Dissociative identity disorder (DID), colloquially known as split personality disorder, is a condition wherein a person manifests two or more distinct personalities in him. While the colloquial term can be attributed to its rampant use in popular culture, it was earlier referred to as multiple personality disorder. Irrespective of what it is referred to as, there is no questioning the fact that it is dangerous as it can prompt the person to do something which he might never do in a proper frame of mind.
The condition is usually traced to traumatic incidents of the past, which are deep rooted in the person's subconscious mind, and lack of attention in the childhood. In this case, traumatic past refers to both, physical and psychological trauma that the patient is subjected to.
Split Personality Disorder: Symptoms and Diagnosis
The split personality disorder does find a place in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) compiled by the American Psychiatric Association. It states that a psychiatrist or psychologist can carry out a diagnosis of the condition by studying its symptoms and resorting to specially designed interviews and personality assessment tools.
As far as the symptoms are concerned, a person suffering from this condition demonstrates two contrasting personalities at two different points of time. The difference in attitude and mannerism is pretty obvious to go unnoticed. Switching, i.e., a person changing from one personality to another, may occur as rarely as once in a year at times, or may even occur for a couple of times in a single day itself.
The tests designed for the diagnosis of split personality disorder generally contain a stipulated number of questions which are related to the person's day-to-day experiences. As a part of the prerequisites, it's important that the person undergoing these tests is in a neutral frame of mind, and not under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
As for the specially designed interviews, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV is one of the most popular. It is basically a diagnostic exam which is predominantly used to diagnose some of the major dissociative disorders. In psychiatric patients, this test may last for anywhere between 1 - 2 hours.
Yet another popular tool of diagnosis is the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), a questionnaire widely used to diagnose dissociative symptoms. There exist separate tests for children, i.e., the DES scale for children, and adolescents, i.e., the DES scale for adolescents.
Irrespective of which of these personality tests is chosen, it has to be performed by a trained professional, i.e., some psychiatrist or psychologist, in order to get credible results. The person being subjected to these tests has to answer them honestly as a part of the diagnosis process.
Once the disorder has been established, the person has to be promptly subjected to treatment, which mostly revolves around the use of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy alongside the use of psychiatric medication. The sooner the disorder is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat it.