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Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder was known as multiple personality disorder or split personality until 1994, when the name was officially changed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The frequency of Dissociative Identity Disorder is about 1 to 3 percent of the general population, similar to the number of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a severe mental health condition in which a person’s identity is split into two or more personality states. To clarify, people with DID do not necessarily have several distinct personalities, despite what is often depicted in the media. Rather, they have a different way of relating, perceiving, thinking, and remembering depending which personality state they are in. Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms also include nightmares, flashbacks, hearing voices, and experiencing frequent memory gaps. DID is one of several dissociative disorders characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness, and memory.

Experts agree that DID often stems from extreme trauma in childhood, typically as a result of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. Therefore, as a coping mechanism, the child walls off, or dissociates from, memories of the trauma. About 90 percent of DID cases involve a history of abuse. Moreover, accidents, natural disasters, and war can also create the severe trauma that is a risk factor for DID.

Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment is focused on reuniting the fragmented personalities within the psyche through long-term psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and creative therapy modalities have been found to be useful for those with DID. Fortunately, research shows that treatment can help people with DID live functional and fulfilling lives.

Sources: Psych Central, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 

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