Dissociative identity disorder (A guide)

Dissociative identity disorder
JuanitaHFNE

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

Dissociative identity disorder

This blog will be about the concepts that constitute dissociative identity disorder which are the definition of dissociative, definition of multiple personality disorder, the diagnosis of a dissociative disorder, meaning of split personality disorder, the meaning of an identity disorder, the mental health of patients, the treatment of this psychological disorder, and the study of this psychological disorder.

Dissociative

The definition of dissociative is to be unaware of the identity, consciousness, and environment of the person. Most people have a tendency to become dissociated from the world. This is because being dissociative is one of the defence mechanisms proposed by the school of psychoanalysis. This enables the person to get away from stressful events by looking at these events from an outside perspective.

In this case, the person may seem numb of all the stressful events since the person is not focusing on the present event but focusing in some aspect of his or her psyche that can preoccupy them from the present stressor. This can help people temporarily since the need to escape from danger is natural and this is a necessity when a solution has not been made to a present problem. When this defence mechanism is used almost always, this can lead to escaping any kind of problem even minor ones that aren’t used for survival purposes and may lead to an obstruction of the self and present sensations.

Dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative identity disorder is the kind of disorder that is characterized by an appearance of a disintegrated self showing from the person’s distress of the interactions and experiences that have happened to the patient which the patient is unaware of. Patients who are diagnosed with this kind of disorder may appear to have another self to other people and these identities tend to be denial about their real identity. Alters are the identities made by the patient that made the diagnosis. These alters have a different perception of time since some alters are living in the past and some alters are living in the present.

Because of these alters, the patient may feel memory problems from the alters’ experiences with the world. Alters may have different personalities to a real identity. Alters can also be similar to the characteristics of some animals. You can learn more about dissociative identity disorder by buying this book on this website.

Dissociative identity disorder (A guide)

Multiple personality disorder

Multiple personality disorder is the early term for dissociative identity disorder. This was changed since the patient merely has separate identities of one personality. Also, some patients with this kind of psychological disorder don’t usually have alternate identities. This kind of psychological disorder hasn’t been researched too much since this is a rare and controversial disorder of all the psychological disorders. 

This is because psychologists may think that this kind of psychological disorder may be a form of role-playing to most affected patients. Most affected patients were more likely to have imaginary friends and to day-dream when they were in their early childhood years. The appearance of imaginary friends may have been what these patients have been role-playing within their early years. Also, some criminals have used this kind of psychological disorder as a defence to get minimal years in imprisonment which makes most psychologists careful about giving this diagnosis to possible patients. 

Dissociative disorder

A dissociative disorder is a kind of psychological disorder where there is a dysfunction of memory, consciousness, and identity. The main dissociative disorders are dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization or derealization disorder. These kinds of psychological disorders are related to the over-usage of the defence mechanism of dissociation. You can learn more about dissociative disorders by buying this book on this website.

The common symptoms of these disorders are memory loss of specific periods, distorted perception of the environment, significant stress from environmental interactions, and associated mental health problems. Patients who have this disorder tend to present to the doctor some disturbing flashbacks that have been intrusive in their minds. Research has found that 75% of people experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode in their lives with only 2% meeting the full criteria for chronic episodes of this phenomenon. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with this kind of disorder. 

Dissociative identity disorder (A guide)

Split personality disorder

A split personality disorder tends to be associated with multiple personality disorder which is the older diagnostic label of dissociative identity disorder. This kind of disorder is characterized as the loss of memory of some time and fragmented experiences that the patient isn’t fully aware of. A person diagnosed with this kind of disorder may feel uncertain about his or her identity and who the person is. These patients may feel the presence of other identities with their own names, voices, personal histories, and behavioural mannerisms.

