Dissociative Identity Disorder and Substance Addiction

March 15, 2015 Sherry Polley

Drug and alcohol addiction are very common. People who struggle with mental disorders may also face substance addiction in their lives. Personally, I tried using drugs to cope with my dissociative identity disorder (DID) and extreme feelings. The drugs numbed the pain and calmed my anxiety, for a while. What I didn't realize is that drug addiction can be just as painful as mental illness and that using drugs, eventually, makes mental illness much worse.

Substance Addiction with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Using drugs may seem like a good way to cope with DID and other mental illnesses. The reality, however, is that using drugs of any kind only works for a short time and, eventually, will make mental illnesses much worse than they were originally.

I had DID symptoms and other mental illnesses before my bout with drug addiction. When I first tried drugs, I experienced some relief from my mental illness symptoms. I became addicted quickly and was soon using drugs all day, every day. I used as much drugs as I could get, and, eventually, tried several other types of drugs.

How do substance addiction and dissociative identity disorder interact with each other?  Find out what you can do if you have substance addiction and DID.

Through all of this, my mental health steadily declined. I thought I was “having fun,” but what I didn't realize is that I was using drugs as an escape. This escape would soon cost me. After using drugs for a little while, I started splitting into different personalities much more rapidly. Whereas before I was splitting in a less noticeable way, while suffering from substance addiction I began splitting in a much more extreme fashion. My personalities became even more dissociated from each other and I could not communicate between them. This is when they started to develop much more distinct personalities. I changed the way I dressed with each split, I changed the way I spoke, and I insisted on being called by different names. I had many more blackouts where I lost time, due to dissociative identity disorder and substance addiction. My borderline personality disorder (BPD), depression and anxiety also became much worse while using.

What To Do about Dissociative Identity Disorder and Substance Addiction

Today I have been clean from all drugs and alcohol for over four years. My DID and BPD are in the best state they have ever been in. When a person suffers from mental illness and substance addiction, it is important to treat them both.

Using drugs (including alcohol) makes mental illness so much worse, and, for that reason, a person may not be able to treat his/her mental illness without getting clean first.

It is possible to get clean with a mental illness. It is imperative to seek help for treating a substance addiction as most people can not get clean on their own. Getting and staying clean took awhile for me, and it can be very hard. It is so important to one's mental health. There are many places to get treatment, including rehabs, 12 Step programs, and therapy. Information on this can be found online. For me, personally, being committed to a 12 Step program has made a tremendous difference in my life, in so many ways. I am free from substance addiction and my dissociative identity disorder and other illnesses are manageable. There is no other way I would want to live.

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APA Reference
Polley, S. (2015, March 15). Dissociative Identity Disorder and Substance Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Sherry Polley

September, 2 2016 at 9:20 am

Hi Nikki,
I wanted to respond because i did have one experience in which I had a dissociative blackout and used drugs during it. I can't remember how I knew it happened... I think I was just using and only remembered the moments before I blacked out, when I had been clean. I did get a start over key tag and change my clean date. Of course, the decision to do so is up to you. Personally, I recognize that recovery is not about clean time. Clean time is an indicator of literally have I abused any drugs, whether I did so intentionally or not doesn't really matter, in my opinion. It's clean time, a record of time since I last used. It doesn't specify if the using was conscious or not. So to me I feel that I would be lying if I said I'd been clean when I had physically used drugs. For me, recovery is the important part. Honesty is part of recovery. I would suggest praying about it and coming to your own understanding.
As for how to stay clean with dissociation ? Well, in my experience, I didn't stay clean for years but I kept going to meetings and working a program. If you actively work a program then eventually the desire to stay clean will likely grow across all dissociative states, which leads to staying clean in any state. That's how it happened for me, at least. But I had to remain rigorously involved with a program, like a meeting almost every day, plus other recovery tools, before I eventually stayed clean long term. Do not be discouraged by relapse. IF you survive it, then it can help you be more rigourous. But obviously I'm not saying it's ok to use. Drugs lead to jails, institutions and death. Drugs will only make dissociation much worse, in my experience.
Just some thoughts I had reading your comment. Good luck to you on your journey.

September, 1 2016 at 3:39 pm

Thanks for your post. I'm starting my 1st 4th step after a 14 year relapse & am having really exacerbated dissociative symptoms. I'm not even sure I'm completely clean. Did you ever have an alter get loaded & not tell you? If so, how did you find out & what impact, if any, did this have on your clean date?

March, 25 2015 at 5:12 pm

Thank you for your insight Sherry. I was diagnosed with DID 2 months ago and have been sober for 7 months. I am so glad I attempted sobriety before I was diagnosed as I think it would have been much harder as things are in such an uproar right now. I am busy reading through all of your blogs and I look forward every day to the time I get to your sight because this is where I am understood and not strange. I feel very normal here.....and capable.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sherry Polley
March, 28 2015 at 8:41 pm

Hi Kelly, I am glad that you feel good here! It is important to feel capable. I can understand NOT feeling capable a lot of the time. Congratulations on 7 months sober! Getting used to and recovering from DID is a long road, but being sober will definitely make it easier. Good luck to you in your journey and thank you for the positive feedback. Sometimes I need to hear that I am doing ok, too.

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