Dissociative Identity Disorder is characterized by someone who has more than one distinct personality states which are present at different times. The person usually has no cognitive recollection of what occurs while the other personality was active. I personally have a fascinating relationship with close friend who is diagnosed with DID, and it has played a major role in his life, testimony, and the friendship I have with him. This relationship is the top contributing factor to my interest in DID. The study of DID is exceedingly important to the field psychology and for the benefit of those who have been diagnosed. Such research on this disorder can append our knowledge about the brain as well as other similar psychological disorders. In addition, there have been times where people have feigned having this disorder in attempt to escape the trial of wrongdoings, and more research will help prevent that from happening. Particularly, however, DID is an issue many people around the world must cope with. This research essay will examine successful and unsuccessful methods of counseling as well as the use of religious coping for DID patients.
Prior to discussing coping mechanisms for those with DID, it is important to understand what it is like for someone to live daily life with it. I will provide a brief description based on an interview with my friend mentioned earlier, who is diagnosed with DID, and point out anything worth taking note of. On the outside, Elijah (*name changed for privacy) does not seem to be any different from others. Underneath the surface, however, reside two alternate personalities: Caleb and another who is Elijah has not named. When Elijah is faced with certain situations that require bravery, conformability, or boldness, traits he does not consider himself to have, Caleb takes the light. Unlike Elijah, Caleb can fit in in many different crowds, is confident, and lacks fear in doing many things Elijah wouldn’t dare do. In addition, each personality has distinct hobbies, senses of humor, and mannerisms – clearly making them separate from one another. The third personality is usually dormant, but tends to be unpredictable, selfish, and dangerous to others. For Elijah, living with other personalities is no simple task. Keeping friends is a struggle, forming different beliefs between each personality can cause internal conflict, and support is extremely hard to find. Not only this, but he cannot always control which personality is present even if he wants to. Though not all DID patients’ diagnoses are exactly like Elijah’s, they each usually have their own difficulties and are benefitted through methods of coping.
Counseling is common form of therapeutic coping and is something people from across the board utilize in effort to sort through personal struggles and disorders. It is highly recommended by DID researchers that patients seek counseling in their efforts to cope, no matter how challenging or easy their disorder may pose to be for them. Lamerial Jacobson and associates (2015) performed research on DID participants to discover which counseling methods acted to be most effective or ineffective. Effective approaches and techniques for therapy stated by the participants included but are not limited to a secure structure, recovery programs/support groups, the identification and assignment of alternate personalities, and relationship building (p. 311-312). A consistent structure for a therapy program can give a patient confidence and trust in their therapist, which usually allows for openness and vulnerability when conversing about one’s own self. Relationship building, especially with other DID patients, is also to beneficial to most. Having others (who are going through the same difficulties) acts as an excellent facet for communication and allows one to move away from loneliness and feel understood. In the same study, it was found that there are certain traits counselors can exemplify to best help patients. These include “empathy, engagement, validation, genuineness, proper experience…” (Jacobson, 2015, 316). Anything opposite of these are attributed as negative qualities for a therapist to have. Overall, coping through counseling is highly effective when done wisely by the counselor and approached openly by the patient.
Seeking out religion as a person with DID can prove to be very beneficial to oneself or potentially negative depending on one’s experience. Unfortunately, 74% of DID cases are positively correlated to physical abuse, sexual abuse, or both. Coping with these past experiences is often one of the greatest obstacles for patients to overcome (Bell, 2015, p. 152-153). This statistic is something religion could help with, raising only a few concerns. Many religious groups, especially Christianity, teach and implore forgiveness. DID patients as well as others with traumatic pasts have the potential of being turned away or poorly impacted by religion because they feel judged or refuse to apply forgiveness to those who may have hurt them. Others, however, are greatly benefitted by doing so. When seeking religion, many DID patients experience internal conflict between personalities. For example, Elijah had a strong desire to attend church and form a relationship with God, whereas Caleb originally refused. One personality may want to do something that another does not, and the situation can be complicated. Later in Elijah’s case, nevertheless, Caleb’s mind was able to be changed and eventually found God. A great number of DID patients experience internal conflicts, self-doubt, insecurity, little motivation, lack of hope, depression, and countless other beliefs and emotions considered to be negative. Positive religion is proven to bring about change in each of these beliefs. A common theme in Christianity is the idea that as humans, we often place our identity in things that don’t “bring life” or are “temporary”. As someone with multiple personalities and identities, this can be either confusing or incredibly helpful. Hope Bell (2015) explains that religion, church membership, prayer, and the presence of faith are all proven to have a high chance of bringing healing (mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) to those who have previously been sexually abused, distressed, mentally ill, or suicidal. This healing is seen substantially in DID patients experiencing these issues (p. 153-154). To say the least, religion can be an astounding coping mechanism for DID patients despite a few slight concerns.
Each person, including those who are not diagnosed with a disorder, can be benefited by therapy of some sort. In addition, religion is proven to be a predominantly successful strategy for coping with obstacles life may hold. For those with Dissociative Identity Disorder, coping with different dilemmas (whether it be internal or external) that the disorder brings is sagacious and healthy. Approaching such coping methods must be done with caution, however, in order to prevent the effects being negative. Little is known about the disorder, but future research will surely allow for new conclusions and an increased understanding of DID.