Dissociative identity disorder, also referred to as multiple personality disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when the presence of multiple identities or personalities simultaneously control your behavior. In order to be diagnosed with this disorder you must have at least two personalities that regularly take complete control of your behavior. If you have this disorder you may experience frequent bouts of memory loss, which is beyond normal forgetfulness.
If you have dissociative identity disorder, you may experience a loss of memory when the alternate personality gains dominance over you. Nearly 10% of people with a personality disorder also have dissociative identity disorder.
The exact cause of this disorder varies, but most individuals with dissociative identity disorder experienced some form of abuse during childhood. In addition, some experts believe that this disorder is the direct result of an iatrogenic effect produced by some psychotherapeutic practices. Yet other experts believe that the disorder is more profound now due to increasing interest in the disorder.
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the criterion for the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder involves the presence of multiple personality traits or identities that recurrently take control of your behavior. At least two personalities must exist simultaneously. The episodes must be accompanied by bouts of memory loss whereby you fail to remember any account of personal information beyond any expectation of normal forgetfulness. Some of the diagnostic features include: excessive alcohol consumption, medications and drugs, complex partial seizures and/or childhood fantasy play.
The diagnostic criterion tends to focus on the presence of multiple identities and bouts on amnesia, rather than the numerous signs that are generally present among individuals diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. Some of these signs resemble those seen in various other mental illnesses. Your brain activity may fluctuate between normal, high and severely impaired.
Warning Signs Commonly Associated with Dissociative Identity Disorder:
- Memory Loss
- Severe Mood Swings
- Confusion of Identity
- Identity Disruption
- Loss or Distortion Subjective Time
- Anxiety or Panic Attacks
- Fluctuating Attitudes, Mannerisms and/or Beliefs
- Previous Experiences of Physical or Sexual Abuse
- Suicidal Behavior
- States of Trance-Like Behaviors
- Hearing Voices
- Somatic Symptoms
- Random or Unexplained Phobias
- Spontaneous Episodes of Anger
In cases of chronic and/or severe dissociative identity disorder, the signs may be so disturbing that they may make you doubt your sanity.
The most common methods of treatment include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Insight-Oriented Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Medications have been used to treat this disorder. Some therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat single identities. Once a consistent response is achieved, more treatment options are added to treat the condition. Treatment requires regular contact (twice weekly visits or more) between you and your therapist. Treatment may last for years.
American Psychiatric Association. (2001). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) Washington, D.C.
Spira, J. L. (1996). Treating dissociative identity disorder. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/about/Treating_dissociative_identity_disorder.html?id=TBQpAAAAYAAJ