Multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder is a mental disorder where the affected individual seems to have at least two or more distinct and separate personalities existing in one body. Here, is some information about this bizarre dissociative disorder, it’s symptoms and treatments.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously referred to as multiple personality disorder is a psychotic (neurosis) disorder in which a person has two or more distinct identities or personality states. These multiple personalities dominate and control the behavior of the patient. DID is sometimes called “split personality“, but it should not be confused with schizophrenia, which is a different disorder altogether. DID was first reported as a clinical disorder in the nineteenth century, prior to which many believed such cases to be the result of a spirit or demon possession.
There are no fixed causes for this disorder. Majority of patients with DID report childhood sexual and/or physical abuse, though the accuracy of these reports is controversial. This disorder can also be caused by the social environment of the patient, problems in brain functioning, excess exposure (i.e., repeated episodes) to some traumatic situations, etc. Situations and incidents during childhood where mental stress and pressure are high, are known to induce vulnerability of a person to this disorder. Because childhood trauma is a possible factor in the development of this disorder, some doctors think it may be a variation of post-traumatic stress disorder. Both dissociative identity disorder (DID) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are conditions where dissociation is a prominent mechanism.
Two very famous cases of dissociative identity disorder were made into movies and books. They were the “Three Faces of Eve“, and “Sybil“. With these movies and books, dissociative identity disorder became well-known to the public. Many big actors and actresses have played characters with dissociative disorders in various movies. However, only a few famous people have openly admitted to their dissociative identity disorder. Adam Duritz (frontman of Counting Crows), Roseanne Cherrie Barr (actress and comedian) and Hershel Walker (football player) are a select few who have admitted to their disorder, and openly told the world through interviews, blogs, and books.
People with this disorder, sometimes have alter personalities of different genders, sexual orientations, ages, and nationalities. Some people alter to something that is not even human; such as a spiritual force, or an animal, sometimes even to an extraterrestrial life force. On an average, DID patients have about 2 to 10 alters, but some have been reported with as many as 100.
Patients lose major chunks of their memory. They do not remember things that have happened in their lives over an extended period. Sometimes they forget what had happened with them between particular periods of time. For example, sometimes patients forget everything about their childhood, or sometimes they forget about whatever happened during a time period, say some 3-4 years. When the alter personality dominates them, patients do not remember what they did after they come back to their real self. They may report finding items in their house that they can’t remember having purchased, finding notes written in different handwriting, or other evidence of unexplained activity.
Lose Contact with Own Personal Reality
Depersonalization is another symptom, people suffering from this disorder experience. Patients feel that their body is unreal, is changing, or is dissolving. Sometimes, they feel as if they are out of their own body and watching a movie of themselves.
This symptom involves a sense of confusion about who a person really is. An example of identity confusion is, when a person sometimes feels a thrill while engaged in an activity (such as alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, etc) which at other times would be revolting against that thing/activity.
Alteration in Perception
A patient also experiences de-realization as one of the symptoms of this disorder. Patients feel that the things they are witnessing are not real, they perceive the external environment as unreal. They also feel that the objects around them are changing in shape, size, or color. Sometimes patients even fail to recognize their relatives and close friends.
Other Possible Symptoms
• Anxiety, nervousness, or panic attacks
• Depression or mood swings
• Unexplained changes in eating and sleeping patterns
• Change in levels of functioning, from highly effective to nearly disabled
• Sexual problems
• Suicide attempts or self-injury
• Substance abuse
• Feeling impulsive and out of control
Some people with dissociative disorders have a tendency towards self-persecution, self-sabotage, and even violence (both self-inflicted and outwardly directed). Any stressful situation or memory may trigger altering of the personality of the person who is suffering from this disorder. The patients then may find themselves doing things they wouldn’t normally do, and be unaware of it.
Just like symptoms, the treatment for DID also varies from patient to patient. There has been a history of misdiagnosis of the patients suffering from this disorder. Once this disorder is diagnosed correctly, the patient needs to undergo treatment, which varies from months to some years. Types of treatments include psychotherapy, medications and hypnosis.
This kind of therapy uses psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems. Using these techniques, the therapist can determine how many alter personalities the patient has, under each one of them, and then design an appropriate therapy for the patient.
Once the diagnosis is complete, the doctor may prescribe appropriate medication. Depending upon the improvements/results, the doctor changes these medications. Some doctors prescribe tranquilizers or antidepressants, while other therapists prefer to keep medications to a minimum, as they believe that patients can easily become dependent on medication or drugs.
Hypnosis can also be used to understand the cause of the disorder that the patient is suffering from. It may help patients recover repressed ideas and memories. Hypnosis offers great help in deciding the pattern of treatment. This treatment can also be used to control problematic behavior, such as self-mutilation, or eating disorders.
Alternative treatment and therapies include hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, therapeutic massage, yoga, and homeopathic treatment. Art therapy and maintaining journals are often recommended as ways that patients can integrate their past into their present life.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.