These are many diverse types of alters (different identities) presenting in dissociative identity disorder (DID). Some of these are highly common, like this blog talks about, where some are less frequent. By “rare types of alters,” this blog isn’t saying “unheard of.” It’s saying “Isn’t in every single system.” These are still important to know. Working with a systems who presents with one or more “rare” alters does not mean they are malingering, either.
A system is a collection of alters/the collective sharing one body. Some may have a type of alter listed below. It’s not an exhaustive list, but this does inform what alters should be understood before you can begin to work with clients with dissociative identity disorder. All of these alters and more are covered in my Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder training here.
This is an alter that identifies as an object (i.e. a plant, a lamp, etc). Although this might sound strange, it totally makes sense from a trauma-focused lens. An object can’t be hurt or violated the same way a person can be. So, object alters often protect themselves with their identities. Like most alters, object alters hold a specific role in the system. Figuring out what that role is can be extremely helpful for treatment, especially towards functional multiplicity.
These are alters that have one specific and temporary role and, once that role is done, they fuse with the rest of the system. Fusion is when two or more alters combine into one new alter. Most commonly, temporary alters appear as alters that are oblivious to the system and past trauma, so they function as if they didn’t have DID or a trauma history at all. This can be helpful for navigating life’s normal challenges, like a job or relationship.
This isn’t too rare, but it’s worth mentioning. Alters that are chronically or intermittently mute can be in DID systems. It’s not usually selective mutism, it’s more often a different mechanism like a conversion disorder or functional neurological disorder. The alter’s identity is often intertwined with their inability to speak. This can sometimes effect in-system communication too, meaning that other alters may not be able to hear that alter communicate. It’s also possible that alter can communicate, but only in-system and not always with direct thought. Images or emotions might be more common modes of communication.
Fictional Introjects with Memories:
Introjects were discussed in my last post, but this category is the fictional kind (meaning, real alters based off characters). In some cases, these alters can have memories mimicking their original character’s story or experiences. These often reference trauma (or emotional experiences) the system has actually gone through. This is far more common in polyfragmented systems. A polyfragmented system is a system of 100+ alters, containing at least one subsystem (in most cases).
These alters are infants, internally. This means their core identity includes identifying as the age of an infant. They sometimes struggle to communicate with the system at all, require specific internal care, and/or represent points in time when trauma started or severely intensified. Parental alters are often paired with this kind and can do wonders in working to fuse or “age up” these alters.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RARE AND COMMON TYPES OF ALTERS:
Join my Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder training. This 4-hour program is meant for mental health professionals, students, and clinicians. DID affects over 1% of the population [source], making it an essential topic to be informed on. Click here to learn more and sign up for a training session!
Please note: The basis of this blog is community reports and observation since 2017. Unfortunately, in such an under-studied field, details on specific types of alters are lacking in formal research.