Guide: Dissociative Identity Disorder (Also known as Multiple Personality Disorder)
I was actually surprised to see there weren’t any full guides on this that I could find! So like I said earlier this is the first in a series of guides on how to play characters with psychological disorders. Just as a disclaimer, I am not an expert on this I’ve just studied this in school and have a fascination and genuine interest in it. I do not mean to insult anyone with said disorder and if you find something offensive please message me and I will remove it immediately.
What is D.I.D
Dissociative personality disorder is a mental illness in which a person experiences at least two clear identities or personality states. These different states are also referred to as alters and maintain consistent attitudes and opinions. To break it down simply, a person suffering from this disorder has at least two different people in their head. The main personality maintains control the majority of the time however in times of stress or high emotion such as fear the other personalities can present themselves. When an alter takes control they become that person, they are aware the base personality exists and typically have varying emotions toward it. These alters are typically created during childhood as a way of coping with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Each alter exists as a way of coping, so one alter may want to protect the base personality from being harmed while the other represents the self resentment and wants to harm the body and base personality. These alters can range from male to female and be of any age, they can range from violent to innocent and from five years old to eighty. Everyone with D.I.D is affected differently by the disorder and when playing them there are many angles you can take with your writing to make exciting and dynamic story lines.
How to Approach In Writing:
Playing a character who has a “spilt personality” or Dissociative identity disorder can be tricky. You should decide how severe the disorder is and how “hollywood” you want to make it. What I mean by that is often in real life disorders like this are less dramatic but in movies and on t.v the alternate personality is often an antagonist. Most people in real life living with D.I.D don’t worry about their alternates going off and killing others or doing something diabolical, while it is possible the alternates are more likely to do self harm. In hollywood the alternates are usually some form of evil character who is completely opposite from the main personality. This can be very interesting but again its not every realistic. It is your choice whether you want to play it more realistic or more dramatic, I personally believe it can be interesting either way.
To break it down
- Hollywood Perspective: If you choose to take more of a hollywood take on your character’s disorder than I would suggest maybe watching some hollywood takes on it (i.e Nicky on Heroes). You have some flexibility with how dynamic the alter is. In most cases the alter is the antagonist in said characters life. They are typically complete opposites of your character and have their own separate goals and ambitions. If you have a flare for the dramatics than this approach is probably right for you, however I caution to try and make it original and not just make it stereotypical.
- Realistic Perspective: Realistically, some one with D.I.D does not have such dramatic alters however in severe cases it is possible. Not all alter’s are violent some people have quite innocent and shy alternate personalities who can even be presented as children. This would be a very unique take in your writing, if you are willing to take a risk with your character maybe a realistic approach is right for you.
Now that you have concluded the path you want to go down and how you want to approach the disorder you need to do your research, maybe even watch a documentary on some one with the disorder. I actually found a fascinating one about a woman who had seven different personalities.
Questions to ask yourself when involving the Alter In Writing:
Approach the para logically and keep in mind how you want your character to grow or even regress through out it. Why is the alternate there? Is it harmful or is it a friend? Does your character want and like this alternate or do they feel out of control? Ask yourself some of these questions so you can get a grip on what you want to accomplish. Develop how your character deals with the alternate, do they hear them in their head? How do they react when the alternate speaks to them? Do they mind when they take over? In most cases a black out occurs when an alter takes over, how does your character deal with that?
There are many interesting angles you can take from this, I suggest that you try not to make it too stereotypical and add your own twist to it. It is fiction afterall so combining real facts with your own creativity can really bring a character to life. Add dynamics and confusion, maybe your character likes when their alternate deals with the emotional trauma but at the same time feels out of control. Don’t be afraid to take risks and add some edge to your character!
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