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Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously called multiple personality disorder, is a dissociative disorder involving a disturbance of identity in which two or more separate and distinct personality states control the individual's behavior at different times. The different identities, referred to as alters, may exhibit differences in many areas, including speech, mannerisms, beliefs, and gender orientation. Physical characteristics, such as accent, hand preference, and even eye color, may change depending on the personality. There is usually memory loss for events that occurred while one of the other personalities was in control of the body.

Individuals with this disorder may have as few as two alters, or as many as 100. Often each alter plays a specific role in the individual's life, taking control when in certain situations. Some alters may be aware of the others and even have the ability to communicate with them, but this is not always the case. The "host" or "core personality" very often is completely unaware of the presence of the alters, and it is not until the individual seeks professional help for one of the other symptoms, such as depression or amnesia, that the true condition is discovered.

Diagnostic Criteria for Dissociative Identity Disorder:

A. The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).

B. At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior.

C. Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

D. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., blackouts or chaotic behavior during Alcohol Intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g., complex partial seizures). Note: In children, the symptoms are not attributable to imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder:

Alcohol or drug abuse

Amnesia, blackouts or time loss

Auditory hallucinations

Compulsions, phobias, or other symptoms of anxiety

Depression or pronounced mood swings

Eating disorders

Flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories

Fugue states or "out of body experiences"

Headaches, often severe

Panic attacks or symptoms of PTSD

Suicidal thoughts or self-mutilation

Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder:

Treatment for DID consists mainly of psychotherapy with hypnosis, although medications are sometimes given to help the individual cope with insomnia, depression or anxiety. During psychotherapy contact is made by the therapist with as many alters as possible in order to understand their roles and functions in the patient's life. Initial goals of therapy often include establishing communication among the alters in order to help end self-destructive or suicidal behavior and uncovering memories of trauma. Eventually the therapist attempts to integrate the personalities into a single entity.

Some experts believe integration is not necessary, and that open communication between alters is enough to enable the patient to face traumatic memories and live a productive and happy life. Without the effects of amnesia and the damage inflicted by self-destructive or violent alters, some believe it is possible for an individual with DID to function normally in day to day life.

All information contained in this web site is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your medical doctor or psychiatrist.
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This Site Updated 04/09/11