If you don’t have dissociative identity disorder, you may be wondering why food is a difficult issue for many people with the condition. If you have dissociative identity disorder, though, you probably understand how it can affect, and sometimes complicate, nearly every aspect of your life. That includes making food choices, shopping for food, preparing food and eating food.
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a condition in which someone has more than one personality state. Each personality has its own way of thinking, talking, acting and relating to people. They may have different food preferences, too. Personalities, or alters, may or may not be aware of each other.
As mentioned earlier, alters may have different food preferences. For instance, I have one alter that doesn’t like chocolate. The rest of us love it, though. Sometimes we have internal arguments when deciding which flavor of ice cream to order. That’s a relatively simple problem to deal with. Sometimes I order two scoops so we can get one with chocolate and one without. Other times, I tell my child alters that we need to take turns choosing. Since I don’t go out for ice cream very often, this isn’t a big issue for me. It can be a big problem, though, if your alters have very different tastes. It can get even more complicated if one alter is a vegetarian and others aren’t or if one alter wants to keep kosher while others don’t.
Often differences in food preferences can be dealt with by compromising. For instance, if you prefer to eat healthy food but have an alter that loves burgers and fries, perhaps a veggie burger and baked sweet potato fries can satisfy everyone. If that doesn’t work, maybe you can allow the burger and fry-loving alter to take a trip to McDonald’s once a month and stick to healthier fare the rest of the time. Trying to deny an alter something that is important to him or her altogether rarely works, in my experience. What is likely to happen, at least is my experience, is that eventually that alter rebels, takes control, and you’ll end up taking an unplanned trip to McDonald’s when you are supposed to be at work and binging on burgers.
If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping, then come home to discover items in your shopping bags you didn’t intend to purchase and don’t recall putting in your cart, you’re not alone. I’m going to guess the extra purchases were things like children’s breakfast cereals (with marshmallows, maybe?), cookies, candy and chips, but you might find other items, as well. Often this can be prevented by making out a shopping list in advance, with input from any alters that wish to participate in making the list. This is when you can work out compromises to satisfy everyone as much as possible. Maybe you’ll agree to buy one sugary breakfast cereal but not three. Your child alters can agree on which one to buy or they can take turns, with one alter choosing the cereal one week and another choosing the cereal the next.
Establishing a “rule” about sticking to the shopping list can prevent surprise purchases, decrease internal arguments in the grocery store, and also help you stick to a budget. I’ve found this works for me only when I allow everyone input when making the shopping list, though. If I make the list without considering the preferences of my alters, especially the kids, I’m just setting myself up to come home with nothing but junk food.
A responsible adult alter needs to be in charge of cooking, of using the stove and knives and doing other food preparation activities that might be unsafe for child alters. If you sometimes have uncontrollable switching and child alters might be out without an adult personality present for prolonged periods of time, make sure you have food available that child alters can safely prepare for themselves. Maybe you can show them how to heat pre-portioned meals in the microwave or how to make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I rarely have times anymore when there is no adult present but it has happened in the past. I usually have things like protein bars or yogurt on hand that require no preparation, which work well for those instances.
You may not have an eating disorder (although it’s possible for people with DID to have eating disorders, or for one or more alters to have eating disorders), but you or some of your alters may have unhealthy eating patterns. For instance, you might have an alter that doesn’t want to eat at all or you might have one that binges, consuming a huge amount of food in a short period of time. The reasons for disordered eating vary widely and to really resolve these kinds of issues, you’ll probably need to figure out why it’s happening and address the core issues. A good therapist can help you with that.
Web MD. Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder).
Alderman, Tracy and Karen Marshall. Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. 1998.
Also by this Contributor:
Dealing With Child Alters When You Have Dissociative Identity Disorder Improving Communication Between Alters when You Have Dissociative Identity Disorder Dealing with Finances when You Have Dissociative Identity Disorder