You may not know what dissociative identity disorder is, but you’ve likely heard of multiple personality disorder. The two disorders are the same exact thing. Dissociative identity disorder is the new and most current name for multiple personality disorder. This mental health condition is very rare and is often a reaction to trauma.
Dissociative identity disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by the existence of two or more distinct and different personalities. However, it can also appear as amnesia. The personalities could be highly developed or hardly there. This occurs because the trauma is so extreme and repetitive that the mind can not process it. This causes a dissociation.
Dissociation is the term that refers to the mental disconnection from thoughts, feelings, memories, experiences, and/or identity. This mental process seems to be a coping mechanism. This dissociation is a mental response to long periods and high-levels of stress.
When someone suffers from dissociative identity disorder they may not realize it. This is because the personality may, or may not be aware of each other. If you believe that you, or a loved one, may be suffering from dissociative identity disorder check out the symptoms below.
- Feeling unattached to your surroundings or emotions
- Inability to cope with stress
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Beliefs that your life is not real
- Memory loss
If you recognize any of these symptoms based on your own experience, consult a mental health professional. They can determine whether these symptoms are a sign of dissociative identity disorder and assist you in selecting a treatment option. Though there is no known cure for this mental ailment, talk therapy is very beneficial.
Determining the cause of mental illness can be tricky. But, in this case, studies seem to indicate that dissociative identity disorder is the result of a traumatic and stressful childhood. Those who suffer from this disorder were often exposed to extremely high levels of environment and interpersonal stress.
This stress could take the form of frequent physical abuse, or extensive emotional neglect. The disorder appears to be a direct result of the child’s mind separating itself from the situation. Ninety-nine percent of people who suffer from dissociative identity disorder have a clear personal history of life-threatening trauma. In most cases, this pattern of trauma occurred before the age of six.
The Three Dissociative Disorders
The DSM-5, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, defines three different dissociative disorders. Each of these disorders displays some similarities to the others, but they do differ in distinct ways. Let’s take a close look at two dissociative disorders related to dissociative identity disorder.
Dissociative Amnesia Disorder
This dissociative disorder is characterized by the individual forgetting important information related to the personal history. They could forget certain things, such as places, or they could forget large amounts of personal information. They could forget their identity entirely.
In extreme cases, the individual could completely forget who they were and start over as someone new. This extreme case is referred to as ‘dissociative fugue’.
This condition is extremely rare, affecting roughly one percent of the world’s population. Amnesia is caused by stressful events such as war, accidents, or abuse. It does not matter whether the event affected the individual specifically or they simply witnessed it firsthand.
Depersonalization Derealization Disorder
This disorder is characterized by the feeling that you are observing yourself and your life or that
nothing is real. Some individuals suffering from this disorder experience both of these feelings. The feelings associated with depersonalization or derealization can be very upsetting. Those who suffer from this disorder experience these symptoms very frequently, if not all of the time.
The symptoms related to this disorder do not seem severe from the outside, but they are emotionally unsettling and increase the individual’s risk of suicide. It is important to seek therapy if you experience feelings of depersonalization or derealization. Talk therapy can help. The therapist will understand that the feelings are difficult to describe, do not stigmatize yourself, and try to explain to them the best that you can.
Related Mental Health Disorders
There are a few mental health disorders that relate to dissociative identity disorder. These disorders may have similar causes or symptoms. Dissociative identity disorder may exist along with the following mental health conditions.
- Bipolar Disorder
The primary form of treatment for most mental health conditions is talk therapy. It can be very effective and highly beneficial. Talk therapy can teach you how to cope with mental illness. You must seek treatment when suffering from dissociative identity disorder because the disorder puts you at a higher risk for substance abuse, self-harming tendencies, and suicide.
Remember that you are not alone and tomorrow is another day. There are countless other people that understand what you are going through and want to help. A good therapist can connect you to groups and platforms that provide emotional support.