First Person Plural
Dissociative identity disorders association

Effects of Complex Dissociative Disorders

A person who has DID or DDNOS/OSDD may experience many of the following.

  • gaps in memory
  • finding yourself in a strange place without knowing how you got there
  • out-of-body experiences
  • loss of feeling in parts of your body
  • distorted views of your body
  • forgetting important personal information
  • being unable to recognise your image in a mirror
  • sense of detachment from your emotions
  • impression of watching yourself as if in a film
  • feeling unreal
  • hearing voices and dialogue
  • feeling detached from the world
  • forgetting appointments
  • feeling that a known environment is unfamiliar
  • sense that what is happening is unreal
  • forgetting a talent or learned skill
  • sense that people you know are strangers
  • perception of objects changing shape, colour or size
  • feeling you don’t know who you are
  • being told you have behaved out of character (and not remembering)
  • being child-like in your speech, understanding, mannerisms or behaviour
  • showing opposite gender characteristics in how you behave
  • being unsure of your boundaries between self and others
  • feeling like a stranger to yourself
  • being confused about your sexuality or gender
  • feeling like there are different people inside you
  • confused about pronouns e.g. referring to self as ‘we’ instead of ‘I’
  • finding items in your possession that you don’t remember buying or receiving
  • having different styles of handwriting
  • having knowledge of a subject you don’t recall studying

The list is not comprehensive.  Each effect on its own or in some combinations is not necessarily exclusive to the dissociative disorders, but most people with DID or DDNOS/OSDD will experience a large number of these effects, either together and/or at different times and in different combinations during their lifetime.

In addition to dissociative effects and all five of the dissociative experiences people with DID or DDNOS/OSDD frequently also have symptoms of mood disorders e.g. depression or mania; anxiety and panic attacks; and almost always meet diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Conversion and somatoform types of dissociation may also occur in people with DID or DDNOS/OSDD.  Thus, they may experience physical symptoms affecting their sensory or motor functions for which no physical cause in the present can be identified – e.g. blindness, deafness, mutism, paralysis, pain, seizures.  All these various effects, experiences, and symptoms can fluctuate greatly for the person with DID or DDNOS/OSDD – sometimes rapidly, sometimes over longer periods of time.   This complexity, fluctuations and poor level of knowledge about the dissociative disorders among clinicians often means that DID and DDNOS/OSDD goes unrecognised and misdiagnosed.  However, this very complexity is one indicator that a complex dissociative disorder may be the primary diagnosis.  The person may also have depression, ptsd etc but if they are treated for these secondary or co-morbid conditions without the primary complex dissociative disorder being treated, treatment will fail in the long term.