Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder is also known as Multiple Personality Disorder and involves two or more different personalities that take turns controlling the individual. The individual also experiences unusual memory loss. There have been more reported cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder than in the past but the diagnosis is very controversial. Rather than manifesting distinct personalities it is now understood that those with Dissociative Identity Disorder suffer from a fragmentation or splintering of their identity that is brought about by persistent and severe episodes of childhood trauma or neglect.

It can take as much as seven years before someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is accurately diagnosed because their symptoms are often similar to those experienced by people with depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Dissociative Identity Disorder can be a way of coping with exposure to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse over a long period of time. Those who have been exposed to natural disasters and combat are more likely to experience Dissociative Identity Disorder than members of the general population.

What are the Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative amnesia that involves not being able to remember important personal information and everyday events, difficulty functioning and severe distress, emotional numbness, the disturbance can’t be associated with drug abuse or some other medical condition, lacking a sense of self-identity, out of body experiences, and mental health conditions such as depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder than men.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Causes

The root of every known case of DID is a history of extreme trauma or abuse. This tends to lead the victim to cope in increasingly distanced ways, until they completely disassociate themselves in times of stress. The trauma can be linked to childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, war, a traumatic accident, and even severe emotional abuse. The patient may go into a dissociative state to separate themselves from a stressful situation, or as a coping method against traumatic memories.

An episode can be triggered by similar situations, sounds, or even smells and sights that remind them of their trauma. Disassociating is merely a coping method for the patient to deal with the memories or trauma itself. Even if they are not in danger, their mind may lead them to believe that they need to distance themselves from further harm. Dissociation is technically classified as a defense mechanism, but the hallmark of DID is excessive and recurring disassociation.

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Treated?

Talk therapy, hypnosis, art therapy, and movement therapy are often used to treat Dissociative Identity Disorder. Anti-anxiety and antidepressants are often prescribed because those suffering from Dissociative Identity disorder also tend to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Prevention

There is no surefire way to prevent DID, since it usually occurs in survivors of abuse or traumatic events. Not everything can be prevented, but a survivor of a traumatic event can begin learning coping methods early and avoid developing dissociative traits. Therapy, medication, and a strong support group can be a good way for survivors to build proper coping methods after trauma. This way, they will not feel the need to distance themselves from perceived danger.

If you think a child, friend, or loved one may have experienced trauma or may be abused, reach out to them sooner rather than later. Early action is the best way to prevent Dissociative Identity Disorder, since it is primarily caused by isolation and a lack of proper coping methods. Removing the victim from a negative environment and helping them in the aftermath is sometimes the only way to prevent DID, and the best way to help victims of traumatic events.