How dangerous are Multiples?
by the Crisses
Author's Note: We are writing in the 2nd person to the reader, and speaking about our peers in the 3rd person on purpose so that there's no ambiguity of when we selves-reference. We are in the cohort we are talking about; so advice & circumstances below also apply to us. In addition, it is pretty upsetting that after several decades of knowing we are many, after the diagnosis has been around even longer, we still have to fight media stereotypes and societal bias. Mental health issues have come a long way in the past 50 years1. But not far enough.
Content Warning: This page is blunt and honest about the life circumstances of plural, multiple & DID systems. It is NOT about the hope, future prospects, healing path, professional treatment, etc. that we have available; it is about the adversity we face and whether we are dangerous. This website is overwhelmingly about the hope, self-help, and future-facing prospects for multiples.
So you have come to this page for the truth, and we'll give it to you.
Yes, people who are multiples can be dangerous. But they're less dangerous to you than your average person-about-town.
Overwhelmingly, plurals (anyone who is "many" in their body) and multiples (people who may qualify for a dissociative identity disorder diagnosis) are people who struggle with mental health or physical health issues more than most. Many, especially those who have a trauma history, are in chronic pain, have other or multiple disabilities, suffer from depression, suicidal ideation, complex-PTSD, and thus engage in a variety of self-harm or wrestle with addiction issues. Many experience gender and body dysphoria (anxiety and extreme discomfort with one's body and/or gender assignment), overwhelming anxiety, phobias, flashbacks, insomnia, and more.
Like everyone who has a childhood trauma background, multiples (people with either diagnosed or self-diagnosed DID or related issues) have great difficulties around attachments and relationships, and will sometimes seek out love and affection from new abusers — usually by accident. Many end up re-traumatized, or alone.
Getting a DID diagnosis can be such an enormous paradigm shift for many multiples that it sends them into a tailspin by itself New. To add insult to injury, it can take 6-8 years (average) to get an accurate diagnosis as many professionals deny it exists or think it's unbelievably rare New2. Also, victims of childhood trauma usually have poor boundaries, a lot of shame, and difficulty remembering or testing reality, so multiples have been the target of abuse from some very bad therapists when in a professional relationship with them (on top of everything else) New.
An overwhelming percentage of multiples have lost all or part of their family of origin, as members of their immediate or extended family may be unsafe, or may disown them vindictively. As such it's not uncommon for multiples to need to either separate from or disown their family of origin. Some are fugitives from abusers, cults, human trafficking organizations, etc. And due to stigma and media bias alone, some multiples lose their children in custody battles, without any actual wrongdoing.
Due to disability, disrupted chain of wealth from relatives, being fugitives, and much more, a good portion of this population lives in poverty, on disability or public welfare programs, is homeless or struggling with housing insecurity issues, and we suspect there are a good number of our multiple & plural peers in prisons for a variety of reasons (the mental health population in prison is absolutely unbelievable), most of which is probably non-violent crime. On the flip side, as DID is an invisible syndrome, it's possible someone may claim it as a defense for committing a crime. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it is surely not.
Much of these truths about multiples make us more vulnerable to exploitation as many have not learned what safe and good behavior is to expect from others, or how to defend our boundaries, or may collapse into trauma reactions (freeze for example) when provoked. Some multiples are picked up by cults, traffickers, or other organized abusers, or just latched onto by individuals who are looking to feed off an easy victim. Many multiples are distrustful for very good reason and struggle to find, define, or recognize healthy relationships. Sometimes we mistake "familiar" abuse patterns as safe, and healthy behavior as unfamiliar so it sets us on edge.
And amidst all of this, multiples often will lose friends or other connections if they come out to them. This is almost always directly attributable to the false and blatantly exaggerated depictions of DID out there. Sometimes it's due to emotional issues as the closer you are to someone, the more likely they are to accidentally cross boundaries, and like singular folk with PTSD, some multiples are emotionally volatile.
Once properly diagnosed, and in treatment, and assuming that the therapist is competent and experienced (Harvard says 90% of therapists are not able to treat or diagnose DID), therapy generally takes an average of another 8 years, although many folk with DID will be in treatment for many years past that. The media focuses on the "hope" that these multiples will become singular again; sad fact is that many who attempt unification (whether voluntarily or coerced by their therapist) fail to remain singular. Also, some don't make it that long in therapy for a variety of reasons, such as responding poorly to being coerced, therapy abuse, insurance and poverty issues, or more. The best options are all client-led, and in community surveys, most want to remain plural and learn to work together instead and be transparent with each other in their system. Basically to opt to be a group entity for life. This is called "functional multiplicity" and can be set as a recovery goal (basically always striving for improvement) and a multiple can be quite functional even while going through trauma treatment. Thus, even psychologists who are competent in DID treatment officially recognize that unification isn't always the best choice, and that the choice has to be up to the multiple, not society nor the therapist.
Do multiples ever commit crimes? Yes, "ever" is pretty wide open. Are multiples ever violent? Of course that has happened. But the vast majority of the time multiples hurt themselves not others, and are more likely to be victimized than be the aggressor.
There are a lot of media myths around people with DID, to the point it's almost become a lazy trope of last resort, because people no longer believe in many types of villains, so authors and screenwriters turn to a much maligned population that no one big comes to the defense of. Discrimination, miserable media depictions, stereotyping, etc. vs. people with disabilities is taboo now, but not DID. We're still fair game. This adds a lot of shame and misery to many plural folk's lives as they can't be open and confide in those closest to them without concern that their support network will crumble if they "get real."
So, the answer to your question is multiples are far more dangerous to ourselves than they will ever be to you, as a cohort — and more likely to be victimized and hurt by others. But you need to be just as careful with individual multiples as you are with anybody else in the world. A headmate who is new-to-you is no more or less dangerous than anyone else you've ever met. Maintain healthy boundaries, be aware of signs of abuse or manipulation (from anyone whether or not they're alone in their body), and if someone is crappy it's up to you to decide whether to move on. That's just good rules for life overall.
1 It is 2020 now, people have been fighting for consumer/survivor/ex-patient rights for centuries but more loud and openly since the 1960s. ⇑
2 It's not: studies show 1-3% of the general population, higher in war-torn countries, could qualify for the diagnosis. ⇑