Edit to add: I’ve recently learned one of the reasons that “alters” can be a triggering term to some multiples. For some with natural multiplicity, alters is not actually the correct or preferred term for the other people that live in their system.
This post is specifically about people with trauma-made multiplicity, usually diagnosed as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Because it is also aimed at being as technical as possible, I’ve used the technical/professional term (though many people with any type of multiplicity that I know do seem to prefer other terms).
So, for those of you who find the term “alter” triggering, please be warned that the term is used many times in this post.
I’m a member of several online communities that are populated by people with DID. I won’t be naming anything - not a single forum or member - but I did get permission from the admins to post some stats.
Please note that there may be some triggers in this post.
Generally speaking DID is caused by ongoing trauma, often abuse, though it has been known to happen after once-off traumas. In fact, 45% of multiples have been abused. 6% were born as multiples, 11% dissociated over time, either for no known reason or to help the original personality out, and the rest didn’t know.
When it comes to the original personality, around 21% of multiples know who it is. 13% thought they might know, 27% definitely didn’t, and the rest didn’t care to or want to know.
The Inner World
Only 3% of multiples do not have an inner world. 6% aren’t sure, but the majority (91%) do have an internal world.
Of that majority, 41% have a large internal world, and 7% have a small internal world. 19% aren’t sure of what their internal world looks like. Many multiples have an internal world that can change, either in response to external things such as illness, or as a result of alters choosing to change it. Only 13% have a static internal world.
Most multiples (about 38%) have 4-10 alters, though it’s possible to have anywhere from two to thousands of alters.
Alters can be many ages. It is possible to have alters older then the body – in fact, around 70% of multiples do.
It’s also possible to have alters of the opposite gender or with a different sexuality. 17% of multiples have at least one alter of the opposite gender, and 16% have at least one alter with a different sexuality. Some alters age (13%), some are splits from alters rather than the original (16%), and some are not human.
Not all alters are human. 30% of multiples only or mostly have human alters. 50% have a mix of human and non-human, and 10% have mostly non-human alters. The remainder aren’t sure.
Of these non-humans, 19% are animals, 14% are humanoid with animal features (such as tails or animal ears), 6% are angels or demons, 3% are inanimate objects, and 26% are mythical beings, such as fairies or vampires.
When it comes to appearance, over 90% of multiples say that in the internal world, the alters have their own bodies, and own appearances. Most of multiples (again, over 90%) also say that their alters can harm themselves or be harmed in the internal world, rather than only the external body being harmed.
All the multiples that voted in a poll about disabilities said they had alters who did have disabilities separate to any the body may have had, or the main personality had. 9% said they had alters with mental illness or disabilities, the remaining 91% said they had alters with physical and mental illnesses or disabilities.