Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Social Experiment

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): A Social Experiment

I recently ran a social experiment to see how people might react to a person with dissociative identity disorder (DiD). To do this, I created a throwaway account on Reddit. Then I wrote a semi-fictitious story about how my alter accessed the internet and caused numerous problems.

For anybody who’s not familiar with dissociative identity disorder (DID), it’s similar to multiple personality disorder (MPD), except more extreme. Also, DID represents a lost sense of identity, and/or a complete disconnection from the rest of the world. So, unlike MPD, there’s no shared connection between the person’s identities. No shared thoughts, moods, actions or memories, which is why there’s often huge gaps of unexplained memory loss.

NOTE: The purpose of this test was not to write a convincing story, but rather, to see how people might react to discussing the mental health condition itself.

Testing the Social Stigma Behind Mental Health

First, I began the story with a special note, which I thought might give away my experiment, but it didn’t.

Then, I shared a story about my DID. I purposely used the pronouns “s/he” and “its,” in an attempt to show a disassociation between the identities.

At the end of the story, I tried to add an extra element of plausibility. I wrote a heartfelt explanation about what a person with DID might experience during a detached episode.

Like i said before, I did not share this story or run this experiment to garner votes. I shared it to see how people might react if a person with dissociative identity disorder shared a similar personal story. And all I can say is that I’m both saddened, shocked, and disturbed by the results.

Wait. What are We Talking About?

When I first posted the story to the Reddit forum, it received 11 upvotes within an hour. But since I didn’t see questions or comments, I decided to log off and check back later.

About three hours later, I discovered that the story only had 4 upvotes. But also that the post had at least 30 comments. So, I thought: People were talking! And I loved that, until I realized what they were talking about…me.

Here’s the very first comment I received, which was pointless and completely off topic. The Reddit community noticed and continues to down-vote the comment, even today.

I’ve learned that it’s typical for people make jokes and use sarcasm about mental health. Especially when they don’t know how else to respond.

Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Attention Seeking?

One of the strangest things I learned from this experiment is that there’s an army of bullshit-callers on mental health. And people seemed to spend more time judging my character, and my story’s credibility, than they did understanding.

NOTE: This Reddit user deleted his/her comment after seeing my response, which is below.

At first, this user (below) didn’t care whether my story was true or not. He/she just wanted to call me out as an attention seeker. But then once I challenged his/her’s intentions, he/she stopped responding.

Unfortunately, there will always be people who either don’t believe a mental illness is real, or don’t care. But it’s this kind of ignorance and indifference that keeps the mental health stigma alive. People who are suffering from a mental illness deserve respect. And they deserve to feel like they can share their stories without being labeled as an attention seeker.

Testing the Self-Stigma Behind the Mental Health

I’ll admit, the lack of positive and supportive comments bothered me, at first. Especially since I posed a serious question that went completely unanswered.

I asked this question to help foster communication and prove that the: You Are Not Alone campaign is working, but my efforts failed miserably here.

Eventually, one person did admit to having a mental health condition, but he/she didn’t go into much detail about it.

I didn’t respond to this user, so I still don’t know how to gauge his/her level of interest on the subject. Also, I still question what his/her motivation was because unlike the list of questions below, he/she contacted me using a private message instead of the public comment thread. And to me, the entire message reads like a series of interview questions, or like he/she was looking for information to help write a thesis.

Just to clarify: I wanted people to ask questions and communicate. Because asking questions about a mental health condition is NOT the problem. The problem comes from people who ask questions with hidden motives, and not to help communicate or educate.

Proving My Dissociative Identity Disorder

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this experiment was discovering the number of people who either didn’t believe that dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a real mental health condition, or wanted me to “prove” how bad my mental health condition was.

Here’s the current top comment, which barely managed to use proper English. Apparently, this Reddit user was either in a rush, or he/she didn’t think the topic was important enough to bother providing a full thought.

