The following is an excerpt from the book I wrote with my friend, Carolyn Hamlett, “Doctrines of Demons: Exposing Christian Witchcraft.”
Direct link to read this chapter of the book online:
⇒ Important: Please read my disclaimers.
An Overview to Understanding Dissociation and D.I.D. 1
Dissociation: the state of being separate from association or union with another. Synonyms: separation, detachment, severance, split, segregation, division. 2
In psychology: dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. It can range from any wide array of experiences from mild detachment (daydreaming) to severe (dissociative disorders).
Dissociative Disorders: characterized by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory. It involves problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self.
There are three types of dissociative disorders:
● Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
● Dissociative amnesia
● Depersonalization/derealization disorder
There are different levels of dissociation, and everyone dissociates to a degree. If you have ever been driving down the road and find yourself pulling into your driveway without any memory of actually driving, you have experienced what is commonly called “highway hypnosis.” This is a mild form of dissociation. Daydreaming is also a mild form of dissociation.
Where dissociation can become a problem is when it is persistent and interferes with everyday life. This usually takes place under extreme and persistent trauma or prolonged stress. An individual can dissociate as a coping or defensive mechanism, and if the stress or trauma persists, the individual can develop a trauma disorder, such as PTSD, or a dissociative disorder, such as DID.
DID — What It Is
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was previously known as MPD, or, Multiple Personality Disorder. Those with dissociative disorders can have other diagnosable mental health problems at the same time, with PTSD being the most common.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of dissociative identity disorder (criteria for diagnosis) include:
● The existence of two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”). The distinct identities are accompanied by changes in behavior, memory and thinking. The signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
● Ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events.
● The symptoms cause significant distress or problems in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.
Individuals with varying degrees of DID often refer to the dissociative parts of them as “alters, parts, others,” or similar terms.
When another part of them takes control of the physical body or conscious mind, this is usually called “switching.”
The dissociative individual who has DID can also sometimes, but not always, be aware of an “inside world” that is part of their system. The system consists of the safe and unsafe parts of their inside world (often created either subconsciously, or, in cases of TBMC, through programming), as well as all the alters that stay there when they aren’t taking full or partial control of the body.
DID — What It Is Not
1. DID is not imaginary friends or an “inner child.”
2. DID is not demon possession.3
3. DID is not a mental illness or a psychosis.
4. DID is not genetic, although some research indicates that the ability to dissociate can be genetic.
Causes of DID
Although there is some debate and disagreements within the DID community, professionals generally seem to agree that DID is most often caused by persistent and extreme trauma at an early age. The child, unable to physically remove themselves from harm, psychologically dissociates from the abusive environment.
There is evidence that suggests children under the age of seven, when exposed to repeated, overwhelming trauma, are more likely to develop DID than an adult, given the same set of circumstances. However, once a child has begun to implement this extreme form of dissociation, he or she will be able to split off new identities at any subsequent age.
Some examples of persistent and/or extreme trauma can include:
1. ongoing physical and/or sexual abuse
2. psychological trauma and/or neglect
3. ongoing war environment
4. sadistic or satanic ritual abuse (SRA), also referred to as ritual abuse (RA)
5. trauma-based mind control programming (TBMC)
Basically, dissociation is a coping and defense mechanism that an individual instinctively employs in order to survive trauma. This dissociation, when persistent, can develop into the condition known as DID. So what starts off as a helpful coping mechanism, eventually turns into a disorder, becoming an involuntary lifestyle and the exclusive or chief coping strategy the person has available to them
Symptoms — What DID Looks Like
Although a multiple (a person with DID) may act differently in different situations, depending upon which alter is “out” (participating in external life), you would likely never know the difference between a non-dissociative person and a multiple. This is because most people with DID work very hard at hiding their condition from others.
For example, Sara may normally be quiet and reserved, but when her alter, Lori, is out or closer to the front of the consciousness, she is slightly more outgoing and talkative. The non-dissociative individual may attribute this difference in attitude to mood changes, but with a multiple, it’s not necessarily just a “mood change.” Or, Sara may enjoy cooking, but her alter, Tony, may not be nearly as proficient at cooking as Sara.
The American Psychiatric Association writes:
“The attitude and personal preferences (for example, about food, activities, clothes) of a person with dissociative identity disorder may suddenly shift and then shift back. The identities happen involuntarily and are unwanted and cause distress. People with dissociative identity disorder may feel that they have suddenly become observers of their own speech and actions, or their bodies may feel different (e.g., like a small child, like the opposite gender, huge and muscular).
“The Sidran Institute notes that a person with dissociative identity disorder “feels as if she has within her two or more entities, each with its own way of thinking and remembering about herself and her life. It is important to keep in mind that although these alternate states may feel or appear to be very different, they are all manifestations of a single, whole person.” Other names used to describe these alternate states including “alternate personalities,” “alters,” “states of consciousness” and “identities.”
“For people with dissociative identity disorder, the extent of problems functioning can vary widely, from minimal to significant problems. People often try to minimize the impact of their symptoms.”
