Dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as dual, split or multiple personality disorder, is a mental health condition that causes a person to have more than one thought, behaviour and action; this creates more than one identity for a single person.
Each identity and personality control the person’s behaviour at different times; each has their memories, history, preferences and traits. It can lead to gaps in memories for each personality since one personality would not be aware of the activities of the other(s).
The cause of DID is not fully understood, but many cases of this condition have been associated with trauma. About 90% of patients with DID have had some traumatic experience, such as emotional abuse, accidents, sexual abuse, neglect, assault, etc., especially during early childhood. Such experiences can make a person disconnect from reality and want to be someone else so they can escape from their trauma.
Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
People with dissociative identity disorder have two or more identities: one original identity, which is their usual identity and two or more alternate identities. Some have up to 100 different alternates.
They all tend to be different from one another; they may have different genders, ethnicities, and interests, and they live separate lives and have different memories. Also, each identity does not know what goes on when another identity takes over, so they have gaps in memory.
Other common symptoms include:
- Losing sense of time.
- Memory loss.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
- Substance use disorder.
There’s no specific way to treat DID, but treatment often depends on the person’s condition. The treatment aims to manage the symptoms and any conditions that come with DID.
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is also helpful in treating DID to help people understand what triggers their personality shifts, learn how to cope with post-traumatic experiences and integrate a person’s identity.