“Oh, DID, that’s really rare, isn’t it?”

I was officially diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 2010. I say “officially” because a diagnosis from a psychologist seems to mean very little to the government employed mental health professionals in Australia. My private psychologist had told me back in 2009 that I had DID, but it wasn’t until 2010 that a private psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis.

Since then I hear, on a regular basis, how “rare” or “unusual” this disorder is. I’m aware of the unusual, weird, crazy factor! DID is strange. It’s not something most people know about, let alone are comfortable contemplating.However, “rare” is absolute rubbish.

I’ve done some digging on various sites and have come up with some statistics for you. It’s a bit difficult to compare given that some are new cases diagnosed per year and some are given as a percentage prevalence. However, it does give an idea on numbers. All of the following statistics are for the Australian population. Population calculations (calculating number of people from percentages) are based on the 2011 statistics from The World Bank which gives the population of Australia as being 22,620,600.

Breast Cancer: 14,610 people diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. (Breast Cancer Network Australia)
Prostate Cancer: 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year. (Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia)
Stroke: 60,000 new and recurrent strokes estimated for 2011. Stroke Foundation
Bipolar I Disorder : 226,206 people with five times (over 1,200,000) being at risk of Bipolar II Disorder. (Black Dog Institute)
Dissociative Identity Disorder: 226,206 people. (International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation)
Diabetes: Nearly 1,000,000 people are currently diagnosed with Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) in Australia. (Diabetes Australia)
Eating Disorders: 2,035,854 Australians struggle with an eating disorder.(National Eating Disorders Collaboration)
Mental Illness: 3,200,000 people (aged sixteen to sixty-five) will experience a mental illness in any one year. (Black Dog Institute)
Depression: 3,231,541 Australians will experience depression in their lifetime. (Black Dog Institute)
Cardiovascular Disease: 3,400,000 Australians are affected by Cardiovascular Disease. (Heart Foundation)

Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t as rare as people make it out to be. It certainly seems to be rather unheard of and approached with confusion and disbelief, but it is not particularly rare. Ask a few people if they’ve heard of Bipolar Disorder and if they know what it is. Most people have heard of it, have a vague idea of what it means. Same prevalence as DID. It’s just less well known which does not make it rare.

So those are some interesting statistics. Now, I’m sure if you go digging you’ll find some different statistics. Wherever you go, numbers will differ. Prevalence isn’t black and white. How different organisations collect their information will vary, but as a starting point – wow.

What shocked me most was that the stats for mental illness were incredibly high compared to some physical illnesses. However, I know the physical ones do tend to have high mortality rates and huge impacts on health. That’s not to minimise the burden of living, long term, with a mental illness – it’s huge. Plus there’s the higher risk of suicide associated with most mental illnesses. I have no stats on that and it does vary from illness to illness, but it’s known to exist.

More people in Australia struggle with an Eating Disorder than Breast Cancer. Both of these conditions can kill you, yet it would seem more money and research goes into Breast Cancer than Eating Disorders. It’s alarming, to be honest – 139 times more people will suffer with an eating disorder than will have breast cancer. I haven’t researched or compared mortality rates. I’d imagine Breast Cancer has a higher mortality rate, however, given that more people suffer from eating disorders…. well, who knows.

It seems that most people have a cause, an organisation, or something else that they support. Cancer survivors (and their families) tend to support organisations that helped them. Those with a mental illness may support an organisation relevant to their condition. Animal lovers will support a local zoo by sponsoring an animal or donating to an animal shelter. Sports fans may support a local team. There’s causes and organisation for absolutely everything.

It saddens me that so little funding and research goes into mental illness. Perhaps it’s similar to physical conditions, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem that way. Even treatment for a mental illness is hard to access and is very limited (unless you have an endless supply of money). No one limits the number of treatment sessions for a physical illness yet the Australian government is limiting Medicare sessions with a psychologist to ten for 2013. If a cancer patient was limited to ten sessions per year, with their treating doctor and told that, after that, they’d have to privately fund the rest of their treatment or wait until the following year for treatment there would be public outrage. How is mental illness any different?

5 thoughts on ““Oh, DID, that’s really rare, isn’t it?”

  1. What’s sad to me is that I watch my cousin on Facebook continually posting updates about his wife’s cancer battle, but my wife and I have to hide her d.i.d. because of the stigma and misconceptions.

    I also agree that d.i.d. is NOT rare. I think there’s a lot more of it than people realize especially when I consider the fact that my wife hardly had any of the classic symptoms they look for. Fortunately her counselor saw enough to get us started down the right path of healing within a couple months of my wife beginning counseling.

    • I’m sorry that you and your wife aren’t able to be open about her struggles. I find that very, very isolating and it makes what’s already hard so much harder. I’m glad she has a good counsellor and is on the right track 🙂

  2. Omgoodness!!!!!! I am on the dissociative open group on Fb and just read ur blog! How incredibly crazy r those stats??????
    Thanku so much for sharing. There is always sooooo much emphasis on physical health issues and so I was literally stunned to c the amount if mental illnesses in general to be so so much higher.

  3. Reblogged this on Trauma and Dissociation and commented:
    “Dissociative identity disorder is not rare; it is thought to occur in 1% to 3% of the worlds general population.” International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Guidelines for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder in Adults, Third Revision. From http://isst-d.org

    More information:

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