O.K., no. I probably didn’t write the most convincing story. But it’s no wonder why people suffering from a mental illness feel reluctant to share their stories. Yes, embarrassment is one factor, but so is trying to prove yourself by answering judgmental questions like: Are your symptoms really that bad? Or, dealing with ignorant responses like: “This sounds made up as fuck!”

When did mental health become such a competition?

In fact, I could tell by some of the responses that the way I described the extent and severity of my symptoms mattered, a lot. Because some people asked a bunch of random questions as if they were still trying to decide whether to believe the condition exists, or not.

Fear of judgment is why so many people don’t talk about their problems and never seek treatment. Because nobody wants to feel like a zoo animal, or have all their symptoms put on display for the whole world to see. So, I kept my symptoms as general as possible, and I didn’t elaborate on much. Because I know if I had, my responses would’ve just given the naysayers, the non-believers, and the bullshit-callers more ammo to use against me.

Then there were the self-proclaimed researchers, doctors, and skeptics.

And this user, who tried to pass off several well-written, yet opinionated articles as fact:

But fortunately, one person fought back with their own research.

Of course, the naysayer didn’t respond to the rebuttal. However, a little later he/she did show his/her true motivation for sharing, which was clearly not to communicate and educate. So, I felt compelled to say something.

NOTE: It still bothers me that this comment was eventually removed by moderators for two reasons. One, because a “removed” comment turns gray, so many readers don’t get to see the debate. And two, because I thought this interaction was one of the most interesting and productive parts of the entire comment thread.

Lots of Bloopers and Outright Lies

O.K., now for some truth. There are many things I wish I could’ve done differently with this experiment. Because I don’t lie – in fact, I’m usually brutally honest. But this time I felt like telling a few little white lies seemed necessary. I knew I had to play the part if I wanted to get results.

However, I’ll be the first to say: I still don’t know shit about dissociative identity disorder. But I’m willing to learn. Because there are so many great questions that I couldn’t answer, and I still feel bad about that. But I also know that each person’s experience with DID is probably different. This is why mental health education is so important.

Do you suffer from MPD or DID? Or, do you know someone who suffers? If so, what information can you share about the condition(s) to help educate more people about mental health? Feel free to respond in the comment section below.

In closing, I’d like to thank all of Reddit for their due diligence. And for having privacy policies, which helped contribute to the making of this social experiment.

Since I had set up a throwaway account, I had multiple logins from the same IP address, which Reddit caught! First, I received an email about suspicious activity on my account. Then I received an automated message about violating the multiple account policy. I thought I had screwed up the whole thing. But instead, I used the violation to come up with a plausible story in support of this social experiment. So, for what it’s worth…thanks!

Mental Health Stigma: It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Mental Health Stigma: It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Mental health organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) work tirelessly to help educate society about the mental health stigma. But until society learns better communication, any effort will fail. Because there is no amount of information, medication, outreach services, or special events that can fix a broken society if it’s communication is perpetually negative.

Social Stigma: Lack of Education and Compassion

Education begins with communication. But some people feel like discussing mental health is taboo, too personal, and that those who suffer from a mental illness need to handle their issues in private.

But why is that? So that society can stay comfortable while the person affected keeps suffering alone?

News flash: You can’t catch a mental illness just by talking about it.

The social stigma not only hinders communication but also reinforces society’s ignorance and lack of compassion towards mental illnesses. And we see the effects in the way society treats mentally ill people.

  • discriminatory actions against mental health patients while in society, or while at the workplace;
  • family and friends pushing the use of medication as a way to control a mentally ill person, while offering little to no additional support;
  • (social) media using and sharing offensive language, cruel jokes, or misleading videos to describe a person’s mentally ill behavior

Unfortunately, we can’t control every person’s behavior, but we can control how communication is shared and received.

>>> READ LG’s Mission Statement: Find Yourself. Inspiring Others. <<<

Self-Stigma: Misperception and Internalizing Issues

There are two parts to the self-stigma, which also limits communication about mental illnesses. The first part is misperception.

