Multiple Personality Disorder / Dissociative Identity Disorder

Close up of young woman struggling from multiple personality disorder.

What is Multiple Personality Disorder?

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Multiple Personality Disorder — more commonly known today as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID) — involves a disturbance in normal memory function, often producing flaws in other areas such as identity, perception, emotion, and self-awareness. Those affected with this disorder generate multiple alternative identities, referred to as “alters,” or multiple/split personalities.

As the disorder develops, people with DID suffer the sensation of detachment as well as memory voids, leaving them uncertain of details from their daily experiences and personal information. As conditions worsen, the disorder has the potential to disrupt all aspects of mental function and stability across one’s daily life.

A multi-exposure of an emotional woman.

Who Suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Although Multiple Personality Disorder is considered rare, it should not be discounted out of hand. DID affects about one percent of the population, or approximately 3 million people in the U.S. Considering that most diagnoses are made around age 30, we must understand that the disorder exists undiagnosed in a large number of people under the age of 30.

Typically, DID is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men. As noted above, diagnosis is usually made at about age 30. However, signs of DID can be seen in children beginning around age 5, with multiple alters emerging by the age of 6. With early onset of DID at this young age, the number of alters a person develops may exceed 15 by adulthood.

Rear view of depressed woman sitting alone on bench in yellow raincoat

How psychiatry works to treat behavioral issues

Because behavioral issues could stem from several different sources, a trained and board-certified psychiatrist will work to determine exactly why his patient suffers from mental health concerns.

Behavioral issues could be the result of physical trauma, such as a brain injury. Some people are also genetically inclined toward behavioral concerns. Meanwhile, psychological and social issues could be at fault. For instance, stressful or dramatic life events – or even a dysfunctional upbringing – could be at fault. Yet other reasons for the pattern of behavior could include growing up in poverty or poor nutrition.

And because behavioral problems encompass a wide range of actions and emotions, a psychiatrist will work to discover each layer and determine a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient – one that will produce the most meaningful results. And because some patients behave the way they due to activity patterns within the brain, a highly trained and careful psychiatrist will work with that knowledge at heart.


What are the Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder results in two or more distinct personalities, or “alters,” in the affected person. These alters are accompanied by other changes in personality, behavior, voices, memory, and cognitive function. Some alters will take on gender, age, or ethnicity characteristics that are different than the true identity of the sufferer.

These alters may show themselves for short moments of time or may last for days or weeks. During these periods, the subject often experiences gaps in memory and/or hallucinations. High levels of stress are caused by these events and the false realities created in the subject’s mind.

Because of the disruptive nature of DID symptoms, functioning with this condition can be extremely difficult and near impossible at times. These experiences will naturally affect all areas of life, from social and family interactions to performance at work or in school.

Why do People Suffer Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Research indicates that some form of trauma causes most instances of DID. In fact, trauma seems to account for more than 90 percent of all cases diagnosed. Traumatic experiences that increase the risk of DID include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Most often, these painful incidents occur during childhood.

The “alters” may appear as an attempt to deal with the abuse and the stress associated with traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, suicide and other forms of self-harm are also associated with DID. Statistics show that more than 70 percent of DID patients have attempted suicide at least once.

In addition to suicidal thoughts, people with DID may experience other mental health complications, including:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Food and other eating disorders


 How Do You Diagnose and Treat Multiple Personality Disorder?

As with any mental health complication, a proper diagnosis is imperative. Because other conditions exist that can produce similar symptoms (e.g., traumatic brain injury, concussion, and substance abuse), we need to investigate deeply to identify the true root of any disorder.

Once a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder is confirmed, we at Bridgepoint will work with you to employ the most appropriate treatment for your — or your loved one’s — specific condition. Many patients successfully work through their symptoms and improve functionality for a productive life.

The most common and successful form of treatment for DID is psychotherapy. Its goal is to integrate the disassociated identities back into a singular personality. Therapy for DID can become intense and extremely challenging as it often requires bringing past experiences to the surface so they can be addressed in a proper and healthy manner. Accordingly, it is important that your therapist is properly trained to deal with the high levels of tension that can occur in these therapy sessions.

We will work with you to determine a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and/or dialectical behavioral therapy that will attain the best results for your situation. Another potential method is hypnosis, which can be added to treatment options when appropriate.

Medications do not directly treat DID. However, some medications may be helpful in treating the symptoms or related conditions (e.g., depression) that accompany a DID diagnosis.

Person holding another persons clasped hands

Are there Other Forms of Dissociative Disorders?

Yes. Closely associated with DID are dissociative amnesia and depersonalization, also known as derealization disorder.

Dissociative amnesia produces an inability to remember personal information. This condition is not a normal form of forgetfulness, but it results from a stressful or traumatic event. Often, the affected person has limited awareness of the memory loss.

Derealization disorder involves a detachment or altered reality about one’s mind or surroundings. Affected people often feel as though they are watching themselves from outside their bodies or sense that events and people around them are not real. Usually, the person is aware that this is an unusual experience, but it creates tremendous stress to the victim.


What to do When Multiple Personality Disorder is Suspected

Dissociative identity disorder is a dangerous and high-risk condition. As noted above, attempted suicide is a common result. Accordingly, if you suspect that you or a loved one may have this disorder, we urge you to contact us immediately to arrange a visit with one of our trained professional staff.

We will schedule a prompt consultation to provide a thorough examination and precise diagnosis. With the diagnosis, Bridgepoint will outline a tailored treatment plan for the utmost in personalized care and assistance. The sooner we can begin treatment, the faster we can work together to restore proper brain function and equip you and your loved one to live a healthy and productive life.

Visit Our Resources Page

Bridgepoint encourages clinicians, patients, and their loved ones to research new methodologies and techniques to improve mental health and wellbeing. To assist with your own learning, we’ve put together a variety of resources on a variety of topics – including genomics – to help you on your mental health journey.

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