I'm wondering how much of gender dysphoria is affected by DID. I can't seem to find much on the internet...
This is a great question.
I would like to offer my thoughts.
Dissociative identity disorder is by no means a fixed experience.
Everyone who suffers from it looks unique. Perhaps this is why it is so often undetected by professionals.
DID, dissociative identity disorder and DDNOS, dissociative disorder not otherwise specified, cover a wide range of experiences and symptoms that often get misdiagnosed. DDNOS is used when someone is suffering from DID type symptoms but they don’t appear to have different personalities that they shift in and out of. They are both very difficult condition to be dealing with.
A dissociative disorder is caused when someone’s core personality structure, splits.
This more easily happens at a young age under extreme traumatic stress.
Usually when a young person split it is a temporary setback. With safety, support and understanding we simply fold back together, into our primary personality structure. But when it is not safe to pull back together we can remain split. If the danger and trauma continues the split can be reinforced and can become much more dynamic in nature.
Splitting is a process where by the mind separates off portion of itself in order to survive extreme trauma and extreme internal conflict. Think of it like a sinking ship that starts to close off water tight compartments. It’s all about containment so the rest of the ship and crew can survive.
Now imagine parts of the crew survive in some of the closed off compartments. Communication to crew members in other compartments is severely limited or terminated all together. Each section of the crew is on there own.
Splitting appears to be a survival ability of the mind to deal with situations that are other wise not survivable to the persons psyche. Once a person learns that he can split it becomes easier the next time around. That’s why some people have many identities or separate compartments. They have gotten good at splitting in order to survive.
Some of these identities and parts will hold unique conflict and trauma so that other identities, or personalities can operate free from the burden of such things. Parts or identities are developed for very specific reasons, to contain the trauma, to fight, to hide or to do whatever it takes to survive, and others just had to learn to drive a car or make food or appear to be a normal person.
Separate identities can get stuck, learn, develop and grow. They can learn about the other personalities as well and can learn to communicate, work together, negotiate and help each other. They change over time especially through the process of integrating where they can begin to fold back together.
Integration can be very challenging because parts that hold a lot of damage, trauma and threatening conflict need to be individually helped before they can learn to trust and risk opening up. The parts of us that don’t contain these damages and conflicts will also need to learn to accept, help and even love the more troubled parts. It truly becomes a group effort in a way.
Sometimes a part may not feel like it belongs in the body. This in itself can be very traumatic to that part. The sex or age may be completely wrong.
Parts can be a different gender, have a different sexual orientation, be a different age and sometimes not even see it’s self as human. A part may be in the background having a lot of emotional experiences or may be a primary player that controls a lot of the decision making for the entire structure. Sometimes a part can take over executive control from another. This can be a very frightening experience if the person going through it doesn’t understand what’s going on. Often the perception of lost time is experienced . Segments of memory loss is sometimes another symptom.
I am absolutely convinced that some people with gender dysphoria have DID.
Most people have different aspects of their personality. But they are aware of them and remain aware of the whole even if they lean into a particular aspect of their personality at times. That’s different from DID.
A person with DID shifts in and out of a completely different states of being.
They may be completely unaware of the state the were just in or they may know what they were just doing or going through but for the life of them can’t get back in touch with the emotions, needs or reasons for who they just were.
As my therapist puts it,
“Every one has parts, DID is about how far flung or disconnected they are from one another”
So, if I shift into a part of my personality that has gender dysphoria, then I now have gender dysphoria because of the shift. I now experience what the now “presenting identity” feels or experiences or thinks.
If I shift away from that “identity” for one reason or another or that part of me goes into hiding because she feels unsafe, then my gender dysphoria goes away.
If my primary personality has gender dysphoria, and I shift in and out of another personality, let’s say a stereo typical male part, I may be constantly confused and in a perpetual confusion, trying to understand just who I am.
Often we develop an eraser or edit feature to clean up our internal experience so that it can better match the outward persona and story we are trying to project.
In short I believe that DID is not the cause things like homosexuality or gender dysphoria. But trauma and being split can certainly encapsulate, cut off and amplify our various state of being. DID can certainly keep us from growing into a more holistic balance version of our self and can cause us to vacillate and fixate as we shift in and out of various states of being. DID can also be perpetuated by highly conflicted states that are difficulty to understand and accept enough to allow integration. But even if some conflicted parts don’t fully integrate, they can still learn to work with the rest of the system and vice versa. A big key for integration is revisiting and working through the original trauma. Often the full system needs to be strengthened and aware to help facilitate this trauma work.
Otherwise the trauma work just tends to trigger the maze of dissociative defenses.
It’s definitely not easy stuff to sort out but I think it would be a mistake to entertain hormonal therapy or especially sex reassignment before understanding your system as a whole and having all your parts in awareness and in understanding and in a process of agreement of what is being considered. It’s sounds like your female part is probably a core part but there may well be other core or central parts that need to be considered and brought onboard.
Just because one part is more expressive and around most of the time doesn’t necessarily mean it is aware of, or capable of considering, the needs and reality of the other parts and the pragmatic needs of the whole system.
That’s why you need to get them communicating and working together.
Big life decisions can then be better considered, the cost and benefit for the whole system and for all of the parts involved can be taken into consideration. Usually this will require heavy inter-personal compromise and creative solutions.
Chances are good that you are already doing some of this compromising by default. How else could you manage it? In my opinion this is the beginning of getting your parts working together and helping them to co-operate.
Integration is the process of folding the parts back together, into one unit.
This is where you would find out who you are as a system of disconnected parts and then who you may be as one person and one mind. Integration is the progress of coming back together and it can changes things significantly.
There’s nothing easy about living with a dissociative condition but with the right treatment and understanding we can come back together.