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Dissociative Identity Disorder
~ Alanna Insalaco
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a severe mental
illness that tends to stem from extreme trauma during
early development. This disorder was renamed from
Multiple Personality Disorder to Dissociative Identity
Disorder because the new name better describes what
is happening within the mind. Dissociative Identity Disorder
is characterized by the presence of, at minimum, two
distinct personalities. There are many discrepancies about whether or not this particular illness actually exists or not. Despite that, there are still quite a few treatment options for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
There are numerous symptoms, leading to it often being misdiagnosed. The most common symptoms are:
Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors, and sleep walking)
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias (flashbacks, reactions to stimuli or “triggers”)
Alcohol and drug abuse
Compulsions and rituals
Psychotic-like symptoms (including auditory and visual hallucinations)
Eating disorders (Johnson 2)
Other symptoms, that either are less common, or less distinguishing, may include headaches, amnesia, time loss, trances, and “out of body experiences.” Some people tend to self-harm or be violent toward others. Others still, feel like they are being compelled to do things they wouldn't normally do, such as speeding, driving recklessly or stealing from friends. Often times when people seek help for their Dissociative Identity Disorder they get misdiagnosed, often as Schizophrenia. “Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness involving chronic (or recurrent) psychosis, characterized mainly be hearing or seeing things that aren't real (hallucinations) and thinking or believing things with no basis in reality (delusions)” (Johnson 2). The most common symptom with Schizophrenia is delusions; they do not have multiple personalities. Suicide is a risk with both illnesses, but it is more prevalent in Dissociative Identity Disorder patients.
With Dissociative Identity Disorder, there can be as few as two personalities and as many as one-hundred. “Statistics regarding this disorder indicate that the incidence of DID is about 3% or patients in the psychiatric hospitals and is described as occurring in females nine times more often than in males” (Dryden-Edwards 2). An average woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder will have right around 15 separate personalities, while a man will have only 8. Most of the individuals who develop disorders like this one have histories or recurring disturbances before the age of 9. Many times with alters people can't remember or experience who they are, their memories, their ideas, feeling, or even perceptions. Some people believe that fragmenting the personalities is a defense mechanism used to protect the inflicted from harmful memories. Alters can be triggered be substance abuse, significant stress, or pain (a headache, for example) and the switch can be instant or take days.
People who suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder experience life a bit differently from people without it. The main ways include depersonalization, derealization, amnesia, and identity confusion or alteration. Depersonalization is the sense of being detached from one's body, or an “out of body” experience. Derealization is feeling as if the world is false or foggy. The amnesia would be extensive; they wouldn't be able to recall significant personal information, so much so that it couldn't be blamed on ordinary forgetfulness. Identity confusion or alterations both involve confusion about who they are; living with and managing these can be a hassle, and will take many years. In fact, most people don't get diagnosed until they are in their 30's, and, “often DID systems are misdiagnosed as psychotics of various types, and spend years in and out of institutions and/or being adversely medicated before that” (Starglade 2). “Once the diagnosis of abuse has been made, the initial task of therapy is to detoxify the patient’s environment by stopping all forms or abuse” (Waseem 1). That usually consists of encouraging healthy coping behaviors, logging and monitoring emotions, and developing a crisis plan. If the disorder was not caused by abuse, patients can undergo psychotherapy or hypnosis, but it will still have to be treated for years.
In conclusion, this disorder is not as rare as people would initially assume, especially considering many people are still questioning its existence. Regardless of its rarity or popularity, it is still a treatment and life changing mental disorder that should be addressed. It will be a long and arduous process, but it is worth it. Don't fret though; people with this disorder tend to function just as well in society as everyone else.
Waseem, Muhammad, M.D., and Muhammad Aslam, M.D. "Dissociative Identity Disorder: Background ..." Dissociative Identity Disorder. Ed. Caroly Pataki. Medscape, 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.
Starglade. "Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Case Study." HubPages. HubPages, 15 Aug. 2010. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. "Dissociative Identity Disorder Symptoms, Treatment, Causes - What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?" MedicineNet. Ed. Melissa Conrad Stöppler. MedicineNet, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Johnson. "Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder): Signs, Symptoms, Treatment." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.