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Deb's Mental Health And Wellness Guide

"Face Yourself - Free Yourself"

Multiple Personality Disorder / Dissociative Identity Disorder


Most of us have experienced mild dissociation, which is like daydreaming or getting lost in the moment while working on a project. However, dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. Dissociative identity disorder is thought to stem from a combination of factors that may include trauma experienced by the person with the disorder. 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.


Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?


Dissociative identity disorder is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct or split identities or personality states that continually have power over the person's behavior. With dissociative identity disorder, there's also an inability to recall key personal information that is too far-reaching to be explained as mere forgetfulness. With dissociative identity disorder, there are also highly distinct memory variations, which fluctuate with the person's split personality.The "alters" or different identities have their own age, sex, or race. Each has his or her own postures, gestures, and distinct way of talking. Sometimes the alters are imaginary people; sometimes they are animals. As each personality reveals itself and controls the individuals' behavior and thoughts, it's called "switching." Switching can take seconds to minutes to days. When under hypnosis, the person's different "alters" or identities may be very responsive to the therapist's requests.

What Are the Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder?

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors, and sleep walking)
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias (flashbacks, reactions to stimuli or "triggers")
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Compulsions and rituals
  • Psychotic-like symptoms (including auditory and visual hallucinations)
  • Eating disorders

What's the Difference Between Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia?


Schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are often confused, but they are very different.


How Does Dissociation Change the Way a Person Experiences Life?


There are several main ways in which the psychological processes of dissociative identity disorder change the way a person experiences living, including the following:


It is now acknowledged that these dissociated states are not fully mature personalities, but rather they represent a disjointed sense of identity. With the amnesia typically associated with dissociative identity disorder, different identity states remember different aspects of autobiographical information. There is usually a "host" personality within the individual, who identifies with the person's real name. Ironically, the host personality is usually unaware of the presence of other personalities.

Who Gets Dissociative Identity Disorder?


While the causes of dissociative identity disorder are still vague, research indicates that it is likely a psychological response to interpersonal and environmental stresses, particularly during early childhood years when emotional neglect or abuse may interfere with personality development. As many as 99% of individuals who develop dissociative disorders have recognized personal histories of recurring, overpowering, and often life-threatening disturbances at a sensitive developmental stage of childhood (usually before age 9). Dissociation may also happen when there has been persistent neglect or emotional abuse, even when there has been no overt physical or sexual abuse. Findings show that in families where parents are frightening and unpredictable, the children may become dissociative.


  1. Two or more distinct identities or personality states are present, each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self.
  2. Amnesia must occur, defined as gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic events.
  3. The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas because of the disorder.
  4. The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices.
  5. The symptoms can not be due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (such as blackouts or chaotic behavior during alcohol intoxication) or a general medical condition (such as complex partial seizures).

How Common Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?


Statistics show the rate of dissociative identity disorder is .01% to 1% of the general population. Considering dissociation more broadly, more than a third of people say they feel as if they're watching themselves in a movie at times (that is, possibly experiencing the phenomenon of dissociation), and 7% percent of the population may have some form of an undiagnosed dissociative disorder.


How Common Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?


Statistics show the rate of dissociative identity disorder is .01% to 1% of the general population. Considering dissociation more broadly, more than a third of people say they feel as if they're watching themselves in a movie at times (that is, possibly experiencing the phenomenon of dissociation), and 7% percent of the population may have some form of an undiagnosed dissociative disorder.


What's the Recommended Treatment Plan for Dissociative Identity Disorder?


While there's no "cure" for dissociative identity disorder, long-term treatment can be helpful, if the patient stays committed. Effective treatment includes talk therapy or psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and adjunctive therapies such as art or movement therapy. There are no established medication treatments for dissociative identity disorder, making psychologically-based approaches the mainstay of therapy. Treatment of co-occurring disorders, such as depression or substance use disorders, is fundamental to overall improvement.


Because the symptoms of dissociative disorders often occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, medicines to treat those co-occurring problems, if present, are sometimes used in addition to psychotherapy.


(www.webmd.com)