What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Most experts agree that dissociative identity disorder, sometimes shortened to “DID”, is one of the most unusual and dramatic personality disorders, posing lots of challenges and unanswered questions for both researchers and clinicians.
Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct identities or personalities.
Most often, people with dissociative identity disorder have a primary personality which can be passive, hesitant, depressed, and dependent. However, his or her alternative personalities may be at the opposite pole, displaying extraversion, openness, and charm.
Furthermore, alternative personalities may have different genders or ages and exhibit different preferences, interests, beliefs, behaviors, and feelings in someone with DID.
These personalities take over successively, changing the person’s entire attitude towards himself or herself, others, and the world. When one personality ‘takes the wheel,’ the rest remain on ‘standby.’
In other words, if a personality is on standby, it dissociates or detaches itself and does not know what happened while it was on standby. And that’s why people with this condition can struggle to recall significant portions of their everyday life.
The impact that dissociative identity disorder has on one's personal and professional life depends significantly on the number of existing personalities. But as you can probably imagine people who suffer from dissociative identity disorder face numerous challenges.
Signs of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Experts agree that even though DID occurs during childhood, symptoms become obvious during adolescence and may worsen when the person reaches adulthood.
The main signs of dissociative identity disorder are:
- Presence of dreams and painful memories
- Lack of focus
- Seizures – especially in response to trauma or unpleasant memories
- Unexpected changes in clothing, activities, and preferences
- Feelings of detachment and dissociation
- Memory loss
- Lack of sleep
- Dizziness and confusion
- Lack of temporal and spatial awareness
- Pesence of two or more personalities which trigger behavioral and emotional changes that may be labeled as ‘bizarre’ or ‘baffling’ by others.
Aside from the symptoms mentioned above, one reliable indicator of dissociative identity disorder is dissociative amnesia. In other words, the person is unable to recall recent important or stressful events. Dissociative amnesia can result in anxiety and depressive symptoms.
How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Treated?
DID can be a severe mental illness that wreaks havoc into the lives of those who are dealing with it. Unfortunately, there are no treatments designed specifically for dissociative identity disorder at this time.
However, mental health professionals can use a wide range of pharmacological and therapeutic approaches that can help people manage the unpleasant effects of this condition and enjoy a relatively stable life.
Although there are no drugs that target this condition, psychiatrists often prescribe antidepressants or anxiolytics to help with the anxiety and depressive episodes associated with dissociative identity disorder.
Psychotherapy is the most popular form of intervention for dissociative identity disorder. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and number of alternative personalities, people with this condition could stay in therapy for years before reaching the point where they can take full control over their life.
It’s important to remember that the primary goal of therapy isn’t to reduce all personalities to one but to teach the person to handle all personalities and make them work harmoniously toward the same personal and professional achievements.
And so the purpose of therapy is to help the client understand their condition, increase awareness, control emotions and impulses, cultivate stable interpersonal relationships, and manage stress.