Why do some people feel uneasy talking about mental health? Are they afraid that another person’s anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia might rub off on them like a virus or bacteria?

Yes, sometimes just talking about the effects of mental illness can provoke unwanted memories, or trigger anxiety in people. But this type of reaction is personal, and not a general rule. Mental illnesses are not contagious, but communication is, and likely to help a situation.

News Flash: Refusing to talk about a mental illness won’t make it go away.

The second part of the self-stigma is internalizing issues. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but many people still refuse diagnosis or treatment.

Nobody wants to feel judged, labeled, stereotyped, ostracized, or ridiculed by society. So, instead of asking for help, many people internalize their mental health issues to avoid conflict with the rest of society. Other people develop unhealthy coping techniques. They bottle up their emotions, or they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. But neither solution works forever, and can make some mental illness even worse.

Mental Health Stigma: Words Mean Everything

Almost everything a person learns about him/herself comes from an outside source(s). Friends, family, teachers, (social) media, and even doctors can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health, or help contribute to the mental health stigma.

For example, when a friend or family member says, “he/she will never get any better,or a doctor suggests that a patient “might have to take medication for the rest of his/her life,” words can hurt. Because a person might feel like there’s no hope of recovery-remission. And nobody wants to feel like a burden to themselves, or to others, especially not forever.

The key to overcoming all aspects of the mental health stigma is through increased communication and education. People suffering need to know they can seek help from their peers without judgment. But when friends, family, and even co-workers shut down vital lines of communication, it’s the worse thing they can do.

Mental Health Stigma: Now, for Some Good News…?

We often hear people talk about Big Pharma, and about how much money drug manufacturers make off people being sick.

“Global pharmaceuticals market was worth $934.8 billion in 2017 and will reach $1170 billion in 2021, growing at 5.8%.”

The Business Research Company

And it’s hard to avoid all the media from medical researchers and drug manufacturers who push their negative mental health statistics on society.

But what about the good news? What about all the mental health patients in recovery-remission from a serious mental illness? Where’s all the data for that?

It might seem hard to find positive light to shed on mental health, but there’s plenty.

Research shows that some mental health patients do go into recovery-remission, which could lessen their need for further treatment. No, recovery-remission doesn’t happen for everyone, or with every mental illness. But a person’s chances of recovery-remission does increase with age. So, doesn’t every patient deserve to feel a small glimmer of hope, if there is one?

Mercury Retrograde and Understanding the Trickster Planet

While Mercury Retrograde probably isn’t a great time to start new projects or business ventures, it is a perfect time for me to introduce the new spirituality and wellness portion of my blog.

What Does Mercury Retrograde Mean to Astronomy?

For anyone who doesn’t know what Mercury Retrograde means, let me explain by starting with Science.

According to astronomy, retrograde is a strange celestial phenomena that occurs three or four times a year, and lasts just over three weeks. The term retrograde, refers to moving backward, which is what Mercury appears to do after completing its 88-Earth-day orbit around the sun. It’s an optical illusion, and every planet does it, but Mercury earns more attention due to its mythological history.

“You can experience this effect [retrograde] for yourself. Start out standing side by side with a friend. Have a friend walk forward slowly. Now you walk forward at a faster speed. Watch your friend and think about how they are moving relative to you. At first, they move away, then as you pass them, they APPEAR to be moving backward relative to you – even though they are still walking forward.”

What does Mercury Retrograde Mean to Astrology?

Since astrology studies the stars and planet’s affect on other life, retrograde is a favorite topic among astrologers. Mercury is the Roman god of swift communication and travel, but also a thief and a trickster. So, when retrograde happens, everyone on Earth experiences the planetary effects.

According to astrology, the effects of Mercury Retrograde are three-fold. First, there’s an obvious cycle or series of events that happen just a few weeks prior to the retrograde. Then during retrograde, those events revisit our lives, before finalizing a path full of new lessons learned.

