Dissociative identity disorder is a condition in which one's identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personalities. This condition used to be called ‘multiple personality disorder.’ Dissociative identity disorder is most likely to occur as a response to trauma or a traumatic event; it can develop as a way to 'control' the memories of the traumatic events. When someone has dissociative identity disorder, that person experiences a disconnect between their thoughts, their identity, and their memory.

Symptoms

There are several common symptoms that can be indicative of dissociative identity disorder. If you notice yourself or a loved one experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor right away. Symptoms of dissociative identity disorder can include:

  • Frequent gaps in memory
  • Engaging in strange or risky behavior that you don't remember afterward
  • Out-of-body experiences; feeling as though you are watching a TV show of your life
  • Experiencing at least two individual and distinct personalities
  • A feeling of detachment from your emotions and thoughts
  • An inability to cope with stress
  • A lack of self-identity
  • Feeling suicidal or making a suicide plan - Call 911 immediately
  • Hallucinations, both visual and auditory
  • Disconnection from reality and trouble understanding if the things, people, events, and locations around you are real

Causes

Dissociative identity disorder is often a response to exposure to trauma and stress. Other factors that put you at risk for developing dissociative identity disorder can include:

  • Experiencing or being exposed to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or domestic violence 
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • The stress of war or a natural disaster
  • Traumatic early-life medical procedures or severe childhood illness
  • A family history of schizotypal disorders, anxiety, or depression

Treatment

Dissociative identity disorder is treatable. You and your doctor can develop a care plan that includes therapy, medication, and support elements to help you regain control over your future. 

Medication: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may help alleviate some of your symptoms. 

Therapy: Therapy is the primary form of treatment for this disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and reprocessing therapy can all be useful techniques to help treat dissociative identity disorder. Find therapy at Sheppard Pratt. 

Education: Family therapy and learning more about your condition can help others understand more about your triggers and your condition. Learn more about mental health conditions and types of treatments and therapies. 

Support: Support is important to your treatment and can help improve your condition. Find a support group at Sheppard Pratt.