Dissociative identity disorder — also referred to as DID — is a severe mental health disorder. You may sometimes hear DID referred to as multiple personality disorder. Although rare, those who experience DID have two or more distinct personalities. This condition can affect how an individual navigates their daily life and how they interact with the world around them.
Fortunately, DID is a treatable mental health disorder. While it can be a lifelong disorder or last just a few years, there are treatment options for those experiencing this condition. First, it is essential to become familiar with what DID is and what treatment options are available for those who are experiencing it.
What Is DID?
DID is a rare psychiatric disorder that affects less than two percent of the global population. This condition often goes misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed, or incorrectly diagnosed. Multiple tests are needed for an accurate diagnosis of this condition. The most severe symptoms of this disorder include suicide attempts, substance abuse, and self-injurious behavior.
However, often the biggest source of DID comes from trauma. Trauma — either physical, sexual, or emotional — can affect an individual’s psyche until the point that they develop another personality as a coping mechanism.
The Etiological Theories of DID
There are two etiological theories of this condition. First, the fantasy theory of DID explains that individuals with high psychological symptoms, such as intense feelings of vulnerability, combined with self-isolation can develop DID. The second theory, known as the trauma model, relays that an individual who experiences a poor lack of sleep, post-traumatic dissociation, or an experience of leaving one’s body can develop DID.
Most often, DID is associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD) because both conditions share similar symptoms. However, what makes DID unique is that there is a distinct turn in personalities. Those with BPD may not experience another personality inside of their brain.
Symptoms of DID
As mentioned previously, extreme symptoms of DID include suicidal ideation and attempts, self-injurious behavior, and possible substance abuse. There are, however, other symptoms that individuals should be aware of when seeking a proper diagnosis.
Another characteristic of this mental health disorder includes the presence of two or more distinct personalities. This doesn’t mean having an imaginary friend or being possessed by a demon, which in some cultures has been the reason for diagnosis. Having two or more personalities means each personality has its own distinct behaviors, mannerisms, and expressions. The voices of each personality could be different as well.
Additional symptoms of DID include:
- Amnesia or repeated gaps in memory of past events and trauma
- Lack of motivation to do daily activities
- Inability to process information
- Going from one personality to the next, not remembering what happened
For those who experience DID, it is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed or have co-occurring depression, psychosis, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental conditions.
Receiving a Proper Diagnosis
When looking for a correct diagnosis for DID, it is crucial to seek an opinion from a proper medical professional. For example, a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist may best understand this diagnosis. This is especially true if they have prior experience in helping clients with this mental health disorder.
For those who are having trouble finding a proper medical professional to assess them, consider speaking with a primary care physician and ask for referrals. They will know where to direct clients to see the right person and or facility. Also, it is important to remember to not fear speaking with a doctor about personal symptoms, as they may be able to recommend helpful treatment and recovery resources.
While having DID isn’t easy, it is treatable. The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis from a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist. The next best step may be talk therapy, otherwise known as psychotherapy. Talk therapy is recommended to help those struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating DID. In fact, it is considered the main form of treatment for this disorder. Likewise, those with DID should expect to participate in long-term therapy. They should also recognize that this is okay. It simply means they are being consistently treated for something that can potentially harm them if left untreated.
Goals of Talk Therapy
The main goal of talk therapy is to improve cognitive and behavioral functioning and help individuals overcome thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Talk therapy also treats other mental health conditions that may co-occur alongside DID. Depression, anxiety, BPD, and others are all treatable through talk therapy.
A psychiatrist and a therapist can also work in tandem during talk therapy. When working together, they can keep track of an individual’s progress and better assist them throughout each stage of treatment. Having a team of people who can provide support and guidance is crucial for lasting healing.
DID is not an easy mental health disorder to navigate. However, there is hope and help. Take the time to talk to healthcare professionals that can provide encouragement throughout the process. With support, individuals who struggle with DID can recognize that they can learn to manage and overcome any distressing symptoms of this condition.
If you or someone you love is struggling with dissociative identity disorder and would like to receive help, please reach out to us. Alter Wellness Care is here to help you with our great outpatient programs as well as partial hospitalization programs that can benefit you long-term. Our doctors are skilled medical professionals whose top priority is helping those cope and manage their DID symptoms. We understand every individual is different, and we work on a treatment plan that works best for you. We have psychotherapists ready to talk to you through different methods of therapy that could benefit your situation in the long term. Reach out to Alter Wellness Care at (866) 311-3510 to learn more.