Dissociative Identity Disorder
Defining Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder (DID), known formerly as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is a documented medical disorder characterized by the presence of enduring and different identities in the same human being. Often developing as a result of traumatic life events, DID may impair memory and assume control over a person’s behavior in the form of alternate personalities.
Almost all Dissociative Disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder or Dissociative Amnesia, all are attributed to trauma and stress. Dissociative disorders usually result in “attention failure” and the patient may be “detached” from himself/herself during one of the DID episodes, especially seen in an effort to block out the traumatic memory. Patients of DID may also face frequent time disturbances- they may not realize how much time would have passed while they had “transitioned” into another identity.
Signs and Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events and people
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- A sense of being detached from yourself (depersonalization)
- A perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal (derealization)
- A blurred sense of identity
- Inability to recall specific incidents
- Having problems with a “split” personality
- Unable to keep a sense of time- a person may lose track of time while transitioning between different “identities”
Causes and Risk Factors
Like most dissociative disorders, the exact causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder are controversial. However, a number of neurobiological, psychological, and environmental factors are known to trigger a split/multiple personality disorder in people.
Altered sleep cycle, insomnia, disturbed sleeping habit and extreme stress are some of the main environmental causes of DID.
A traumatic childhood event or a life threatening situation can often cause a chemical imbalance in the hypothalamus of the brain, thereby triggering the “fight or flight” mechanism. This can cause a lot of anxiety in the patients, especially in young patients. Anxiety often leads to permanent brain damage and can cause dissociative disorders, including DID.
Genetic mutations and crossovers are also a possible cause of DID. Genetic modifications can cause some neurosensory transmissions to be inhibited, thereby leading to spurts of memory loss and multiple identity crises.
Substance abuse, especially narcotics and alcohol, can also cause DID. Narcotics and alcohol usually target the dopamine secretion of the brain, thereby triggering the pleasure centers in the brain. Problems with substance abuse may also result in an unpredictable chemical imbalance and may lead to permanent DID in patients who have been suffering from the aftermath of traumatic experiences.
If left untreated, people with DID could develop serious physical and psychological ailments. They are exposed to a number of risks including:
- Criminal activity if one of the “identities” are criminally inclined
- Restlessness, aggression and domestic violence
- Progression to other dissociative disorders
- Complete mental breakdown
- Total memory loss
As is the case with the causes of DID, there is a general disagreement on the exact treatment of this disorder. Most medical practitioners take on DID treatment based on whatever has been suggested in previous clinical case studies. DID treatments usually follow a phased approach; however, different alterations may appear on a case to case basis. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are two of the most widely used therapies to address and reduce DID. Exposure therapy exposes the patient to the same traumatic incidents that may have cause DID in the patient in order to train the patient’s brain to bear such trauma without breaking down.
Cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT), on the other hand, is a way in which the patient is acquainted to his condition and the underlying negative emotions. CBT is designed to enable the patient in coping up with the fallouts of his condition better by changing the patient’s behavioral responses. In the longer run, phased CBT can reverse the progress and extent of DID.
Treatment options may be found at various rehabilitation facilities that specialize in treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorders. It is important to contact the facility ahead of time to ensure that they have the proper treatment options available for any particular case. Dissociative Identity Disorders do not have to ruin lives. Physicians and therapists in rehabilitation facilities will help individuals get their lives back in order so they can improve their health safely.