Here’s a list of the Mercury’s upcoming retrogrades, provided by

  • Mercury Retrograde calendar

What Can Humans Learn From Mercury?

Some people fear or even dread retrograde because it slows down and disrupts time, travel, and communication. So, a traditional piece of advice is:

“Don’t travel. Don’t sign contracts. And avoid any relationship-defining conversations.”

There are countless blog posts from people who blame Mercury for all the unexpected chaos in their lives. Unseasonable weather. Unexpected travel delays. Expensive car problems. Bad business deals. Electronic and computer malfunctions. And relationship woes, are just a few of the common complaints.

However, despite the planet’s infamous negative effects on well…everything, there are also many positive aspects.

Why Retrograde is a Sacred Time for Humans

Mercury Retrograde is like a Universal do-over card. It’s a time to revisit past mistakes, reunite with old relationships, re-examine old feelings, and reconsider old patterns. It’s not a good time to make any big, life-changing decisions because the planet will soon continue forward, but it is a great time for self-examination and rethinking strategies. And since Mercury governs communication, humans receive a reminder to slow down and relax. Receive, process, and then respond, after gaining clarity of thought.

Mercury Retrograde forces communication to slow down so that humans do too. It’s a time to relax, gain clarity, and appreciate internal dialogue. Because if we don’t, the trickster planet will intervene using some unlikely, and often undesirable resources to help teach us.

Here are more resources about Mercury Retrograde from two reputable publishers, Hay House UK and Harper One.

Righty Tidy, Lefty Poopy: Respect and Handshake Etiquette

According to my late grandpa, there are two ways to get to know a person: 1) by his handshake, and 2) by how clean he keeps the trunk of his car. Because one measures the level of respect he has for himself and his things especially while no one is looking, and the other gauges his respect for others. So, call me old-fashioned, but even to this day, I have trouble trusting anyone person who offers their left hand to shake mine. Friend or stranger, if someone offers me a lefty handshake, I might ask them to pop their trunk, just for due diligence.

Now, with that being said, I never understood why my grandpa was so adamant about handshakes. That is, until I began working a corporate job and someone offered me a lefty handshake directly after picking their nose.

So, now let’s talk about cultural respect.

Do You Smell That? It’s Called Respect.

In the Western world, most people think like my grandpa and believe that it’s rude not to offer a right handshake. However, this might be a good time to mention that at least 75% of the world’s population is right handed. And that many people prefer to use their primary hand to wipe their ass.

Eastern World Etiquette

In many European and Asian countries, people also prefer a right handshake, as opposed to a lefty for hygienic reasons. Because in some less fortunate areas, toilet paper is a luxury. The left hand is designated for personal “clean up” while the right hand remains tidy and clean for other business. So, offering a left handshake in these places is not only seen as rude and disrespectful, but also disgusting.

Namaste: No-Hands Needed Greeting

However, in much of India, a handshake is not used at all, but replaced by a traditional namaste greeting. Some of the people in more affluent areas adopted use of the right handshake, but a majority of the population avoids hand contact altogether. This practice is not only for hygienic reasons, but also for spiritual reasons, which to explain would go way beyond the purpose of this post.

Jamaican Handshake: If a Fist Bump Could Wiggle

I recently read a post on a travel blogger’s site, which suggested that many Jamaicans use their left hand for handshakes. But from what I can tell, the blogger’s information seems to be mostly false. And most likely based on a one-time, individual experience, as opposed to a recognized, cultural tradition.

Or, perhaps those particular Jamaicans are wise, and have at least heard about the Western world’s right-handed “bathroom doo-doo-ties.”

Bad joke, eh?

But in all seriousness, it appears the Caribbean does use a right handshake most often; though, it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before.

To me, the Jamaican handshake seems closer to a fist bump than it does to a handshake, except with a few extra wiggles. And while the extra wiggles might make an O.C.D. suffer like Howie Mandel feel uneasy, it’s a cultural tradition that is important to the Jamaican people. The handshake is right handed, and sometimes people do touch their palms together. But the hand is not as important as what each person’s thumb is doing during a handshake.

