Dual personality, multiple personality, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, is a mental health disorder in which a patient develops one or more distinct identities or altar egos that alternately take control within the same person. What makes it more interesting is that each personality is completely unaware of the others’ existence. What are the dual personality symptoms and what causes the condition?
Cases of dual personalities are often the result of severe psychological trauma such as sexual or physical abuse at an early age by a close relative. The schism affecting the main personality is often a coping mechanism that allows the patient to deal with the abuse or trauma and the disorder is more commonly seen in females.
Dual personality disorder symptoms will vary in severity between different patients. In mild cases, the symptoms might only occur when the person is under great mental and emotional stress, but in more chronic cases, multiple personalities can continuously appear and take control.
Typical indicators of a multiple personality disorder include:
At least two distinct personalities within the same person, each of which relates to the world in a completely different way. For example, one personality might be passive and quiet, whereas another might be aggressive and demanding. The change over from one personality to another can happen in the space of a few seconds. The patient will then seemingly become another person who exhibits completely different characteristics to the main personality.
At least two of the personalities assume control of the person’s behaviour at separate times, usually dependant on the circumstances at the time, although it is not uncommon for as many as ten different personalities to inhabit the same body. And in the worst documented cases, there have been cases where patients have exhibited hundreds of personalities.
The patient is unable to remember personal information when asked. Each personality assumes a different identity including name, age, personal history and family details. These can include a different gender and nationality from the main identity, and, in some rare cases, a completely different species.
Patients suffering from dual personality disorder often lose large chunks of memory as a result of flitting between different personalities. Patients might lose their childhood memories, or forget about extended periods of their life.
Another symptom of multiple personality disorder is “depersonalisation”. A patient will describe an out of body sensation in which they have no control over their physical self. They might describe seeing their body change shape or color, or even dissolving into nothing. This can also affect external objects, which is known as “derealisation”. The patient might feel as if the world around them is no longer “real”, or it is changing in some way.
Other symptoms of multiple personality disorder include depression, panic and anxiety attacks, unexplained phobias, paranoia, unexplained headaches, aches and pains, and flashbacks of abuse and psychological trauma.
Diagnosis of dual personality disorder is not always straightforward as symptoms are not dissimilar to other conditions such as borderline personality disorder, epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.