Disassociation and depersonalization are one of the most controversial topics in the field of psychology. Let’s start with the basics and define some terms. Depersonalization is when your mind becomes disconnected from your body in such a fashion so that you feel as if you are watching yourself
from afar. Literally, your mind and body have the feeling of separation. Disassociation is similar in the sense that you become disconnected, but instead of your body becoming detached from you, your mind does instead. Imagine being in a trance state, where everything feels like a dream. Have you ever smoked pot? It’s like that. Your mind is foggy and you don’t feel mentally present at all. Your mind may wander to other places. Daydreaming, if you will. Now there’s the ever complicated concept and diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and used in slang terms as “split” or “dual” personalities, this is (as of the DSM 5, 2013) considered a dissociative disorder. Split personalities? Multiple personalities? How is this dissociative? Well, think about it. You, as your mind, becomes dissociated from your body by way of disappearing (for lack of a better word), and in place, another “you” comes into place, but you have no control of it. This other “you” is now controlling your body and you no longer are connected to your body.
So here comes the sob story (should I put in a trigger warning?): I am one of the very few known people that suffer from depersonalization and DID. I’ve been called a liar, faker, actor, but actually, in a moment where I’ve become triggered (usually anxiety, or a situation in which my alters feel they need to be present), I blackout and my entire persona changes. How I talk, sit, stand, act towards others, treat others, my morals, etc., all disappear and are replaced by an entirely different set. These are just some components of what makes up a personality. Personality theorists (this is from what I learned from taking Psychology of Personality) tend to loosely define personality as a set of traits that are consistent across time and situations.
As I’ve progressed through many years of therapy and self-reflection, I’ve become very open about this topic because most people don’t realize that this disorder is real, despite that many psychologists do not believe it actually exists. I do not know how many personalities I have. I know of a few by name because they come out the most but I could have infinite, who knows. I have gotten to the point, however, where I can sometimes watch from afar everything my alters are doing (depersonalization example). It’s strange to watch your body do things that you didn’t think you could or would do. Take several shots of whiskey and not feel it (Alice), hurt myself but not feel the pain (Isabella).
So how is this a problem of the body? Well, at what point am I no longer attached to my body? Having an attachment to your body reflects in how you treat it, and so, since my alters treat it differently, at that point I no longer consider it “my” body. They treat my body how they please because at that moment, they feel a sense of embodiment, which I guess is something that they don’t get to experience often. DID sounds more like a phenomenon than a disorder, however, when it comes down to it, it is simply the mind’s way of dissociating or trying to flee a situation when the body cannot.
Madness is a place, not a state of mind. Brains are weird.
**side note: the image above is from the tv show United States of Tara, which is actually a very insightful and accurate (but fictional) show about a woman with DID