July 17, 2020

Pranav Harish

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Causes and Symptoms

If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as "multiple personality disorder (MPD)", you experience disruptions in identity, consciousness, and memory.

A person's identity in DID splits into two or more distinct personality states. These alternate personalities function with our without the awareness of the individual's normal personality state. These split identities often take control of an individual and dictate their behavior.

What happens in DID?

A person with DID has a primary identity that bears the person's given name but is submissive and depressed. However, each alternate personality that the person may experience has a unique history, age, self-image, gender, vocabulary, knowledge, and mood of its own.

These characteristics of alternate personalities can be dominating and are in total contrast with the primary identity of the person.

Each personality has a distinct way of walking, talking, postures, and gestures. Gradually each personality reveals itself, grows, and controls the person's behaviors and thoughts. This process is known as "switching" that can take seconds, minutes, or even days.

The different identities may not be aware of the existence of one another. Some triggers can cause a particular personality to emerge and cause disputes between one another.

Related: Dissociative Identity Disorder vs Schizophrenia: The Misconception

The two DID terms are:

1. Possession form

In this case, alternate identities and the transition between them are visible to people.

2. Non-possession form

Individuals do not openly display their change in personalities for long periods.

Until 1994, DID was called MPD. MPD indicated a splitting of identity. But, the term "DID" could give a better understanding of the condition as splitting and growth of different personalities in a single individual.

What causes DID?

In nearly 90% of cases, the causes of dissociative identity disorder appear to be a history of severe childhood trauma or abuse - emotional, physical, sexual - accidents, or loss of a parent.

The dissociative feature is a coping mechanism to shield yourself from an experience that is too violent, traumatic, or painful.

You disconnect and separate the traumatic memories from the regular ones. By doing so, you are sure of the fact that no trauma has ever occurred and can continue to function normally.

DID can occur at any age and can be hereditary in families with a strong history of the disorder.

Symptoms and diagnosis of DID

The following are the dissociative identity disorder symptoms and characteristics:

  • Memory loss or problems
  • Changing levels of functioning - you can be highly effective or disturbed
  • Dissociation - feeling detached from the world around you
  • Post-traumatic symptoms - nightmares, flashbacks
  • A state of trance
  • Hearing two or more voices that have conversations, arguments, make threats, or command self-harm acts
  • Unintentional speaking
  • Feeling as if your thoughts aren't yours, but rather belong to someone else or inserted into your mind
  • Disruptive feelings, emotions, actions
  • Unable to recall personal information, activity such as travel, or memories that are far beyond general forgetfulness
  • Unfamiliar with your own identity
  • A confusing and terrifying mingling of different voices in your mind
  • Loss of time

The diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder may depend on the following criteria:

  1. You experience at least two or more distinct personality states. Each identity has a different way of recognizing, relating to, reasoning, and thinking about the environment and self.
  2. Amnesia - gaps in your memory of daily activities, personal information, and actions that aren't a part of ordinary forgetfulness
  3. You have trouble functioning - social, occupational - due to the symptoms.
  4. The disruption in identity involves changes in behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, motor function, and a sense of self.
  5. The condition is not a part of cultural or religious practices (or even possession).
  6. The symptoms cannot be due to substance abuse or any other medical condition.

DID is a complicated psychological condition that poses significant challenges to an individual. It has no cure, but treatment can help manage the symptoms.

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