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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

This condition used to be called multiple personality disorder.

Symptoms include:

  • a person's identity has two or more different personalities that exist separate from each other.
  • the person displays differences in thoughts, behaviors, personality, memory, and even different body behaviors (walking differently). This may be noticed by other people or the person may feel that someone else has taken control of their mind and body.
  • gaps in memory of day-to-day activities, personal identity information, or other important events. The different personalities often have their own names, life histories, experiences, thoughts and feelings. They may be a different gender. They may also have different medical issues. For example, one may need to wear glasses or contacts when the main person doesn't normally. They can also sound and even walk differently.
  • not being related to a cultural or religious practice.
  • not being caused by a medical condition, a substance (medication or drug of abuse) and in children, cannot be explained by an imaginary friend or other pretend play.

How common is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

This condition only happens to about 1.5% of people. It can be seen at any age, including in children and teens.

What are the risk factors for Dissociative Identity Disorder?

This condition occurs after traumatic events, especially physical or sexual abuse as a child. As many of 90% of those with this condition experienced child abuse or neglect. The child separates themselves as a way of coping with the abuse or memories of it. This causes problems with the child's developing sense of self. Instead of a single self, it causes multiple personality pieces with different memories and identities.

What other disorders or conditions often occur with Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Research has found that over 70% of people with this condition have attempted suicide at least once and making multiple tries is also common.

It can occur with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and sleep disorders.

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder treated?

The main treatment for this condition is psychotherapy where the therapist will work with the person to united the various personalities into a single personality. This new single identity may keep parts that come from the others.

Medication can be used to treat specific symptoms. There is no medication that cures the overall condition. But usually medication is not used because of the different personality states. If it is used, the person should be monitored closely by a doctor.

There are also self-help support groups that have formed on the internet and within larger cities/areas. This allows people with the condition to connect with others in the same situation. Members may be able to better understand the experiences they are having and to provide support during the integration process.