Dissociative identity disorder is an extreme disconnection or separation from one’s own personality. Essentially, it’s a complicated and chronic post-traumatic psychopathology that is closely related to severe child abuse. Dissociation means a detachment from something else or a state of severance. People suffering from this disorder experience a lack of connection in an individual’s memories, thoughts, actions, feelings, or their sense of identity.
The individual may use dissociation as a coping mechanism to help protect them from a traumatic experience. To do so, a person with dissociative identity disorder would dissociate themselves from the uncomfortable (triggering) event or memory by dissociating themselves from the situation that’s too traumatic or painful to experience.
According to Psychology Today, “More than 70 percent of people with dissociative identity disorder have attempted suicide, and self-injurious behavior is common among this population. Treatment is crucial to improving quality of life and preventing suicide attempts .” Child abuse is very common for individuals suffering from dissociative identity disorder.
The prevalence of dissociative identity disorder is around .01-1% of the general population. Be that as it may, this is a very harmful and debilitating mental disease which makes it very difficult for it’s victim to cope with day to day situations that they may deem to be traumatic. There is also a much higher percentage of the population that have not been diagnosed with this difficult to treat and debilitating personality disorder.
Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder
The exact causes of dissociative identity disorder is not entirely understood. However, what is known is that the majority of individuals who are diagnosed with this mental illness have experienced some sort of severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives, mainly during childhood. “Among those with the dissociative identity disorder in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, approximately 90 percent report experiencing childhood abuse .”
Neglect during childhood is another very common reoccurring theme that diagnosed individual’s have claimed to have experienced. This mental disorder is typically diagnosed during adulthood. However, most of the damage is said to be during the very early stages of cognitive development, as with many other personality disorders.
Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
There are many different ways that a victim of dissociative identity disorder will experience this illness in their lives. For one they will experience identity confusion. Just as the name implies, the individual will experience a confusion of who they truly are. They may find it quite difficult to identify what they enjoy doing in life, what their stance is on social or political issues, or what their sexual orientation is for example.
Derealization is another symptom of dissociative identity disorder that will make it difficult for the individual to feel a sense of “realness” in the world. To them, they may feel as though the world is not real, so to speak. This can cause a great deal of anxiety for them.
Depersonalization is another symptom of dissociative identity disorder where the person will have an “out of body” experience. They will physically feel as though they are watching themselves as an observer of their thoughts and movements.
Amnesia is another very common symptom of this disorder. Their failure to recall past information is so extreme that it cannot be mistaken with mere forgetfulness. They may completely forget about very important personal information about themselves, among other things. They may also experience micro-amnesia. This is where they will forget parts of conversations or entire conversations right after having them.
According to the DSM-5 the following criteria for diagnosing dissociative identity disorder are as follows:
- Two or more distinct identities or personality states must be present, each with their own relatively ongoing pattern of relating to, perceiving, and thinking about the environment, as well as the self.
- Amnesia must occur, defined as gaps when recalling everyday events, traumatic events, and/or important personal information.
- The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas due to the disorder.
- The dissociative identity disorder symptoms are not part of normal cultural or religious practices.
- The symptoms can not be due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g. alcohol) or a general medical condition (e.g. partial seizures)..
Treatments for Dissociative Identity Disorder
Like most mental illnesses, there is no cure for this disorder. However, there are treatments that can be implemented to help minimize the symptoms of this very debilitating disease. Some effective treatments for this illness include hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and other types of therapy such as art or music therapy.
Like personality disorders, there are no clear-cut medications for treating this disorder. However, people who suffer from one mental illness sometimes tend to suffer from a 2nd or 3rd one as well. So, the individual suffering from this disorder may also suffer from depression or anxiety. If this were the case then they may need medication to help minimize the symptoms of those disorders. This may or may not correlate to relief from dissociative identity disorder. As far as we know, therapy is the best treatment method for it.
According to HealthyPlace.com, “There are many dissociative identity disorder treatment goals. The goals of DID treatment include ensuring the safety of the patient, symptom relief as well as: “Reconnecting” all existing DID alters into one, well-functioning identity, allowing the person to safely express and process painful memories, developing new and healthy coping skills, restoring functionality, improving relationships .”
The different personalities of dissociative identity disorder
For the individual suffering from this disorder, they may have many different personalities that all help them to cope with specific (painful) situations in their lives. How many different identities are present in those with this illness? Well, according to WebMD, “There’s an average of two to four personalities present when the patient is initially diagnosed. Then there’s an average of 13 to 15 personalities that can become known over the course of treatment .”
The accumulation of more personalities as treatment progresses makes it very difficult to treat this illness. As new stressors accumulate in the lives of those suffering from this disorder, new identities are created to help mask those stressors. This can become a huge problem as some patients may experience over 100 different personalities within themselves over time.
1) “Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)”. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder/
2) “DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER (DID) TREATMENT CHALLENGING”. Healthy Place. https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/dissociative-identity-disorder/dissociative-identity-disorder-did-treatment-challenging/
3) “Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder”. Web MD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder#3-8/