How to Support Someone With Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) can be isolating. Stigma and media portrayal of DID keeps many of us quiet about our disorder and shame is an inherent part of DID. So, when we do open up, people around us often don’t know what to do or what to say, how to interact without upsetting us. Family members who were not involved may also feel guilt and confusion as to why they didn’t see the signs of trauma in their loved one.
This is a list of 10 things you can do to help your friend or loved one with dissociative identity disorder feel less alone and more accepted.
1. Support your friend or family member with unconditional love and an open mind.
2. Watch for things that are obviously upsetting to your loved one and try to avoid doing them when possible.
3. Ask questions as needed, but back off if asked to or if it is obviously causing stress.
4. Understand to the best of your ability, and try to educate yourself if you feel you are in over your head.
5. Find a support group for significant others of people with DID or general mental illness — online works. (Btw, I personally hate that term — I don’t feel like we have an illness, but rather a very successful but relatively unique way to survive and relate to the world.)
6. Go with the flow. Relate, to the best of your ability, to whoever is with you at the time. If you are suddenly faced with a very young insider, use small words, short sentences and offer age appropriate activities. A game of Risk with a 5-year-old will just frustrate the child, even if it is in an adult body. Frustration will likely lead to a switch to someone else inside to deal with the frustration.
7. Use the terminology that the person with DID uses. If they grimace when you say a word or ask you not to use certain words, don’t use them.
8. Respect their space, both boundaries in life and in personal space. A person may back up when you come near or shrug off touch. Don’t push it; they’ll let you know when they feel comfortable or safe enough for you to move to the next level in their boundaries.
9. If a person looks confused in the middle of the conversation and can’t follow it, switch subjects or backtrack a little. There may have been a switch you didn’t catch mid-conversation (or sentence) or there may be inner or outside stimulation you are not aware of making it hard to concentrate/follow.
10. There are lots of things you probably already do right — that’s why you have been allowed into the inner circle and know about the DID at all. Be natural, respectful and honest; you will do just fine.
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