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What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder

Medikoe Wellness Expert

Medikoe Wellness Expert

  80 feet road indira nagar, Bengaluru     Jan 5, 2022

   6 min     



Dissociative identity disorder is where people have two or more separate identities. Each identity has its personal history, traits, likes, and dislikes in this mental condition. These personalities control their behaviour at different times. DID can lead to amnesia and hallucinations.

Dissociative identity disorder used to be called split personality disorder or multiple personality disorder.

DID is one of many dissociative disorders. These disorders affect a person's ability to stay in touch with reality.

Dissociative disorders involve identity, memory, emotion, behaviour, perception and sense of self.

Examples of dissociative symptoms include Memory loss and the experience of detachment from the body.

Dissociative identity disorder is linked to overwhelming experiences, traumatic events or abuse in childhood. 

What causes Dissociative Identity disorder?

The cause of dissociative identity disorder developed in people is not entirely understood. But, they frequently report having experienced severe emotional, sexual and physical abuse during childhood or growing up.

The disorder may first manifest at any age. Individuals with DID may have post-traumatic symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, or startle responses) or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Studies have included victims of childhood maltreatment and neglect, adult rape, prisoner of war experiences, torture, trafficking, repeated medical procedures, accidents and natural disasters as a cause of Dissociative Identity Disorder. 

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder?

  • There are persistent gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information, or past traumatic events.
  • The different identities are accompanied by changes in behaviour, memory and thinking. The individual observed by others might report these signs and symptoms. 
  • Sensory-motor and cognition are disrupted, which would otherwise function normally.

DID is caused as a psychological response to interpersonal and environmental stresses during childhood.

Children may become dissociative in families where parents are frightening and unpredictable. According to studies, DID affects about 1% of the population.

There are three types of dissociative disorders:

  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder
  • Dissociative amnesia

How Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Diagnosed?

  1. Self-diagnosis is not encouraged. If symptoms match the person's behaviour, consulting a psychiatrist is recommended. 
  2. The psychiatrist will further counsel the patient and carry forward the necessary treatment. The psychiatrist may look for the following symptoms:
  3. Occurrence of amnesia, defined as gaps in remembering daily events, important personal information, or traumatic events.
  4. The person may have trouble functioning in major life areas because of the condition.
  5. In the possession form, the identities usually manifest as though they were outside agents, typically a supernatural being or spirit, who has taken control of the person, causing the person to speak and act in a very different way.

Also, Read- All About Anxiety Disorders

What is the treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Several people have successfully addressed the significant symptoms of dissociative identity disorder and have improved their ability to function and continue living meaningful lives. 

  • Psychotherapy is the treatment by which people with DID have typically been cured. Therapy helps people gain control over the dissociative process and symptoms. The goal of treatment is to help integrate the different elements of identity. 
  • Therapy can be overwhelming and complex as it involves coping with past traumatic experiences. 
  • Hypnosis has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of dissociative identity disorder.
  • A commonly used therapy is Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

How to Recognise Dissociative Identity Disorder and Its Associated Mental Disorders?  

  • Dissociative amnesia. Memory loss that is more severe than typical forgetfulness and cannot be explained by a medical condition is the main symptom. You can't remember details about yourself, events, or people in your life, especially if it happened during a difficult period. Amnesia usually strikes suddenly and lasts minutes, hours, or, in rare cases, months or years. Dissociative amnesia can be localised to events in a specific time frame, such as severe warfare or more uncommon total memory loss. It may occasionally entail travel or a disoriented wandering away from your life (dissociative fugue).
  • Dissociative identity disorder. This disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is marked by the "switching" of identities. You may sense the presence of two or more persons speaking or living inside your head, as well as the feeling of being possessed by other personalities. Each identity may have its name, personal history, and traits, such as unmistakable voice, gender, mannerisms, and even physical characteristics such as the necessity for spectacles. There are also distinctions in how one identity is acquainted with the others. Dissociative identity disorder is frequently accompanied by dissociative amnesia and dissociative fugue.
  • Depersonalisation-derealisation disorder. This is characterised by an ongoing or episodic sense of detachment or being outside of yourself as if watching a movie and observing your actions, feelings, thoughts, and self from afar (depersonalisation). Other people and objects around you may appear disconnected, foggy, or dreamy; time may be slowed or sped up, and the world may seem surreal (derealisation). Depersonalisation, derealisation or both may occur. Symptoms can be quite upsetting and can last only a few minutes or linger for years.

Can dissociative identity disorder (DID) be prevented?

Although, it's challenging to prevent Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The only way out is identifying signs pre-onset of DID and seeking treatment to cope with the symptoms. 

Teachers, parents, and caregivers must lookout for signs in young children. Treating soon after episodes of abuse or trauma may prevent DID from progressing.

Triggers that cause personality changes can also be identified through treatments. Stress or substance abuse accounts for common triggers. Stress management and avoiding drugs and alcohol may help reduce the frequency of different alters controlling your behaviour.

Is it possible to live an everyday life having Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Living an everyday life after experiencing a mental health condition, like dissociative identity disorder, is possible. People who learn ways to cope with dissociative disorders can increase their chances of living what they consider everyday life.

Recovering from dissociative identity disorder is not easy yet; many people with this condition can still spend time with loved ones. They can also keep working and lead a fulfilling life.

The treatment helped many to restructure memories and even disrupt negative thinking patterns related to past abuse. In some cases, antidepressant medications are prescribed to treat depressive thoughts.

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Tags:  Diseases ,Dissociative identity disorder, psychology

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