Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
Dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly called multiple personality disorder, is a condition that involves a disconnect or fragmentation of a person's identity, such as their thoughts, memories, feelings, and emotions. This article will present statistics on dissociative identity disorder, including how many people have DID and other important facts.
What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociation, in itself, isn't something people should be too concerned about. Everyone dissociates from time to time, whether it's driving on a long stretch of road, being fully-invested in a movie or TV show, or just simply daydreaming in class.
Dissociation is a phenomenon that refers to a disconnection between your thoughts, feelings, and environment. When you space out for a short period, you lose awareness of your surroundings and may not realize what has happened in that timespan. When you "snap out of it," you become fully aware of what's happening around you again.
However, dissociation can become much more than this. People can disconnect for extended periods and use it to cope with stress due to past or current experiences.
When this happens, people can develop dissociative disorders, and currently, three of them are recognized:
- Dissociative identity disorder
- Dissociative amnesia
- Depersonalization/Derealization disorder
Dissociative identity disorder is a condition where an individual has splits or compartments in their memories and personality. This can lead to different identities, also known as "alters," whereas the "host" is considered the person's primary identity. Typically, there will be two or more of these alters. Sometimes, they can even be a completely different gender, like different food or activities, and speak differently from the host. 
This is why the disorder used to be called multiple personality disorder. It was changed because dissociative identity disorder better describes fragments of different personalities and memories. 
These different personalities are involuntary, but at the same time, they are a coping mechanism for traumatic events. There are many reasons that a person may disassociate. It could be from abuse, an accident, or a natural disaster.
In addition to these different partial identities, people with this disorder will frequently have gaps in their memories and have trouble recalling past events, especially trauma. However, these gaps can still involve ordinary things and personal information. 
Even though dissociation is used to cope, it severely limits a person's ability to function, and it can have severe implications.
1. How Rare Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Many sources estimate that the prevalence of dissociative identity disorder is around 0.5 percent to 3 percent, but others suggest it may be as low as 0.01 percent to as high as 15%.   
Therefore, it's impossible to know exactly how many people have dissociative identity disorder.
The reason why it's speculated that it could be higher and why there is a wide range of percentages has to do with the condition being underreported and underdiagnosed.
This may have to do with the circumstances of why people often develop dissociative identity disorder, which will be discussed next.
2. Childhood Neglect & Abuse Is The Most Common Cause Of DID
According to the American Psychiatric Association, up to 90 percent of dissociative identity disorder cases in North America, Canada, and Europe are due to traumatic childhood experiences. 
This includes single events and ones that happen repeatedly and regularly.
Normally, adulthood trauma doesn't lead to dissociative identity disorder, and instead, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops. This is because kids don't have mature brains, which can make them more prone to having dissociative identity disorder, and most likely, they don't have a proper support system.
For example, suppose a child grows up in a household with abusive parents. In that case, they probably don't have any other ways of coping other than dissociating, whereas adults can typically find other ways of doing so. 
3. Females Are More Likely To Be Affected By DID
Statistics involving how common dissociative identity disorder is shows that females outnumber males when it comes to this condition, and this can occur for a few reasons.
One of the main ones is that females are more likely than males to experience childhood trauma, leading to more female cases overall. 
Another possible reason is the differences in coping and symptoms. Boys aren't as likely to have memory loss as girls, and instead of dissociating, they tend to display more aggressive behaviors and hide their other symptoms. 
This leads to fewer diagnoses for males in a frequently underreported disorder and misdiagnosed as it is.
4. DID Is One Of The Most Misdiagnosed Conditions
Because of dissociative identity disorder's unique symptoms, particularly the different personalities and uncommon nature of the condition, DID is frequently mistaken for other disorders, even by professionals.
The three most common conditions mistaken for DID are borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. 
When it comes to diagnosis, dissociative identity disorder is not in the same category as any of these conditions - DID is not a:
- Personality disorder
- Psychotic disorder
- Mood disorder
Dissociative identity disorder can lead to additional mental health concerns that can make diagnosing it more difficult. Sometimes people may show symptoms that aren't seen in other casses, which can add to the challenge of making a diagnosis.
5. Dissociative Identity Disorder Comes With Many Risks
Due to the severe nature of DID, it's very common for individuals to develop depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Substance abuse has been identified in approximately 17 percent of patients with dissociative identity disorder because it can be used as a way to cope and escape from reality. 
If you or someone you know is or might be living with a substance use disorder, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
This can lead to addiction and other complications, which can make diagnoses harder to make as well. For example, some drugs can cause mania or psychosis, leading to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Unfortunately, self-harm and suicide is also a significant concern for people with DID, and it's estimated that around 70 percent of patients with DID have attempted suicide at one point or another.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available to assist 24/7.
6. DID Highly Treatable
Despite the potential for severe and possibly irreversible consequences, dissociative identity disorder is treatable, and most people who attend therapy can make significant progress and learn how to function better.
In therapy, a couple of different goals are prioritized. One of the main ones is trying to "piece together" the fragmented personalities into one entity. Hypnosis may also be used to try to recover the memories needed to do this. 
Therapy will also show patients with DID how to cope with the pain that the traumatic experiences have caused instead of dissociation. It can also be effective in treating the other issues that are commonly seen along with DID as well.
Sometimes DID can go away without treatment, but most of the time it doesn't. Usually if it is left untreated, it tends to worsen.
Therapy is a long-term solution for those with DID. Although they often spend several years working with a professional, with commitment, people can heal and live normal lives by learning healthy coping skills.
Does Your Loved One Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?
One of the biggest hurdles to getting treatment for DID is getting the correct diagnosis from a professional.
Friends and family will often identify unusual signs in a loved one's behavior that have been occurring for years. This could prompt them to try to seek help for them on their behalf. Unfortunately, misdiagnoses can be made, which delays getting help and leads to more confusion for those who want to help.
If you believe someone you care about may be experiencing this condition, you can take this free dissociative identity disorder test and find out. It's completely free, and the results may be able to help doctors or psychiatrists make the right decision for your loved one.
Hopefully, by reading this article, you have gained a better understanding of many dissociative identity disorder facts. Things such as how common DID is, whom it affects, why it happens, and treatment rates are all important facts to know. Some of the statistics may be alarming, but with appropriate treatment, the prognosis tends to be very positive for people with the disorder. They can make a full recovery with time and effort.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2018, August). What Are Dissociative Disorders? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders
- Spiegel, D. (2020). Expert Q & A: Dissociative Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/expert-q-and-a
- SANE Australia. (2020, September 25). Dissociative identity disorder (DID). Retrieved from https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/dissociative-identity-disorder
- Renzoni, C. (2020, September 17). Dissociative Identity Disorder Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder/related/dissociative-identity-disorder-statistics/
- Bhandari, S. (2020, January 22). How common is dissociative identity disorder? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/qa/how-common-is-dissociative-identity-disorder
- Spring C. (2020, January 20). What causes dissociative identity disorder? Retrieved from https://www.carolynspring.com/blog/what-causes-dissociative-identity-disorder/