HomeHealth A-ZDissociative Identity Disorder - Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risks and Treatment

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risks and Treatment

Overview

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a severe mental disease that causes individuals to have two or more personalities or identities. These identities take over a person’s behaviour at different times. Dissociative identity disorder leads to memory gaps and other problems. This blog is a comprehensive guide to understanding dissociative identity disorder, causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

What is dissociative identity disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder also called multiple personality disorder, is a severe mental health condition. Individuals with DID cannot develop a proper connection to their thoughts, feelings, memories, actions, and sense of identity. 

The patients suffering from this disorder have a main personality and one or more alternate personalities. Often, the main personality can be passive, dependent, and depressed. The alternative identities may differ in age and gender and may exhibit different and distinct moods and preferences. These personalities take turns to control the patient and are unaware of the occurrences in real-time when not in control. Thus, leading to memory gaps in the patient.

Traumatic events such as combat, sexual or physical abuse during childhood, and natural disaster may cause dissociative identity disorder. This is a coping mechanism where people dissociate themselves from a situation or experience that is too violent, traumatic, or painful.

What are the types of dissociative identity disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder is one of the several dissociative disorders that affect people’s ability to connect with reality. The other dissociative disorders include:

  • Depersonalized or derealization disorder is a condition in which the patient may feel detached from their actions.
  • Dissociative amnesia is a disorder that may lead to the patient having trouble remembering information about themselves.

What are the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder?

People with dissociative identity disorder have two or more recognizable identities – called alters. The normal personality is the ‘core’ identity. Some people with this disorder have 100 alters. These alternative personalities tend to be very different from one another. The identities may have different genders, interests, ethnicities, and methods of interacting with their environment.

The other common signs and symptoms of this disorder include:

When should you seek a doctor’s help?

If an individual or a loved one has dissociative identity disorder and exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Exhibits more than one distinct personalities
  • Self-harm
  • Violent behaviour
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Memory gaps

What are the causes of dissociative identity disorder?

As mentioned earlier, dissociative identity disorder is generally the result of sexual or physical abuse suffered during childhood. At times it develops in response to a natural disaster or other traumatic events such as combat. The disorder is a coping mechanism developed by the individual to distance or detach themselves from the trauma.

What are the risks for dissociative identity disorder?

People of any age, ethnicity, gender, and social background can develop this disorder, with the most significant risk factor being physical, emotional, or sexual abuse suffered during childhood.

How is dissociative identity disorder treated?

Certain medications might help with some of the symptoms, including depression and anxiety. They include anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotic drugs, and antidepressants.

However, the most effective treatment is psychotherapy that helps patients learn how to cope with the disorder and understand the cause of DID. Doctors with specialized training in mental health disorders, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, can guide patients and their family in ways and means to manage the condition better. Patient might also benefit from individual, group or family therapy. Some doctors also consider hypnosis as a useful tool for the treatment of dissociative identity disorder.

Conclusion

Dissociative identity disorder is a mental health condition in which, people have multiple, distinct personalities. The different identities control their behaviour at various times. This condition may lead to memory loss, delusions, or depression. Therapy might help people control their behaviours and minimize the frequency of identity ‘switches.’ It is crucial for people with the disorder to have a strong support system, including doctors, family members, and friends. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can dissociative identity disorder be prevented?

There is no way to prevent dissociative identity disorder. However, identifying the signs as soon as possible and seeking treatment might help people manage symptoms. Parents, caregivers, and teachers must watch out for signs and symptoms in young children. It is advisable to seek treatment immediately after episodes of abuse or trauma to prevent the onset of the disorder.

The treatment might also help identify the triggers that cause personality or identity changes. The common triggers include stress or substance abuse. Managing stress and quitting drugs and alcohol may help reduce the frequency of different alters controlling the behaviour.

Can any test diagnose dissociative identity disorder?

There is no diagnostic test that can diagnose dissociative identity disorder. Doctors may review patient’s symptoms and their personal health history. They can perform tests to rule out underlying physical causes for the symptoms, such as head injuries or brain tumours.

The symptoms of this disorder often show up in childhood, between the ages of 5 and 10. However, parents, teachers, or doctors can miss the signs. Sometime a it is confused with other behavioural or learning problems common in children. This could include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a result DID is normally not diagnosed until adulthood.

Is there a cure for dissociative identity disorder?

There is no cure for dissociative identity disorder. The majority of people will manage the disorder for the rest of their lives. However, a combination of treatments may help minimize the symptoms. Individuals can learn to have more control over their behaviour. Over time, they can function better at work and at home.

Are there ways to make living with dissociative identity disorder easier?

A robust support system will help make living with dissociative identity disorder manageable. Individuals with this disorder must ensure that they have doctors, family members, and friends who know about and understand the condition. They must also communicate honestly and openly with their support system and be unafraid to ask for help.

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