Dissociative Identity disorder (DID) is one of the most controversial mental illnesses in modern society. It’s been dramatised in movies such as The Three Faces of Eve and television series such as Cybil, and this has led to many misconceptions about the condition. There is also the persistent problem of people faking the condition, and the fact that the specific cause cannot be determined. A combination of these factors has led some professionals to question whether the condition exists at all, but the majority accept that it is a very real and potentially debilitating condition. Psychotherapy is the main treatment offered to individuals with DID.
What is DID?
DID was previously referred to as multiple personality disorder, which describes it much more clearly. Individuals suffering from it have two or more distinct personalities, which have separate emotions, unique reactions and even different physiological functioning. This results in blackouts, where the individual does not remember periods when the other personality (the “alter”) was dominant. It’s generally assumed that DID develops as the result of a severe trauma, which most commonly occurs during childhood. Females are nine times more likely to be diagnosed with DID, but psychologists are unsure whether this is because of difficulties in diagnosing the condition in men. Counsellors may also mistake DID for other conditions in some cases.
Symptoms of DID
There are many potential symptoms of DID which a therapist will look for to make a diagnosis, but many individuals are in the mental health system for a long time before being identified as having the condition. One of the main symptoms is the memory lapses discussed in the previous section, which often occur during significant events like the birth of a child or a wedding. Other symptoms include things like being addressed by apparent strangers by a different name, being frequently and apparently falsely accused of lying, hearing voices and finding unusual and unfamiliar items in your possession. Some individuals also experience things like not recognising themselves in a mirror and feeling as though they aren’t real.
Why Do Some Psychotherapists Not Believe in DID?
The uncertainty regarding the causes of DID has led many counsellors to believe that it doesn’t exist. It’s primarily thought to develop after a major trauma, but this isn’t a direct cause because many individuals go through extreme trauma without developing the condition. These cases are often used as evidence against its existence, as are instances of people faking it. It’s also primarily found in North America, which indicates that cultural influences may play a part in diagnoses. However, the condition has been found in people who haven’t been exposed to it through the media, and multiple resources can be used to verify it. Aside from this, the fact that the personalities can differ in unconscious processes such as blood pressure, pulse and blood flow to the brain adds further credence to the diagnosis.
How is DID Treated?
The most common treatment for DID is psychotherapy. The therapist will help the individual rebuild their relationships and help them confront difficult emotions. Guidance from a counsellor is especially useful because the condition often results from severe trauma, which can be very difficult and painful to address. There are other options for treatment, such as eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), medications and hypnosis, but therapy is considered the most effective.
It’s fairy unlikely that you or your loved one will be suffering from DID, but it is a possibility, and in some cases the symptoms can be indicative of a different issue like anti-social personality disorder, Munchausen’s syndrome or schizophrenia. In any case, if you or your loved is displaying symptoms, you should seek help from a therapist. We can help you work out which condition you or your loved one is suffering from and help you find the right treatment. We’ll conduct a thorough assessment to help us make a diagnosis and determine the level of care you’re likely to need. Stop by our Luton offices or get in touch with us over the telephone and see what we can do for you!