Dissociative Identity Disorder – What Is It?

This psychological condition was once referred to as multiple personality disorder due to the loss of identity that sufferer’s experience. It is a complex disorder that can have multiple causes, including trauma, as a result of being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused in childhood. To relieve the stress of everyday life, sufferers create a different identity.

Dissociation from daily events is not uncommon; most of us daydream or get immersed in one activity to the point of forgetting our surroundings. However, the dissociation experienced by people who have DID is extreme. It results from a series of mental processes that disconnect one’s thoughts, actions, memories, feelings, and sense of identity.

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The severity of DID varies; one may experience brief amnesia or develop multiple unique identities. People may struggle with one of the four types of this disorder:

  1. Dissociative amnesia;
  2. Dissociative identity disorder;
  3. Dissociative fugue;
  4. Depersonalization disorder.

The nature of this disorder is such that people do not realize when they are suffering from it. Although they might occasionally notice a few symptoms, the similarity of the condition to depression often confuses them into thinking they do not have DID.

Because the main symptom is having split identities that influence extremely different behavior, a person’s loved ones usually realize the problem first. How severe the disorder is and how much stress one is experiencing determines whether they remember what they did while having an alternate personality.

While in a new identity, a person may start a new life. He or she may wander to new places, start a new family, and change their lives while in this condition referred to as dissociative fugue. In the most extreme condition, their alternate personality may last for a minute or several months. Although they eventually awake from it, they never realize that they have been missing and do not remember what happened in those months.

How to Tell if Someone Has Dissociative Identity Disorder

The main symptom of dissociative disorder is switching personalities. Each identity has a different age, gender, or race. It has a unique way of talking, walking, and gesturing. The memories one identity has may not be similar to those of the other identity. Whenever a switch happens, a different identity takes over and controls the person’s behavior and actions.

Forgetfulness is a key symptom of the disorder. The person suffering from it may not be able to remember the name and other personal details of his real identity. The person’s memory varies depending on which identity he takes on.

DID also comes with a set of psychiatric symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Phobias as a reaction to triggers;
  • Mood swings;
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Psychosis;
  • Compulsive behavior;
  • Ritualistic tendencies.

During the dissociative episodes, people with DID may experience physical symptoms which include:

  • Headaches;
  • Loss of memory;
  • Trances;
  • Amnesia;
  • Time loss.

Sufferers often believe that they cannot control their actions. When they switch, they may act rebelliously and behave out-of-character. Stealing from a friend, reckless driving, and speeding are some things they may do under the illusion that they are being forced to.

How DID Therapy Works

To treat dissociative disorders, three different methods are used. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Psychotherapy

It is the main method of treating this disorder. Typically, it takes a long time and involves more than one course of treatment. A therapist may use creative art or cognitive-based therapy methods.

Creative art therapy identifies what the individual is trying to express. It helps build self-awareness to identify one’s triggers that lead to the out of body experience. It also helps the individual to acquire coping mechanisms.

On the other hand, cognitive therapy works on identifying the negative behaviors associated with the episodes. It helps the individual to adopt positive behaviors that improve his well-being. Both therapy methods require the isolation of root causes of the condition and improving the person’s reaction to the condition.

Hypnosis

This is used in addition to counseling. It helps the patient to relax and cope with intense emotions. Lost memories may be recovered through this method.

Medication

There is no specific medicine to cure DID itself. However, because the condition occurs alongside other mental health issues, some drugs can be used. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications help to improve mental health and reduce the likelihood of triggering an episode. They numb the mind to certain triggers.

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Why Hire a Therapist for DID

There is no known cure for the condition. This means that although medicine and hypnosis may focus on the severity of symptoms, they cannot treat it. Because DID worsens with changing environments, it is quite difficult to manage without professional help. Choosing an experienced therapist who can create new strategies for recovery and coping mechanisms is essential. It is the only way to lead a healthy life after a DID diagnosis.

How to Identify the Best Therapist

The most distinct quality for a therapist is an experience in dealing with the condition. He or she must also have certification in psychotherapy, behavioral psychology, or cognitive therapy with a specialty in DID.

For you to get the most out of therapy, you must have a connection with the psychologist. Identify one that you trust and whose personality does not trigger unhealthy dissociative episodes. Because the disorder can get so severe, you will work with your therapist for a long time. It is important to be as comfortable as possible around them. Ready to find a therapist to help you deal with DID? Search our online catalog of skilled professionals.

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