The symptoms of this kind of disorder may manifest in people with a borderline personality disorder. This kind of personality disorder is described as having unstable emotions and relationships due to the unhealthy and manipulative behaviours of these patients. This kind of personality disorder was named as such since these patients show that they are between the episodes of neurosis and psychosis. These kinds of patients tend to appear to have two or more personalities since they tend to fear abandonment which makes them manipulative to a loved one and fear that they may hurt the loved one.

Dissociative personality disorder

Dissociative identity disorder which was formerly known as multiple personality disorder is thought to be a complex psychological condition that is usually caused by many factors such as severe trauma during early childhood which is extreme, repetitive physical, sexual or emotional abuse from parents or other relatives. This kind of disorder is a severe form of dissociation which is a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. The dissociative aspect of this disorder is thought to be a coping mechanism which is when the person literally shuts off or dissociates himself or herself from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to absorb with his or her conscious self. Several instances of true stories of this kind of disorder are very rare. 

When this kind of disorder occurs, this disorder can occur at any age. The episodes of this kind of disorder can be triggered by a variety of real and symbolic traumas such as mild events like being involved in a minor traffic accident, adult illness, or stress. A reminder of childhood abuse for a parent who has this kind of disorder can trigger him or her when their child reaches the same age at which the parent was abused. You can learn more about the traumatic events that can cause this kind of disorder by buying this book on this website.

Dissociative identity disorder (A guide)

DID disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a rare mental health condition in which two or more distinct identities or personality states are present in and alternately take control of an affected person. Some affected people describe this kind of disorder as an experience of possession. The affected person also experiences memory loss that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. In psychiatric practice, the vast majority of people with this kind of disorder do not present as if these patients have multiple personalities. 

Instead, these affected patients present with a number of both dissociative and post-traumatic symptoms and many apparently non-trauma-related issues such as depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety. In fact, many affected people with this kind of disorder are high-functioning members of society with good careers before some crisis or build-up of stressors leads to a sudden and catastrophic breakdown which arouses the symptoms of this kind of disorder. By experiencing trauma in childhood, the affected person takes on different identities and behaviours to protect himself or herself. As the affected person develops more of these behaviours, these kinds of behaviours become more fully formed until it looks like the affected person has different identities but these different parts of the affected person’s identity don’t work together properly.

Disassociative personality disorder

An inordinately high number of people with dissociative identity disorder have experienced some kind of childhood sexual trauma. Studies thought that the trauma is troubling that the affected person breaks off from the selves and creates other personalities that don’t have this kind of problem. These affected people may also have a personality that stops developing from the age at which the trauma happened. The therapist and the patient may search together for other personalities that remember this kind of trauma so that they can hash it out and work on this trauma. 

Once this trauma is addressed,  the therapy can go a long way towards ending this kind of disorder in a patient. People with this kind of disorder have experienced a fragmentation or splintering of their identity rather than a growth of new and separate identities. For the vast majority of people with this kind of disorder, people switching between alters is involuntary and can’t be identified by a casual observer at all. You can learn more about the different identities that may arise from this kind of disorder by buying this book on this website.

Dissociative identity disorder (A guide)

What is dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative identity disorder is when an affected person has two or more distinct personalities or identities. This kind of disorder was previously known as multiple personality disorder. An affected person with this kind of disorder often has a main personality which is usually passive, dependent, and depressed. This kind of disorder has two forms which are possession and non-possession form.

In the possession form, the identities manifest as though these identities were outside agents usually a supernatural being or spirit or another person who has taken control of the person which causes the person to speak and act in a very different way. In such cases, the different identities are observable to common people.  Nonpossession forms tend to be less or not observable. These affected people may feel a sudden alteration in their sense of self or identity such as feeling as though these people were observers of their own speech, emotions, and actions, rather than the outside agent. 

Identity disorder

Many people with dissociative identity disorder have grown up in an abusive family environment where they are sworn to secrecy and where hiding becomes a way of life. In adult years, the stigma and sense of shame around both sexual abuse and mental illness is a strong factor in making these people’s history and the condition known. One of the obvious symptoms of this disorder is a disconnection from or avoidance of both the trauma and the dissociated parts of our personality. This is why this disorder tends to be hidden from most people.

