Did you know that it is not necessary to have total amnesia for the actions of alter personalities in Dissociative Identity Disorder?
The main types of amnesia in DID are:
1) gaps in memory of significant life events (e.g., periods of childhood or adolescence; the death of a grandparent, getting married, giving birth);
2) lapses in dependable memory (e.g., of what happened today, of well-leamed skills such as how to do their job, use a computer, read, drive); and
3) discovery of evidence of their everyday actions and tasks that they don’t recollect doing (e.g., finding unexplained objects in their shopping bags or their possessions; finding perplexing writings or drawings that they must have created; discovering injuries; “coming to” in the midst of doing something).
Dissociative fugues, where the person travels when in a dissociated state, are common, e.g, suddenly finding themselves at the beach, at work, in a night club, or in a strange place at home (e.g., in the closet, on a sofa, in the corner) with no memory of how they got there.
Amnesia is not limited to stressful/traumatic events; often everyday events can’t be remembered.
Many people minimize their amnestic symptoms, although some amnestic behaviours may be apparent to others— e.g., a persons does not recall something they were seen to have done or said, can’t remember their own name, or don’t recognize their spouse, children, or close friends.
Adapted from DSM-5, p293
Diagnostic criteria for amnesia:
B. Recurrent gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic events that are inconsistent with ordinary forgetting. DSM-5
However, many people with DID suffer from amnesia when they switch to an alter state. Yesterday I switched to my ‘Mother Alter’ for over an hour. I am in the Clinic at Burwood at the moment and the nurse who was attending to me was unable to bring me out of the dissociative state. She eventually got my psychologist who did an exercise called Back of the Head Scale which he did with me and it worked and I switched back to my present day self. I had no recollection of the hour I had been in the alter state. I was unable to tell them anything I had said or done. The nurse had to tell me everything I had said. It is very discombobulating and disconcerting indeed to loose a whole hour of your life and not remember any of it. I am terrified of what I must say and do. I know the ‘Mother Alter’ is a very unpleasant personality so I can only imagine what she said wasn’t too nice and I was right!!!!
The psychologist is trying to teach me Co-Presence where the present day me is still present when an alter switches. We are having some success under controlled circumstances in therapy. If we can achieve it in all the time it would help enormously in reducing the self-harm and suicide attempts as I would have a lot more control over what is going on without the alters taking over. It’s going to take a lot of practice and skill but so far so good.
If you need support join our Private and Closed online Facebook Group for Child Abuse Survivors and those with CPTSD. Click here to join.