Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?

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Last Updated on

July 16th, 2023 02:26 pm

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a complex and serious mental health condition that can have a significant impact on people’s lives. It is estimated that approximately 1% of adults in the United States suffer from DID. This figure is likely to be underestimated due to the complexity of diagnosis.

People with dissociative disorders may struggle to cope with stressful situations, feel overwhelmed and experience a range of psychological symptoms. It is important to understand what DID is, the associated symptoms, comorbid mental health conditions, and how it can be treated.

In this blog post we will look at the definition of DID, the associated symptoms and the available treatment options. We will also discuss how people with dissociative disorders can manage their condition and live life to the full despite challenges that it can present. We hope that this post will provide a deeper understanding of DID and the associated challenges that come with this personality disorder.

Definition of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a medical condition in which an individual experiences two or more separate identities or personality states, each with their own life history. It’s classified as a psychiatric disorder and is often associated with severe trauma. People with DID may experience memory loss beyond ordinary forgetfulness, false memories, confusion, and difficulty functioning in everyday life.

These alternate identities may have distinct personalities, characteristics, and even unique names. Unlike other psychiatric disorders, they may be unaware of each other’s existence. DID is often comorbid with co-occurring disorders such as Bipolar Disorder , Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Borderline Personality Disorder. These overlaps are most often due to emotional abuse or physical abuse that occurred as a result of childhood trauma.

People with DID may also experience other psychological symptoms, such as dissociative episodes, traumatic memories from war, natural disasters or childhood abuse, and difficulty regulating emotions. Effective treatment typically involves psychotherapy, medications, and other forms of support that alleviate comorbid mental illnesses alongside DID. In some cases, people with DID are admitted as psychiatric inpatients to receive the best care.

DID vs. Dissociative Disorders

It’s easy to confuse the two terms. But the easiest way to remember it is that DID is a type of Dissociative Disorder. In fact, DSM-5 acknolwedges four dissociative disorders. These are:

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Dissociative Amnesia Disorder
  • Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
  • Other Specific Dissociative Disorder

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Symptoms of mental disorders such as DID can include gaps in memory, feelings of detachment, distorted perception of time, changes in self-identity, and sudden changes in mood, behavior and physical state.

People with DID often report feeling as though they have multiple voices in their head. This is to the alternate personalities they perceive, a subtly different experience to Borderline Personality Disorder. Many also feel like they are observing their own thoughts and behaviors from outside the body.

As a result of these alternate identities, people with DID may experience difficulty in maintaining relationships. As a result, these distinct identities can have wider implications in the quality of their daily life.


Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder

The causes of dissociative disorders are not fully understood, but are believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Specifically, three main causes are thought to contribute to the development of DID: traumatic experiences such as abuse during childhood, an individual’s current life situation, and genetic predisposition.

Traumatic Events and DID

Traumatic events such as physical, emotional, or childhood sexual abuse can lead to the development of DID. This is because the individual may dissociate from the traumatic experience in order to cope with it. This can lead to a disruption in the development of identity and self-concept, resulting in multiple identities or personalities.

Current Life Experiences and DID

Additionally, an individual’s current life situation, such as the presence of stress, may contribute to the development of the disorder. In these cases, the individual may dissociate from reality in order to cope with the stress.

Genetic Predispositions and DID

Finally, genetic predisposition may also play a role in the development of DID. Studies have shown that individuals with a family history of mental illness are more likely to develop DID than those without such a history.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment

Treatment for dissociative disorders and Borderline Personality Disorder typically involve psychotherapy, medications, and other supportive interventions. Common treatment approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and trauma-focused psychotherapy.

Many of these therapies are used to a plan custom-made for the individual, and often treat co-occurring disorders such as Anxiety disorders and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at the same time.

In some cases, antipsychotic medications or anti-anxiety medications may be used to help manage the symptoms of DID. In addition, individuals may benefit from support groups and other forms of community-based support. Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment must be tailored to the individual’s needs and goals after a thorough psychiatric diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Dissocitreaative Identity Disorder

One of the most challenging aspects of diagnosing Dissociative Identity Disorder is that there are no laboratory tests or imaging studies to confirm it. Diagnosis is made through a combination of thorough clinical assessment and structured interviews. Due to the interview-based nature, it’s also the reason why it’s so often misdiagnosed as borderline Personality Disorder.

A mental health professional will conduct structured interviews, asking about a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. During the clinical interviews they look for patterns of dissociative symptoms such as memory loss that suggest the presence of the disorder. The professional will also take into account the individual’s medical, psychological, and social history in order to achieve an accurate diagnosis.

The professional may also ask friends and family members about the dissociative patient’s personal history, especially where there is memory loss. In some cases, the individual may be asked to undergo a psychological evaluation or medical tests to rule out any other potential causes for their symptoms.

Impact of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is associated with a wide range of psychological, social, and physical problems. People with DID can have a difficult time forming relationships, experience difficulty managing everyday events, and suffer from mental health disorders that occur as a result of life with DID.

Physically, people with DID may experience a variety of health problems related to dissociation, such as chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues. They may also be more susceptible to substance abuse and suffer from ongoing anxiety or depression.

Most importantly, DID can cause intense emotional pain, guilt, and shame, as well as intrusive and unwanted thoughts, leading to a deep sense of isolation. So it’s important to make sure that not only is a correct diagnosis reached, but also that the person with DID is supported in the way that suits their own individual needs.

Prognosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder

The prognosis for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is generally positive. Treatment can help to reduce symptoms, and with the help of a therapist, individuals can learn to better manage their symptoms.

Additionally, psychotherapy and medications can be used to help psychiatric inpatients cope with their symptoms and to improve functioning.

Despite these treatments, many individuals with DID struggle with chronic symptoms, and often require long-term treatment. It is important for individuals with DID and their loved ones to seek professional help in order to ensure the best possible outcome.

Coping With Dissociative Identity Disorder

Coping with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) can be challenging. It is important for people with this condition to access professional help, such as therapy, in order to learn to manage their condition.

It is also important to have an accepting and understanding support network of family and friends, who can help encourage positive coping strategies and provide emotional support. Therapy can help individuals with DID to establish healthy coping skills and to recognize and modify maladaptive responses to stress.

Additionally, it is beneficial to practice grounding techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation to reduce symptoms of dissociation. People with DID may also need to practice self-care activities, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, and eating a healthy diet. Lastly, it is important to remember that treatment can help individuals with DID to lead fulfilling lives.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is Complex

In conclusion, Dissociative Identity Disorder is a complex psychological condition that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. While the cause of the disorder is still unknown, psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can help individuals manage the symptoms and lead more fulfilling lives.

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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