Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is probably better known by its previous name, multiple personality disorder. This condition is characterized by a conflict between two or more separate and very distinct personalities or identities in one individual that control their behavior at different times. Many times the person cannot remember what happened while one of their personalities was in control.
People with DID can have as few as two personalities or up to as many as 100; however most individuals suffering from DID have about an average of 10 personalities. Often these “alters” not only differ in regards to their personalities, but also physical properties such as allergies, the need for eyeglasses and the hand with which they write. Alters can be stable over many years and continue to be a part of a person’s life without them knowing. However, some alters can be quite hostile towards other alters or people whom the dissociative person knows. Furthermore, alters of some people with DID can surface at any time, making a functional social and work life nearly impossible. Still, those with DID sometimes claim that the disorder makes life bearable. However, at its core the disorder alienates its victim and is the source of constant loneliness.
Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociatives can become extremely depressed, suicidal and abject. Self-mutilation has been observed in some cases, and some complain of visual or auditory hallucinations. Other symptoms of dissociative identity disorder may include:
- Distortion of or loss of time
- Severe loss of memory
- Flashbacks of trauma or abuse
- Frequent panic attacks
- Sudden anger with no apparent instigation
- Anxiety, panic attacks and phobias
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors and sleep walking)
- Eating disorders
Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder
The causes of this disorder are not known definitively, but DID has been linked to extreme stress and trauma. Many patients have cited childhood sexual or physical abuse, as well as incidents that they saw as betrayal and insufficient nurturing. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism – the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self.
Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Diagnosis of DID should be done by a psychiatrist or psychologist who is very familiar with the personality assessment tools necessary to confirm the condition. Some of the criteria a mental health practitioner will look for are disruptions in identity along with distinct and divergent personality and behavioral traits, as well as an inability to recall events or personal information during these episodes. Treatment for DID usually focus on psychotherapy or hypnosis, as the condition is usually unresponsive to treatment by medication. Mental health professionals aim to relieve the patient from the stress caused by one or many traumatic influences in their lives and the resultant symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. The ultimate goal is to reconcile the different alters into one functioning identity. When medications are used they are prescribed for comorbid disorders. If you are seeking help with dissociative identity disorder, there are countless mental health professionals who specialize in treatment of the condition. Furthermore, there are plenty of other people who also live with the disorder that can offer support in peer groups. Do not let DID interfere with a happy and functional life anymore.