Since I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I learned more than anything that people should never underestimate the power of the media and the impact it has on those it portrays.
"If people want to know where the real monsters are - it’s the ones that caused this disorder in the first place."
People tell me all the time about how my condition should look – they imagine people like me as something to be feared or hated. And when neither of those boxes seem to fit, they assume I must be someone who’s malingering [intentionally faking] because I don’t fit into the stereotype of what they already know.
A real diagnosis
The general public may not necessarily have heard of DID, but I think that many of us would be able to paint a picture of what someone with "multiple personalities" should look like simply from what we’ve been shown by movies and television. The issue is that the media, most often, gives an inaccurate picture of people with this already very misunderstood condition. Some even believe that this disorder is fictitious and limited to horror-movie plots; they don't realise that it’s a very real diagnosis.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a disorder characterised by two or more alternate identities that recurringly take control of a persons behaviour. It’s a condition accompanied by amnesia, formed by trauma and disorganised attachments in childhood. The disorder itself has a very similar origin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it’s a psychological response to trauma. Although positive mental health portrayals in media still have a way to go, DID is considerably more villainised than many other disorders.
Looking for accurate representations
When I first diagnosed with a mental health issue, I did what most people would likely do when given a diagnosis, and took to the internet to find out more. There’s only so much jargon I could decipher at such a sensitive time, and so media platforms such as YouTube became my source of expert-by-experience research. However, rather than finding people who were overcoming and living well with this disorder, I instead found grizzly, lose-all-hope documentaries and trailers for scary films depicting people with DID as nothing but evil.
I wanted to change that scene – I felt that if I could perhaps share my own story about living with this disorder, it could help one more person out there understand that we are far more than the TV trope. I then set up my own YouTube channel with an aim to create hopeful, positive content to battle against the stigma.
- Denying the traumatic origin of Dissociative Identity Disorder denies those who live with it a recovery
- Mental health lessons are heading for the national curriculum - read more about our Teach Me Well campaign
Films like "Glass" and "Split" perpetuate stigma
Glass and Split, films by M. Night Shyamalan starring James McAvoy, continue to perpetuate stigma against people with DID by presenting the disorder in a negative light. I often receive direct quotes on my channel from the films in mockery of the identities or the disorder. I’ve had people ask “which one is the beast personality? Which one is evil?”. I’ve even had commenters tell me that I couldn’t suffer with this condition because Kevin - the fictional lead character - displays his symptoms in a different way than I do.
I love psychological films as much as the next fright-night lover, but I’ve been open about my distaste for horror films that explicitly use the name DID in their script. Some of my critics say “it’s just a film!” but there seems to be a lack of awareness in the damage that “just a film” may cause. In some online safe spaces for those with this disorder, the damage goes far beyond internet mockery. After some friends and family of those with DID have watched the film, there have been stories and desperate pleas from a person diagnosed being isolated from friends, thrown out of home by family, losing their job at work, and even having their children reported to social services with nothing more than the previously nice neighbours watching this so-called “just a film”.
This negative depiction in media damages the lives of those with the disorder. It seems to have become a regular feature for the scary movie plot twist to feature people like us, without a thought that people like us may be impacted. It creates shame, fear of disbelief, and ridicule, which then hinders acceptance and recovery and stops us reaching out for help and support.
Mental health in media still has much to be desired, but I’d like to believe a show would likely be frowned upon if they were to create horror media of someone with anxiety or depression, so why is a childhood trauma disorder any different?
If people want to know where the real monsters are - it’s the ones that caused this disorder in the first place.
Jessica - and Ollie, Ed, Jake, and Jamie - create YouTube videos to dispel myths surrounding DID at MultiplicityAndMe