Differences between alters can be discreet or extreme, but for the most part, the inexperienced non-dissociative person would likely not notice any difference in behavior, or may dismiss any deviation that is apparent. But basically speaking, alters have various personalities, and these differences may be more or less noticeable, depending upon the person or situation. Besides personality distinctions, the differences between alters can also include:
1. religious preferences
2. values or philosophies
4. emotional responses
6. levels of learning or special abilities
7. perceived age, race, or nationality
8. perceived gender identity and/or sexual orientation
9. some alters may view themselves as being an angel, demon, or other spiritual being, as well as an animal or an inanimate object (such a rock, a gem, or a box).
10. some alters may even believe they are dead.
11. they may see their own physical features as different, even though the outside looks the same (e.g. weight or hair color)
12. they may have a different name, or no name at all
13. they have different roles or functions
→ Important to Note:
1. Not every alter goes by a different name. It’s just as common for each alter to respond to the same name.
2. The level of awareness between alters varies from person to person, depending upon many factors, including severity of dissociation.
Levels of Awareness
In trying to explain levels of awareness, the co-author, Loren, likes to use a car as an example to explain the way dissociation works for her. She heard someone else use this analogy, and while this may not be the way every dissociative person would describe the process for them, and neither is this analogy perfect, Loren feels it works well enough to help the average, non-dissociative person understand the process a little better.
The “car” represents the body of the person with D.I.D. and there are many different people (alters) riding in the car. In this car is a driver’s seat, a front passenger seat, a back seat for additional passengers, and a trunk. The driver is the one who is in control of the body. Usually this is me, the host alter (in other words, the one who most often participates in everyday life). But when a switch occurs, another part of me takes over, and I am pushed to either the front passenger seat, the back passenger seat, or the trunk. These different spots are levels of awareness.
When I am pushed to the side passenger seat of this analogous vehicle, I am mostly aware of what is happening and being said, but I have no control over it and limited understanding. Grabbing control of the driver’s seat is easier, however, when I’m closer to the front.
When I am in the back passenger seat, I can be vaguely aware things are happening, but little to no understanding, and everything seems much farther away. My physical senses are dull and taking control of the situation is much harder.
While it rarely happens any more as an adult (it was much more common as a child), sometimes I switch and find myself locked in the trunk of the car. I call this a “hard-switch,” and I am not aware of anything at all. I am not able to regain control until another part of me unlocks the trunk and pulls me out, gradually placing me back into the driver’s seat.
Symptoms — What DID Feels Like
Most multiples would likely agree the goal is to be able to live a normal life, without being incapacitated by symptoms. With time and counseling, symptoms can lessen significantly. People with dissociative disorders may experience some or all of the following:
● Mood swings
○ usually brought on by a switch, or by the stress of the switch
○accompanied by changes in awareness, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, or ethics and morals (this is indicative of a switch)
● Suicidal thoughts or attempts
● Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors, and sleepwalking)
● PTSD symptoms, such as:
○ panic attacks
○ hyper vigilance
○ exaggerated startle response
○ flashbacks of the trauma, including physical, sexual, mental and/or emotional trauma
● Phobias (these can be reactions to reminders of the trauma)
● Attempts to cope with the trauma in other ways, rather than dissociation, including:
○ alcohol and drug abuse
○ eating disorders
○ compulsions and rituals
○ other self-sabotaging behaviors
● Headaches (sudden, sharp headaches can be indicative of a switch, but not everyone who has sudden, sharp headaches has a dissociative disorder)
● Amnesia or time loss
● Trances or out-of-body experiences
● Some people with dissociative disorders experience the following:
○ violence (both self-inflicted, as in self-harming, and outwardly directed)
None of these symptoms in and of themselves indicate the individual has DID. This is not a list to self-diagnose. But they are just some of the symptoms that people who do have DID most often deal with on a regular basis.
Furthermore, not every multiple will deal with the same issues. For instance, not everyone has problems with violent or self-harming behaviors (like cutting themselves). Not every dissociative individual has drug or alcohol addictions, and many have no eating disorders, compulsions, or rituals. But the above items are a broad list of issues that are common among many people with dissociative disorders.
1Aside from the personal experiences of the authors, professional sources include:
- Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders. (2013, October 14). Web.www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders.
- Dissociative Disorders. (n.d.). Web. www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders.
- What Are Dissociative Disorders? (2016, January). Web.www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders.
3The alters or parts of a person are not demons; however, those with DID are just as vulnerable as anyone else to being controlled or possessed by the demonic. Perhaps the argument could be made that those who have DID are more vulnerable to demonic possession, but this is something we will neither agree nor disagree with. It all depends upon the individual situation, and we’ve seen plenty of non-dissociative individuals purposefully open themselves up to the demonic, so we will not engage in the “blame game.” The more important thing is to stop blaming the victim (the survivor of trauma), and starthelping. Stop accusing and dismissing those with DID as being demon possessed, and help them focus on the One who has the solution to the problem: our Heavenly Father.