing. We are not criminals, most of us would not be homeless if we were not systematically reduced to poverty, we are not “chronic, we’re not “behaviors,” and we’re not parasites, laggards, lazy and malingering. In fact, most of these shootings would not happen if we had a fully funded mental health system that treated people when they need it instead of placing obstacles in our way and reducing our pain to not thinking nice thoughts.
        |

        It gets really confusing with all of the labels…I’m in no position to diagnose you–but we now know that dissociative disorders are real…not doing a rule out of DID in your case is negligence; especially since so much of what you describe is so consistent with what I’ve seen in the literature on DID—And a psychiatrist who “doesn’t know about DID” should have his license revoked.

        Here is how I feel about mandatory hospitalization: I’m really sorry that rich families produce bastards who tried to have their parents and grannies locked up to get their money but the solution of shutting down the hospitals and making it impossible to get people that are clearly too ill to get treatment is idiotic if not evil. There are worse things than being hospitalized; especially when the illness affects insight and judgment.

        If I am destructively ill and unable to see it then I say hospitalize me. The idea of making me homeless to “protect” my civil rights strikes me as stupid-

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  5. Thank you Rob
    The post was informative and is straight forward. Your ability to explain the effects of Mental Illness. The time I’ve spent hospitalized/out patient ECT, I believe DID is the unknown. I like to be familiar with other Mental Illnesses. I know hospitalization is in my future and being aware of how others act helps me know what I can/can’t do. You’re the first person who has brought DID to my attention. I don’t understand everything but more than before I met you. Schizoaffective/Schizophrenia are illnesses I have observed while hospitalized but do not understand beyond basic level.
    Everyone who has Mental Illness has the potential to reach a level of hurting themselves or others.
    With all the advocacy for Mental Illness, the masses or family members just don’t get it. Mental Illnesses are very complex like DID.
    I truly appreciate your openness, you’re real experiences and an place where people can learn if they want to.
    Thank you Rob
    🙂
    M

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    1. Thank you. The way I see it is this: As long as I can articulate the experience of having DID in way the helps people to understand that it isn’t some strange and exotic fabrication I must. In this way I am strong and in my world the strong are supposed to protect those who are not strong in the same way. For me the world is not divided into “weak and strong”…In my world people are strong in different ways.

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  6. Thanks for this advice. I sense a theme here: respect. Respect the person with DID (or any other mental illness); respect the difficulties of being in therapy; respect the boundaries of that person, their psychiatrist’s professional boundaries, and the alternates; respect the illness as serious and not something to be played with. I appreciate how you’re so open here and helping your readers to better understand DID; I’ve learned a lot.

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  7. Bless this whole post. A close friend got diagnosed last year and I found out later and am constantly trying to learn and educate myself for their sake. Genuine love does that — we try to learn how to best support and respect them. Anything else is unacceptable. Great post!

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  8. I follow several people on here with dissociation. I am learning a bit and find it confusing at best. I can’t imagine how you feel. I will try to not offend anyone.

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    1. You strike me as sensitive to mental health problems; even though each of us has a different constellation of symptoms the nuts and bolts are the same. We are vulnerable to the same stigma and there really are people out there who would love us literally to death. Thank you for reading my blog and for being concerned.

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