Dissociative Disorders are relatively rare. According to Merck Online Medical Library, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Depersonalization Disorder combined only occur in about 3% of the population. Dissociative Fugue is even more rare occuring only in about 2 of every 1,000 people in the United States. Sally Field, Joanne Woodward, Toni Collete, Harry Dean Stanton, Edward Norton, and even Jim Carey have played characters with dissociative disorders. The list of celebrities who openly discuss their own experience with a dissociative disorder is much shorter. To my knowledge there are only three, a musician, an actress/comedienne, and a Heisman Trophy winning football player.
Adam Duritz is known as the frontman of the popular alternative rock group, Counting Crows. He’s also known for dating famous actresses like Jennifer Anniston, Winona Ryder and currently Emmy Rossum. What many people don’t know about Duritz is his struggle with Depersonalization Disorder, an illness that makes him feel disconnected from reality. He opened up about the disorder to Men’s Health Magazine saying: “This was not depression. This was not workaholism. I have a fairly severe mental illness that makes it hard to do my job — in fact, makes me totally ill suited for my job. I have a form of dissociative disorder that makes the world seem like it’s not real, as if things aren’t taking place. It’s hard to explain, but you feel untethered.” He described how the disorder negatively affected his relationships with family and girl friends. After finally deciding to get some professional help Duritz continued to struggle to find an effective medication that didn’t have side effects like a 70 pound weight gain, memory loss, and narcolepsy. After losing the weight and finding more effective drugs, Duritz says, “I’ve never been this healthy before. Now I can have all the things I want.”
Actress and comedian, Roseanne has mentioned her diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder–formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder–on her blog, Roseanne’s World. Roseanne talks a lot about child abuse and domestic violence on her blog and claims to been abused as a child (a claim family members deny). Severe childhood trauma and abuse are known to be associated with DID. Roseanne credits her personal healing to working with her therapist, Dr. Colin Ross and the mystical practice of Kabballah.
Hershel Walker is most famous for being a running back for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. In Walker’s new book entitled, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Walker reveals that he does not remember winning the Heisman Trophy due to his undiagnosed DID. The book explains that unlike most people with the disorder, Walker claims not to have been abused by his parents. He does, however, reveal a history of being severely bullied by peers for his weight and stutter. Currently Walker is retired from football and runs his own food supply company.
Although it is easier to learn about DID through movies than real life, these brave celebrities expose a more realistic view of dissociative disorders than most movies portray. Kudos to them for sharing their stories.
Roseanne Barr, “Today Our Mind, Tomorrow the World.” Roseanne’s World
“The Lonely Disease.” Men’s Health Magazine Online
Daphne Simeon M.D., “Introduction: Dissociative Disorders.” Merck Online Medical Library