Journaling for System Communication in Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health disorder that involves multiple alternate states of consciousness (“alters”) and amnesia barriers. Journaling is an effective treatment tool to increase communication between alters in a system.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Alters
DID is previously known as multiple personality disorder or split personality, and can give a person multiple alternative identities, or “alters,” which they “switch” into. According to NAMI, a person with DID symptoms may feel as though the different personalities are trying to take control of their minds. Each identity may have its own name, characteristics, mannerisms, and even voice.
According to a 1998 article by John G. Watkins, P.h.D, and Helen H. Watkins P.h.D. titled “The Management of Malevolent Ego States in Multiple Personality Disorder,” researchers found that “alters in DID have their own identities” and “they have a characteristic self-representation, which may be different from how the patient is generally seen or perceived.” Likewise, the article states that alters ”distinguish what they understand to be their own actions and experiences from those done and experienced by other alters.”
Systems in DID
A system is a collection of alters within one body. The entirety of a DID system includes all of the alters within one body. For example, research suggests that males average 12 alters and females average 15 alters. However, systems can range in size from two alters to hundreds of alters. In large systems, it is unlikely that all alters will present frequently. Instead, alters in large systems are likely to become active mostly when needed or triggered, and they often present in pairs or small groups.
DID looks different for each person, and people can have a range of symptoms that appear at different times. Some people have a small number of alters, while others can have dozens or hundreds. For many people, switching between alters is not a choice, while others have some control over switching.
Dissociative Amnesia in DID
DID can cause gaps in the memory of those who have it. A major symptom of DID is dissociative amnesia, an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
The DID client’s inability to recall information presumably arises from compartmentalizing memories in separate identity states. Individuals suffering from DID and dissociative amnesia can sometimes suffer from dissociative fugue (confused wandering) as well. Some people also experience “co-consciousness” – where they stay partly aware while different alters are dominant – while others may experience memory loss. An episode of amnesia can occur suddenly and may last minutes, hours, or (rarely) months.
Journaling Is an Effective Treatment for DID
One effective treatment for DID is journaling. This therapy can help improve communication between different parts of the personality, or “system.”
Journaling provides a way for all members of the system to communicate with each other, as well as a way to process trauma and work through difficult emotions. Journaling can also help reduce symptoms of DID, such as flashbacks, depression, and anxiety.
Ground Rules for Journaling
It can be helpful to set up some ground rules for journaling, such as only writing when you feel safe and respected and only reading what you feel comfortable with. Each member of the system can have their own journal, or there can be one shared journal that everyone contributes to. If you choose to have a shared journal, it’s essential to make sure that each system feels equally safe and respected.
Journaling can be an effective way to work through difficult emotions and experiences and can help to foster communication and understanding.
Journaling Techniques for DID
Several different journaling techniques can be used in the treatment of DID. One is called “system mapping.” System mapping involves creating a diagram or chart of the different parts of the personality and then writing about the relationship between them. A system map generally includes a recording on paper of alters’ names, ages, and roles, arranged according to where they are in relationship to each other.
Another effective journaling technique is called “writing from the perspective of different parts.” This involves writing from the perspective of different parts of the personality and then discussing the similarities and differences between them.
A creative way to manage system communication is to create a scrapbook with pages illustrating the different people in the system. Individuals with DID can add to the pages as the communication between the alters increases. Video and audio recordings are other ways you can add depth to your system’s functioning.
Journaling Increases Understanding
If you have DID, journaling can be an effective way for you to increase internal communication. Increasing internal communication means expanding your (and your alters’) knowledge about what each of you is experiencing.
This is important because it will help you all work more effectively together. It will enable you to address ongoing issues and concerns. Working more cooperatively with each other will help you complete daily life tasks more effectively. In addition, journaling to increase internal communication is an important step in working toward integration if that is your goal.
DID Is a Complex Condition
DID can be difficult to treat. However, journaling has been shown to increase communication among the different parts of the system. If you or someone you know is struggling with DID, consider journaling to help improve communication between symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) poses significant challenges to functioning and can affect every aspect of a person’s life.
At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we offer treatment for adults living with DID. Our treatments are evidence-based, individualized, and occur along a continuum of care that addresses not only healing for the mind, but the body and spirit as well. The Phoenix Recovery Center is one of the top mental health facilities in Utah and is equipped to offer comprehensive treatment for dissociative disorders., This treatment includes a balance of pharmacological support and therapeutic practices supported by research that can help clients deal with the trauma they’ve previously experienced. While there is no cure for DID, treatment is available. If you or a loved one is struggling with dissociative identity disorder, there is help available. For more information, call The Phoenix Recovery Center at (801) 438-3185.