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Portland OR &Vancouver WA

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ITTC Blog

DID, Iatrogenic Trauma, & Healing through Sharing

DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, continues to be a diagnosis that is portrayed incorrectly, misunderstood, and or those living with it can be overtly treated as dishonest by their healthcare providers.  Many have been re-traumatized in the pursuit of treatment (this is the iatrogenic trauma part) and have naturally become concerned about sharing in their experience for these reasons as well as others.  Most people with a dissociative disorder present with anything but DID (usually anxiety is the presenting concern) including mood disorders, addiction, eating disorders, PTSD.  Those living with DID have been diagnosed with all of these in addition to a misdiagnosis of bi-polar or schizophrenia.

Constructs of DID can often be fantastical; the greatest irony in this is that it is a very well-hidden disorder effecting 1-3% of the US population (if you do the math, that’s a lot of people!).  It is not an extremely “rare” condition as many believe (for example, 2.6% of the population has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder within a 12-month range; up to 3.6% within a lifetime range).  Bi-polar exists as frequently, can effect behavior significantly, and is not contested as an illness.  I think the difference likely lies within the cause (DID is caused by trauma, whereas bi-polar disorder is an organic illness).  I could be bold and suggest this is another form of blaming those who have endured unbelievable adversity…perhaps I will be bold and suggest that.

The irony is that DID is an extremely well-hidden experience; considering this is the purpose behind dissociation (to protect ourselves from overwhelming experiences and to hide our pain from others in order to function); it is very atypical to work with someone with DID who also overtly displays or discusses their internal life.  Because hiding has become so necessary, including within the field of mental health, the intricacies of this gift (yes, this is how I think of it because not everyone has the capacity to protect themselves in this way) are a very private experience.  The details are rarely shared with anyone but a trusted therapist, a very close loved one, or maybe a friend or two (maybe…).

The power of groups and connecting with others who share in your experience is known to be powerful.  In an effort to provide an opportunity for people with DID to share in their experience, ITTC offers a bi-weekly group for those with DID who want to be supported by and be supportive of others who understand.  The group is mostly unstructured but is facilitated; the primary purpose is to create a safe space to share in experience.  All participants are required to be actively involved in individual therapy.

The group occurs every other Monday @ 3pm.  Contact athena@traumacenternw.com for further details.