Split personality disorder is defined by the presence of two or more distinct, and in some cases, radically different personalities within one person. This was previously known as the multiple personality disorder, and is now known as a dissociative personality disorder and a split personality disorder in general terms. An individual suffering from this disorder is known to be overpowered by one of these personalities at different times where the behavior exhibited by the person may be different at one time of the day, than at another.
Also, socially these persons may manifest different relationships depending on the personality type that is prevalent at that time. The belief regarding the existence such a disorder is still questionable, as some find it hard to believe that one person can exhibit such different personalities at different times. However, it has been seen in several people who tend to exhibit certain symptoms of a split personality, the most prominent one of which is the presence of high moral values in the primary personality, with a vast difference in values in the sub-personalities.
While this may not necessarily be the case with every sufferer of this personality disorder, it has been noticed in several cases. A person suffering from a split personality disorder may have more than two personalities residing within her/him. As the triggers or the situations that bring about a switch in the personalities are experienced, another personality type comes to the fore.
The causes of this condition have been narrowed down to extremely traumatic incidents experienced during childhood, such as child abuse from which one did not recover, very poor self-esteem, or heredity. Those who have had such experiences are considered to have developed a multiple personality disorder as a mechanism of denial of reality and its acceptance. As such, they start exhibiting certain symptoms that have been explained below. On the other hand, in certain cases, no such history has been recorded. The sufferers of this disorder have had a perfectly normal childhood and have yet developed these symptoms. This may be due to a certain dysfunction in the working of the brain.
Those who suffer from a split personality disorder are usually unable to associate the relevance of certain events in their life. This is because when the sub-personality becomes prevalent, the primary personality is unaware of the events that occur in relation to the sub-personality. It can be said that one personality type goes into a kind of slumber or a trance-like state that has been described by many as an 'out-of-body' experience, when the other is prevalent. This leads to the development of the following symptoms:
- A person with this disorder is bound to experience significant memory lapses, to the point of amnesia, that are related to important events, such as birthday of a loved one, etc.
- They tend to find things in their ownership, even though they are unable to remember where those things came from, or how they have been acquired.
- They tend to experience different types of emotional states and mood swings, ranging from depression to a state of elation.
- Visual and auditory hallucinations are common to those who suffer from the split personality disorder. They are able to hear voices inside their head, which they are quite sure, are not their own.
- Because of the perpetual trance they are in, they feel like spectators of their own lives, rather than experiencing any events themselves.
- Confusion is an obvious symptom of this disorder, because of the lack of association with the various events that one is going through.
- Those with this condition are likely to suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia.
- Sudden flashbacks of the past, incessant headaches, bouts of aggression and violence, and frustration, are other symptoms that define a split personality.
- Further symptoms of this condition include drug and alcohol abuse, and traits of an obsessive compulsive disorder. They feel like they are compelled to do things they would otherwise never indulge in, or find repulsive.
Before the implementation of any treatment plan for a person with split personality, diagnosing it is important. The diagnosis of this condition may take several years, as the symptoms that are exhibited by one suffering from this disorder overlap with a variety of other psychological disorders. Dissociation, aggression, anxiety and other symptoms may be experienced by those suffering from any other disorder. Also, there is no specific test to diagnose a split personality, though there are some other personality disorder tests that may help in identifying the aforementioned symptoms. The symptoms have to be closely watched, and only then can a final diagnosis be attained.
Treatment of this disorder then, can be done by methods of psychotherapy, which again may take a long time. During psychotherapy, patients are made to experience feelings that they may have been uncomfortable with in the past, and are helped to come to terms with their various personalities. The personalities are meant to be reintegrated to become one whole, where the others may either become a part of them or be completely destroyed. Other methods such as hypnosis and the administration of certain medicines to treat individual symptoms may also be employed. All these techniques take a lot of time to show results, and in some cases, the changes may not be radical as a patient may experience severe anxiety in the process thereby resulting in a failure of the technique. This may require the therapist to start all over.
Diagnosing the aforementioned symptoms and treating them at the earliest is essential for the safety of the individual suffering from the condition, as well as that of her/his close ones. The violent streak in them may get very prominent otherwise, and they may begin to develop suicidal tendencies in such a case. Their overall quality of life will be affected due to their inability to maintain relationships and commitments, both personal and professional. Opening up to treatment options and the love and support of family members can eventually help the individual in coping with dissociative identity disorder, and more or less, get her/him to lead a normal life.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only and does not intend to replace the advice of an expert. Upon noticing any symptoms, a qualified psychiatrist must be consulted, who will then diagnose and treat the condition appropriately.