Three Simple Ways People With DID Can Make Hearing Bad News Easier To Handle


No one wants to hear bad news.


When you are a trauma survivor, you might avoid getting care because you are worried that hearing bad news from your doctor or dentist will send you deeper into dissociation, bring you to a place where you self-harm, or worse.

Did you know that most healthcare providers HATE to give bad news?  Yup.  They can be quite anxious inside when sharing it, and they wish they could avoid saying things that upset you or that reveal they are not miracle workers.

And too often, they do a lousy job of delivering bad news when they are trying to be mindful or gentle.  Medical and dental schools are working on this with their current students, but that leaves a lot of experienced providers out there who haven’t brushed up on their communication skills.  Expecting providers to know how to present test/exam results with the right combination of details, action points, and awareness of how the information will affect you as someone with a dissociative disorder is asking a lot.  Assuming that you have landed in the office of someone who is both a skilled clinician and has been trained how to share sensitive information with trauma survivors of ALL kinds is not realistic.

What CAN you do to improve the experience of hearing bad news, regardless of the skill and sensitivity of the healthcare provider?


Actually, there is a great deal that you can do to improve this situation.  You won’t have to go to grad school to become a healthcare provider, pay your therapist to accompany you, or continue to avoid the care that you truly need.  Some require a bit of practice, so I am listing the ones that are easiest for many people with DID and OSDD:

  • Recall what has given you calmness, confidence, and strength in past appointments, and try to recreate that scenario.  This is different for each person.  Some people do bring a friend or family member with them.  Others have a physical item from their therapist that reminds them of the emotional support they will have in sessions going forward through treatment.  Still other people make appointments early in the day.  They know they will be able to contact their support network more easily if they need to share, and their healthcare provider won’t be as rushed or tired as they are at the end of a work day.  Because you already have real-life experience that these things helped you in the past, there is a fair chance they can help you now.
  • Connect with all adult parts of your system that are willing and able to be supportive.  They need to be willing AND able.  Not all adult parts are both.  Know your system, and be open to learning where they are at with this situation.  Asking inside and finding their strength is empowering.  So is reinforcing your sense of being an adult, even when you don’t feel like one.  Adult parts are your first line of support because they already know they are seen in the world as adults.   “Orienting to the present” is a phrase that trauma therapists repeat very often, but in this situation, it might be impossible to repeat it too much.  Use every strategy you can to feel like the adult you are.  The autonomy, authority, and independence that society automatically confers on adults, but not on children, are felt strengths when an illness or injury occurs and you need care.
  • Don’t wait for information to be given; request the delivery method that seems as if it will be the easiest to hear.  Being unsure of the outcome of different responses from your clinician is normal.  You are going to go with an educated guess about what delivery methods work better.  This is also specific to you.  Here are some ideas; try them on for size:  That old saw “I want to hear the good news first” can actually be a good plan.  Some survivors need to know that there is a beneficial treatment, a preferred medication, or a trusted referral source before they hear what the actual problem is.  Other people will want to wait until the next visit to hear the details and bring their support person along to recall them.  Still others want a link to a website, or be able to hold printed information that they can read at home.  Some systems will go online without you being co-conscious with them, others like printed media, and others will want to read a children’s book about their diagnosis.  Asking inside can help guide your requests to your providers.

Need more information about navigating modern healthcare with a dissociative disorder ?

I wrote a book for you!


“Staying In The Room:  Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID” will guide you to a place of empowerment and confidence.  It isn’t psychotherapy;  it is a guide to building a toolkit of skills and information so that you can get the physical care you deserve!

Here are a few of the things you will learn:

  • How to expand your concept of stabilization skills beyond looking for red and blue things in the room (a good idea, but one that isn’t nearly enough for most people with DID!)
  • Why seeking physical care is such a minefield for most trauma survivors, even those who are licensed providers themselves.
  • Why trauma-informed care doesn’t seem to help you enough.
  • The reasons (yes, more than one) that mindfulness practices can too frequently increase, not decrease, dissociation in trauma survivors.
  • How your next manicure, or even your next oil change, can be used as a practice environment for “staying in the room”.
  • The often-transformational power of better communication skills with your providers.  Sometimes it IS what you say, not just how you say it!
“Staying In The Room” is available as a paperback and as a digital download (readable on any device with their totally FREE app) on Amazon


Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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