Alter roles in a dissociative identity disorder system

In a dissociative identity disorder (DID) system, alters may have certain roles, purposes or functions in the system.

Not every DID system has all of these alter roles, and some alters may vary. We consider it akin to a spectrum, as alters don’t necessary stick to the same function through the end of time. Humans change their jobs, as do DID alters.

All of these are subjective. Each DID system varies. There is no normal with DID, because every system is unique.


The core alter is typically perceived as the “original” person who existed.

This is problematic, because DID develops during the years a child’s personality develops — therefore, in a DID system, there is no original.

The core alter may also be perceived as the main alter, or the host, but that’s the next bit.

We personally find the idea of core alters outdated and irrelevant, because there is no original in our system, nor in the systems we’ve connected with online.


The host alter most frequently uses the body. Systems may have multiple hosts, e.g. a primary host and secondary host. Again, every system is different.

Over time, hosts may change. Some systems mayn’t even recognize official hosts, while many medical professionals recognize the host as the legal name of the body.

Purple flower bush with green leaves

In our experience, and from who we’ve connected with, primary hosts in DID systems seldom associate with the legal name of the body. We do have a line of previous hosts,


Protector alters protect the system, body, alters, etc.

  • Emotional protectors may take emotional abuse and/or comfort other alters from the blows of emotional abuse.
  • Physical protectors may engage in aggressive behavior to protect or prevent from physical abuse. They also may personally endure physical abuse.
  • Sexual protectors may engage in sexual affairs, regardless of consent, to try to feel more in control of the situation. They may also be more sexual by nature, as a result of trauma; ironically, this can lead to unsafe sex and related situations.
  • Verbal protectors may take verbal abuse or attempt to counter verbal attacks.

Persecutors, or misguided protectors

Often referred to persecutors, some alters seek to harm the body, system, alters, and/or destroy personal relationships and the livelihood of which the body regards.

They may believe hurting the system is what protects it best, so their goal is to control and rule the system through perpetuated abuse.

They may be reenacting trauma, reasoning that more trauma isn’t harmful and will just balance it out.

They may be fearful of good news, good experiences, and even good feelings and seek to stomp it out to avoid hurt/bad feelings.

Some protectors are introjects of abusers and may not understand that they themselves are not abusers.

We prefer the term misguided protectors because, though healing, these alters are ultimately just…misguided. That side, ours are dormant.


Caretaker alters care for specific members of the system, like littles, pets, teens, and system groups. They may act like a parental figure to other alters, and those they care for may refer to them as “mom” or “dad” instead of their names.


Introjects are alters based off outside people — e.g. a family member or guardian who supported and/or positively influenced the dissociative child; a historical figure the dissociative child found strong, brave, and relatable; abusers. Abusive introjects bring zero comfort, self-esteem and moral compass to the dissociative system.

Abusive introjects will reenact trauma and abuse to reinforce the “lessons” of their abusers, and may not see themselves as the person they represent. They may be disgusted by their origin.

Fictional introjects are common, but do not require the entire character/persona of the fictional person they’ve originated from.

Not all introjects are abusive or fictional, or mirror the entirety of those they’re based on or originate from.

Memory/trauma holder

We mostly call the memory holder a trauma holder, because they usually hold the trauma. Each alter has their own happier memories, but some alters have less pleasant memories and hold more trauma.

I’m Jane, a DID alter. I know of the body associated with the body, but I have not shared much of my personal trauma with anyone. I experienced little external trauma, more internal DID system-related trauma from our misguided protective alter holding the legal name of the body.

I was not abused, but this body definitely was. The trauma is held by trauma holders, the alters of which bear other alter roles in addition to this one.


Gatekeeper alters controls the “switching”, or whomever gets access to the “front”. A lot of systems will just call it “fronting”, and we are one of those.

In the Darling System, our gatekeeper holds the keys to the Library of Memories, makes much of the system rules, and has access to anywhere within the system they want to go. They’re essentially the system supervisor.

Ours has been around since the start, enduring countless abuse, and does not associate with humanness — but isn’t an alien, either. They just…are. They exist, genderless, emotionless, ageless.

Edit 15th Nov 2021: Our trauma holder and gatekeeper merged to create Izzy, who is not genderless, emotionless or ageless.


Fragments are alters who didn’t fully develop or don’t have their own unique attributes. They may exist to complete certain tasks, or maintain single memories and/or emotions. Individually, they may not encompass an entire person and need other alters to complete them.


Child alters include littles, middles and teens, and the ages of each vary from system to system.

Sharing too much information about child alters online is dangerous, possibly more so when the DID system’s body is an adult, because certain triggers — like names, things and scents — can result in a child alter fronting and getting into uncomfortable, inappropriate, dangerous, unsafe and/or traumatizing situations.

Littles are not to be confused with the DDLG kink and should be considered children when fronting. This doesn’t mean a trusted person within the system’s vicinity should parent the child without explicit permission from the system, but they should ensure the child alter’s safety.

Something interesting about child alters is that they may have access to an adult brain! This means they might be able to comprehend, speak and behave in a way that children often do not — including using bigger vocabulary or doing laundry — but doesn’t always mean they should do all the things (like cooking on the stove or using the oven), and definitely does not mean they are secretly adults.

Other DID alter functions exist, but these are the main ones we will be referencing on our own blog, especially when discussing our DID.

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