Addressing a commenter’s question about the co-morbidity of DID and bipolar disorder (the two disorders existing together), it is quite difficult to find studies that have been done and accepted by the medical community concerning these two disorders existing together. Most articles focus on mis-diagnosis, in that many people get diagnosed with bipolar disorder when they in fact have DID and visa versa. Mainly this is because of the confusion between seeing someone “switch” and seeing rapid-cycling. It seems that some clinicians may have trouble seeing the difference between a person switching between alters or having a quick shift in moods that happens while rapid-cycling. However I have been told (in my case directly from my therapist) that people with bipolar disorder <em>can</em> have DID together. From my research it seems that there is no consistent agreement between clinicians as to whether the two disorders can exist together or whether it’s a matter of people being misdiagnosed. The problem seems to be a lack of research and a lack of consensus between mental health professionals.
For myself, I have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for 9 years and I know myself very well. I have also made it a point to become very knowledgeable about it. I can say that I can honestly tell the difference between dissociation and the hallmarks of bipolar disorder within myself. My personal opinion is that, as my therapist and my psychiatrist have said, I have both disorders. Actually it’s three disorders including PTSD but I always link the PTSD with the DID since they are inexorably tied together.
One thing I’ve noticed is that people who are trying to look into DID and bipolar disorder existing together are very sure to mention that the disorders are in completely different categories when it comes to the psychiatric handbook the DSM. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder and DID is a dissociative disorder. Even PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder. In my opinion the fact that these disorders are so separate in the DSM, it is more proof that they can exist together as separate disorders and not be the result of mis-diagnosis.
One suggestion I have is to research Dissociative Disorders themselves. There are many facets to these disorders and DID is one aspect that people may have in extreme cases. Not everyone with a dissociative disorder will have all the other disorders in that category but some with one aspect may have another. Another suggestion is to use your local library. I cannot stress enough how often people forget to use this amazing resource. Personally I find it helpful to check out books about these subjects to try them out before I decide to buy them.
At this point in time we all know that medicine has not advanced enough to fully understand the human brain so, different disorders co-existing together seems not only logical but likely to me. Just as people can have different diseases in the same body, I think people can have several mental disorders too. And of course it’s important to remember the nature of these two disorders. Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance causing shifts in mood and behavior. DID is a survival response to trauma usually, if not always connected to PTSD. It’s caused by something intolerable happening to a person and so this coping mechanism develops. Bipolar disorder has been shown to run in families (though not always). Isn’t it possible that if there is mental illness of any kind in a family, that a person raised in that enviroment may have a traumatic life? So in that case someone born with bipolar disorder may develop DID because of what they experienced. Please don’t get me wrong, that is only one scenario, bipolar disorder and DID can happen in other ways too I’m just using this as an example.
I rambled more than I meant to, but I appreciate the feedback from readers.