Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is defined as the co-existence of two or more distinct experiences of identity within the same body, accompanied by amnesia for important personal information. Its cause has been well established as trauma in childhood, usually prolonged and severe.
Children are not born with a unified sense of self. They are, however, born with an innate ability to detect when they are being harmed. When they are faced at early stages of development with overwhelming or life threatening experiences, especially at the hands of caregivers, the normal integrated function of safe attachment is impossible and so a disordered and non-integrated, or dissociative response results.
For more about what it’s like to live with DID, or to know someone with DID, please see the Personal Stories section.
DID is diagnosed primarily through clinical observation, and then measured and verified to some degree by testing. A number of scales (inventories that patients fill out) exist including the Dissociative Experiences Scale, and the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule.
Markers of DID, such as possession, have arguably been recorded throughout human history. Detailed observations of it as a psychological condition go back to the 18th century. Please see the history section for more details, including an overview of the famed “controversy” surrounding the condition.
Dissociative experiences were once thought to exist on a scale of intensity and included such phenomena as divided attention and hypnotic trance. However, recent research is beginning to show that these, especially in comparison with DID at the extreme end of the scale, may be distinct experiences.
Advances in neuro-imaging are helping bring what was once relegated to the soft sciences, empirical, observable, experiential, and therefore subjective, into a more hard science realm. Hard science is seen as less assailable, and so, for that movement, the Diva is grateful. We are real.