What is dissociative identity disorder?
Most people won't recognise the name but some of you will know it by other names such as split personality or multiple personality disorder. Some of you may only know this disorder from films or TV, but others may have lived with someone affected by the disorder. Whatever your experience, there are plenty of people living quite successfully and unsuccessfully with the condition today. But what is dissociative identity disorder?
What are the Main Symptoms?
There are three major dissociative disorders defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. Dissociative amnesia; Depersonalization-derealization disorder and Dissociative identity disorder. We will only be talking about Dissociative identity disorder in this blog, but they do cross over each other.
- Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, this disorder is characterized by "switching" to alternate identities.
- A sense of being detached from yourself and your emotions with a blurred sense of identity.
- Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events, people and personal information.
- It can feel like you have the presence of two or more people talking or living inside your head, and you may feel as though you're possessed by other identities.
- Each identity may have a unique name, personal history and characteristics, including obvious differences in voice, gender, mannerisms and even such physical qualities as the need for eyeglasses.
- There also are differences in how familiar each identity is with the others. People with dissociative identity disorder typically also have dissociative amnesia and often have dissociative fugue. This may lead to significant stress or problems in your relationships, work or other important areas of your life.
- You may develop a perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal.
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours may also develop.
Other risk factors and complications that might develop:
- Self-harm or mutilation
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviour
- Sexual dysfunction
- Alcoholism and drug addictions
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Personality disorders
- Sleep disorders, including nightmares, insomnia and sleepwalking
- Eating disorders: Binge Eating; Bulimia; Anorexia
- Physical symptoms such as lightheadedness or non-epileptic seizures
- Major difficulties in personal relationships and at work
Some people with dissociative disorders present in a crisis with traumatic flashbacks that are overwhelming or associated with unsafe behaviour. People with these symptoms should be seen in an emergency room. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else you should always seek immediate help.
- Dissociative disorders usually develop as a way to cope with trauma.
- The disorders most often form in children subjected to long-term physical, sexual or emotional abuse or, less often, a home environment that's frightening or highly unpredictable.
- The stress of war or natural disasters also can bring on dissociative disorders.
- Personal identity is still forming during childhood. So a child is more able than an adult to step outside of himself or herself and observe trauma as though it's happening to a different person.
- A child who learns to dissociate in order to endure an extended period of youth may use this coping mechanism in response to stressful situations throughout their life.
A therapist will work to help you understand the cause of your condition and to form new ways of coping with stressful circumstances. Building up a carefully planned list of coping skills for you to use before you begin to tackle the original cause of the trauma. You need to build a good relationship with your therapist in order to feel safe, secure and to safely have these conversations. It does take time but it can get better.
Although there are no medications that specifically treat dissociative disorders, doctors may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications or antipsychotic drugs to help control any other mental health symptoms associated with dissociative disorders or any you may have developed. (See risk factors and complications list above)
If you live with someone who has DID then you too may need therapy, it is difficult to live with someone who has a mental illness and you need to talk through all the complications and gain support for yourself and any children.
It is important to seek help and advice if you think you have dissociative identity disorder. We can offer you treatment in our offices in Ferns and Wexford Town. Call 089 4373641.