Reducing the Impact of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is often misunderstood and can be easily missed—or misdiagnosed—by experts. While many of us have come to believe that folks with DID jump between personas and personalities, a very small portion of those with the condition actually exhibit this behavior. The fact that symptoms can be easily missed without proper training can lead experts to treat the accompanying conditions, but not DID itself.

So, if dissociative identity disorder is rarely outwardly expressed, how can we support those who are silently battling the condition? How can we better understand DID to help destigmatize it and its co-occurring mental conditions?

Audience Questions

Dr. Milissa Kaufman explains the symptoms and impact of dissociative identity disorder, highlights why it may be difficult to recognize DID, and answers audience questions about tips for coping with dissociative disorders.

  • What is dissociative identity disorder and how do you define it?
  • Why is DID so underrecognized and/or misdiagnosed?
  • If folks with DID aren’t exhibiting “personality switching” as often or as blatantly as they’ve been portrayed (think, Me, Myself & Irene; United States of Tara), what are the most common symptoms of the condition?
  • How does DID differ from other dissociative disorders?
  • If DID goes unaddressed, what is the potential day-to-day impact of dissociative identity disorder?
  • How can providers be more cognizant of symptoms of DID? What types of trainings are available for clinicians and other healthcare providers?
  • Can you give an overview of how practitioners approach their work in treating DID?
  • Someone I care for deeply has recently been diagnosed with DID. How can I support them in their journey for treatment? Should I also be joining for their psychotherapy sessions?
  • How can a provider differentiate between an acute stress disorder, PTSD, or DID if these three conditions all have dissociative symptoms?
  • Besides trauma, what other conditions may be diagnosed alongside DID? Are there some conditions that are more common than others?
  • DID is often missed and diagnosed as other disorders. What disorders is it confused with/misdiagnosed as?
  • It is not uncommon for me, a clinician, to diagnose other specified dissociative disorders for those who have dissociation impacting function (ex. walks into grocery store, doesn’t remember much until they get home and are delighted somehow ice cream made it into their cart.) Should I be looking harder for DID?
  • Can a person have false memories with dissociative amnesia (for example, they think they were somewhere they were not or had an experience they did not have)?
  • How can we help a young adult get help, especially someone who has had traumatic experiences in traditional clinical environments as a teen?
  • With mental health TikTok, the idea of “dissociation” is trending on social media and a lot of college students are using the term more widely. What are some basic ways to suss out true dissociation and to talk about the difference between clinical dissociation and other experiences?
  • Can you talk about functional multiplicity and final fusion, and what these terms mean and how they relate to DID?
  • For children who dissociate as a strategy to cope with trauma, can they “outgrow” or let go of this strategy as they transition to adulthood and avoid the development of DID?
  • Are there treatments to address dissociation to prevent the development of DID?
  • How does one differentiate between DID and intrusive thoughts from psychosis or OCD?
  • What are some of the more popular forms of therapy to treat DID?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Kaufman

Milissa Kaufman, MD, PhD, is the medical director at McLean Hospital’s Hill Center, a clinical program specializing in the treatment of PTSD. She is also the director of McLean’s Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program, which focuses on women with experiences of childhood trauma.

Dr. Kaufman’s group aims to identify and understand the brain mechanisms, cognitions, and genes contributing to PTSD and DID and how they relate to both dysfunction and resilience in these disorders.

Learn more about Dr. Kaufman

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Originally aired on August 12, 2021