DID mental health

Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder (DID) include losses of time, memory lapses, blackouts, often being accused of lying, finding what seem to be strange items among one’s possessions, having apparent strangers recognize this disorder in patients as someone else, feeling unreal, and feeling like more than one person. While structured interviews by a mental health practitioner can help with the accuracy of this diagnosis, there is no specific diagnostic test for this disorder. Therefore, mental health professionals perform a mental health interview, ruling out other mental disorders, and referring the client for a medical evaluation to rule out a physical cause for symptoms that may indicate the appearance of this disorder. If the patient has this disorder, he or she may experience depression, mood swings, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and feelings, self-harm, headaches, hearing voices, sleep disorders, phobias, alcohol and drug abuse, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and various physical health problems.

This means that this disorder can become comorbid with another psychological disorder. If the patient feels suicidal or don’t feel if the patient is able to keep himself or herself safe, the patient may need urgent help. It is important that if the patient having any suicidal thoughts he or she should seek help immediately. Media depictions such as this one here of patients with this disorder are less likely to be accurate and psychologists advise people to not believe that this disorder can be explained by several movies or books alone.

Dissociation treatment

Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for patients with different dissociative disorders. This kind of therapy which is also known as talk therapy, counselling or psychosocial therapy, involves talking about the patient’s disorder and related issues with a mental health professional. The therapist will work to help the patient understand the cause of his or her condition and to form new ways of coping with stressful circumstances. Over time, the therapist may help the patient talk more about the trauma he or she experienced but only when the patient has the coping skills and relationship with the therapist to safely have these conversations.

Dissociation psychology

Dissociation is a psychological experience in which people feel disconnected from their sensory experience, sense of self, or personal backgrounds. This phenomenon is experienced as a feeling of intense alienation or unreality where the person suddenly loses their sense of where they are, who they are, of what they are doing. This phenomenon often occurs in response to trauma and seems to have a protected characteristic in that this phenomenon allows people to feel disconnected from traumatic events. The symptoms of this phenomenon often go away on their time. 

This experience may take hours, days, or weeks. The person may need treatment if this phenomenon is happening because the person had an extremely troubling experience or the person may have a mental health disorder like schizophrenia. Different kinds of dissociative disorders exist that are considered as diagnostic labels in the accredited manual. These disorders are dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalisation or derealization disorder.

Conclusion

Dissociative identity disorder is one kind of dissociative disorder that is described as the person’s loss of identity, memory loss of certain events, and different perceptions of fragments of the person’s identity. This disorder has been associated with other disorders that may have been caused by traumatic events such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Several psychotherapies can help people with this disorder but this disorder tends to happen for a lifetime in a person’s life. You can comment below on your thoughts about this disorder and your perceptions about this disorder in patients.

FAQ Questions

Does a person with multiple personality disorder know they have it?

A person with multiple personality disorder does not know they have this disorder.

Can a person with dissociative identity disorder live a normal life?

A person with dissociative identity disorder can live a normal life even if he or she may feel like memories of specific events are missing.

What do dissociative identity disorder voices sound like?

The dissociative identity disorder voices sound like the different identities in the person with this disorder.

Can OCD turn into schizophrenia?

OCD can turn into schizophrenia as recently found in research studies.

Can schizophrenics love?

Schizophrenics can’t love another person since they become distant when having this disorder.

Citations

Crown. (2019, April). Dissociative disorders. NHS. Retrieved from here.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2020). Results for multiple personality disorder. Retrieved from here.

PODS. (2014, March). A Brief Guide to Working with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Patient. Retrieved from here.

Psychology Today. (2019, February). Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder). Retrieved from here.

Rethink Mental Illness. (n. d.). Borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from here.Rethink Mental Illness. (n. d.). Dissociation and dissociative identity disorder (DID). Retrieved from here.

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