What is dissociative identity disorder (DID) and what is the treatment of dissociative identity disorder? Dissociative identity disorder is the term for what used to be known as multiple personality disorder and it is a serious mental health illness whereby the person develops multiple personalities as a result of a serious emotional, sexual, or physical trauma.
Dissociative identity disorder is diagnosed when a patient exhibits the signs of at least two distinct and separate identities, otherwise known as “alters”. The different personalities co-exist alongside the main personality, but each one can take control at any time.
What causes dissociative personality disorder?
The causes of dissociative personality disorder are unclear, but most experts believe the condition is primarily the result of severe physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in childhood, and although not all children subjected to such abuse will develop dissociative personality disorder, psychologists think that some children learn to dissociate, or blank out, the memories of the abuse, and in the most extreme cases, separate personalities evolve to help the main personality deal with the trauma.
What are the symptoms of dissociative personality disorder?
Exhibiting signs of separate personalities is the main clinical symptom of the disorder. Alters can take control at any time, and are not necessarily similar to the main personality in any way. In fact, it is not unusual for patients to have any number of alters of a different sex, age, race, or even species.
As a result of different personalities coming to the fore, memory loss is another symptom of dissociative personality disorder. Patients will frequently lose large chunks of time and end up in places with no recollection of having arrived there. They will often forget childhood memories or personal information.
What is the treatment of dissociative identity disorder?
Dissociative identity disorder is treatable although the prognosis for those afflicted with the disorder will vary considerably depending on several factors. Psychotherapy is usually the main avenue of treatment for patients with dissociative identity disorder. Treatment for the condition is very often aimed at helping the different personalities to co-exist as a single functioning identity. However, some patients receiving reintegration treatment for dissociative personality disorder can end up feeling as if the therapist is essentially trying to “kill” their alters.
In attempting to treat a patient with dissociative identity disorder, a psychotherapist will try and help him or her come to terms with their buried emotions and experience feelings they might not have felt able to express in the past. Psychotherapy will also help the patient to learn coping strategies for dealing with the memory lapses that usually occur when the main identity dissociates to allow lesser alters to take control.
Hypnosis can also be an effective treatment for DID patients as it can help them learn to control the changeover from one personality to another. Short sessions are generally considered to be most effective.
Medications are often used in conjunction with psychotherapy treatments and can be useful as a treatment for the related symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, and impulse control issues. In severe cases of DID, electro convulsive therapy is also a viable treatment.