How to Support a Loved One With Dissociative Identity Disorder
Supporting a friend with any type of mental health condition can be daunting and even difficult at times. You worry you might say something wrong, upset them or somehow make them more unwell.
You don’t need to worry and you most certainly don’t need to be an expert.
When supporting a friend or a loved one, compassion, care and an understanding approach is key. Be open-minded, be curious and don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. They may not know how you can support them, but at least they know you care and that you are willing and wanting to be there.
With dissociative identity disorder (DID) still not being prevalent or spoken about often, it can be a scary prospect to find out that someone you know and love has this condition — especially since Hollywood loves to demonize those with DID and turn them into ax-wielding violent criminals with multiple personalities. Not helpful, Hollywood!
Here are a few things you can do to support someone with DID:
1. If an alter has chosen to come forward and present as themselves, more than likely they feel comfortable with you. They may even trust you and want to get to know you. Have a chat and feel privileged they have trusted you enough — trust is not an easy thing for those with a traumatic past.
2. Be willing to listen, interact and have an open mind regarding everyone’s experiences. Each alter will have different life experiences; they may not have experienced things others have and visa versa. Understand this and respect their experiences.
3. Do not judge. For someone to develop DID, they will have been through such horrific and traumatic experiences that the last thing they need is someone judging how their incredible brain has managed to keep them alive.
4. Don’t be scared. It is much more likely for someone with DID to harm themselves than it is to ever hurt someone else, due to their often traumatic childhoods. If a young alter may appear, it may catch you off-guard; it may worry you a little, but all you have to do is accept it, ask if they want to watch a movie or play or anything else you may ask a small child. This is what they are; they are a part of the person trapped at that young age.
Just be kind. Just be supportive. Just be you.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Getty Images photo via Roseborland