A Double Take. Studies show a Glimpse of what it’s like for Surviving Twins

Industry: Film and TV

"A Double Take" by Richard Oretsky is a drama that takes us into the lives of two surviving twins and the life long effects it has on them.

New York, NY (PRUnderground) September 5th, 2022

It’s always difficult to lose a loved one, but losing a twin sibling is especially tough. By virtue of sharing the same womb and common experiences, twins tend to have strong emotional bonds. New research suggests that someone who loses a co-twin may be at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders.

The study’s lead author Dr. Song is a senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Sichuan University in China. She explained that before this new study, few were conducted on this kind of bereavement.

Using Swedish data, Song and her team located people who had lost a twin to death between 1973 and 2013. The researchers compared the twins’ psychiatric diagnoses with non-twins and over 22,000 people whose twin was living.Dr. Song explained, “Losing a co-twin by death may be a particularly devastating life stressor with considerable health implications for surviving twins.”

In fact, their study showed that following the death of one twin, the risk of the remaining twin being diagnosed with a mental disorder was increased by between 55 and 65 percent. The highest risk was found among those who lost their twin sibling during childhood or adolescence. Among the remaining twins, diagnoses ranged from stress-related disorders and psychotic disorders to mood disorders.

They found that psychiatric diagnoses most commonly appeared within a month of the twin’s passing when the risk is considered seven times higher. Worse, this risk remains higher for over ten years, with the most significant risk falling among identical twins who were two and a half times more likely to develop a mental condition than non-twin siblings.

In terms of non-identical fraternal twins, there was a 30 percent higher risk of psychiatric conditions after the death of a twin sibling.  Other surviving co-twins, with sufficient support, can cope and do quite well for themselves; these several Hollywood celebrities are examples.

But why is this? Well, it’s said that the bond between twins begins at conception. By 16 weeks into the pregnancy, a fetus has self-awareness of space. At this point in development, a single fetus will begin exploring its own body and environment. But when twins share the space, they explore each other.

As the space becomes smaller in utero, the fetuses may engage in acts of aggression or game playing. Around the four-and-a-half month mark, their senses develop, and they have more room to interact. A single fetus will learn independence, but twins learn interdependence.

This sense of togetherness that’s formed in the womb is then carried out into the real world. Often, where you find one twin, you find the other. They tend to dress the same, think the same, and like the same things.

In essence, a twin is almost a reflection of the other’s self. Yet, it’s this sense of shared identity combined with shared milestones that form the strong bond that exists between twins. The bond can be unconscious or conscious, with separate lives not changing this connection.

So, you can see why a twin who loses their co-twin experiences grief and pain that’s reminiscent of when a spouse dies. Though spouses are chosen as companions, twins are automatic, natural lifelong companions.

The big takeaway here is that when a co-twin passes away, it’s the very first time a twin has actually been “alone.” Since the existence of one twin is built into the other, twins essentially don’t know how to act alone. This person is left with a mix of feelings, from survivor’s guilt to longing to reconnect. The remaining twin may feel as if half of them died or experience phantom pain. It’s even been found that after a twin passes, the other will feel the need to represent both of them and begin taking on behaviors of the deceased sibling.

Ultimately, a loss is hard for everyone, but twins seem to almost feel empty without their counterparts. If you’d like to see an example of life after losing a twin, check out the movie A Double Take (2020), produced by Richard Oretsky. It’s a drama that follows the story of two people who both lost their twin in life. Each of them displays their own unique mixture of feelings and they even create a connection of their own! It’s full of emotion and really gives you a good look at what it’s like for twin-less twins. Check it out today on the DANO Network and the DANO app on Roku and Google Play.

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