The Jamaican handshake may look like a game of thumb wars, but to each of the participants, it’s a game of honor and integrity. Each of the three flicks of the thumb signifies a special agreement between the two people for: peace, love, and respect.

African and Liberian Handshake: Adding a Quick Snap

I won’t go into detail here, but there are many interesting YouTube videos of people from Africa and Liberia using a right handshake. The handshake seems like a mix of Western and Jamaican handshakes, but always ends with a quick snap, or a chest thump at the end.

Left Handshake: Sometimes a Lefty is All-Righty

The Boy Scouts use a traditional left handshake, which often includes placing two fingers on the other person’s palm or wrist because it also makes the Boy Scout salute. This practice might make the right-handed world cringe, but there are two good reasons for it: respect and courage.

Respect: Keeping Friendship Close to the Heart

Since the human heart is on the left side of the body, using the lefty handshake signifies keeping the other person “close to the heart”. And, much like the Jamaican handshake, the Boy Scouts left handshake represents a “token of friendship” towards the other person.

Courage: It’s Safer to Lower a Sword than it is a Shield

Offering a lefty handshake shows individual courage but also trust in the other person. During battle, warriors would typically carry their sword in their right hand and their shield in their left.

Here’s an anecdote specific to the Boy Scout’s left handshake:

“The left handshake comes to us from the Ashanti warriors whom Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, knew over 70 years ago in West Africa. He saluted them with his right hand, but the Ashanti chiefs offered their left hands and said, ‘In our land only the bravest of the brave shake hands with the left hand, because to do so we must drop our shields and our protection.’

Boy Scouts Handbook and Scouting Magazine

Ironically, it’s the same countries (Indonesia and India) that don’t like to touch (left) hands, but also lead the world in having the highest number of Boy Scouts.

A Man’s Handshake is as Good as a His Word

Since this isn’t a blog post about business, I won’t go into great detail here, but I will say that using a firm handshake is important. Not just in business, but also in personal dealings.

According to my grandpa, a man’s handshake is like his signature; his blood oath, and just as good, if not better than having a written document. Because even a robot can sign on a dotted line, but it takes real character, human integrity and trust to make an agreement knowing there’s no physical proof for later.

No One Likes a Wet or a Limp Fish Handshake

According to my grandpa, a limp fish, or god-forbid, a wet handshake, is one of worst forms of disrespect towards another person. A limp handshake symbolizes a person’s uncertainty, dishonesty, lack of confidence, and often evokes an automatic distrust between the two people. Perhaps because it seems shady, like crossing fingers for good luck, which some people also use to hide from the guilt of a “little white lie” they told.

In many Chinese and Japanese cultures, a quick, limp handshake, with or without a customary bow, is the preferred method of greeting someone. A handshake, much like a hug for some people, feels awkward.

Here’s a blogger’s explanation of the Japanese bow, along with some of my English language corrections found in [brackets]:

“A Japanese bow […] serves the purpose of the handshake (in business), is a show [sign] of respect (bowing before elders or an audience), shows hierarchical standing, and can serve as a part of an apology. The type of bow will be different in each instance, dependent [depending] on [the] angle, head position relative to the other person, time holding the bow, standing/kneeling/head to ground, etc.”

Osamu Saito (Quora)

“When in Rome, do as the Romans Do”

After all my research, perhaps this old quote is still the best advice I can offer anyone who feels just as confused as I do about handshake etiquette. Because it’s a lot to remember. But just like the quote’s meaning, using proper handshake etiquette really just comes down to one thing: respect.

Cultural Respect

When traveling abroad, do whatever comes naturally, but still try to follow the traditional way(s) of greeting someone in that area.

Going with the Flow

A handshake should feel natural and not awkward for either party. If it does, it should be avoided completely.

Simply put, follow the cultural norm, wherever you are.

And for the love of all things holy, don’t forget to wash your hands.