Dissociative Personality Disorder: How It Really Affects You

Updated February 02, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers


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What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder (DID)is a mental disorder that affects memory, behavior, emotion, perception, and identity. It was once called multiple personality disorder, and is one of three different dissociative disorders. One of the primary characteristics is the feeling that there are multiple identities in the individual’s head, which is what often leads to the above-named issues.

Types of Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative Amnesia


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People who have dissociative amnesia forget significant events that have happened to them as well as core memories, which is painful to the individual experiencing it. Dissociative amnesia lasts for a varied length of time and could occur at any time with a sudden onset. You never know when it could happen to you, and it could happen more than one time throughout a person's life.

Depersonalization Disorder


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With depersonalization disorder,you may feel separated from the things happening around you, including your own actions, thoughts, and feelings. Some have described it like watching a movie, because you feel detached from what's around you. People tend to notice it earlier than age 16, but it's possible to experience the first episode later. However, it rarely happens after 20. For those who do experience it, it is a pattern that can repeat throughout their life.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

With dissociative identity disorder, you experience separate identities, which can be present only in the mind of the individual, or cantake control of the individual's mind and body. The identitieslikely have distinct names, mannerisms, ways of speaking (including intonation), and idiosyncrasies that are exclusive to each one.

Symptoms Of Dissociative Identity Disorder

There are a number of different symptoms that are related to DID. Here are some common signs of the disorder:

  • An individual experiences two or more entitiesor identities. Each onerelates to the world in a different way
  • A change from one identityto the other also includes shift in the person's behavior, memory, perception, motor function and/or cognition
  • The individual has memory gaps which can include events, places, and people
  • The individual experiences distress in their personal or professional life due to these symptoms

When The Change Happens

Hollywood makes DID out to be a person with a "split personality," with a "good side" and a "bad side," when this is often not the case. Dissociative identity disorder does not typically appear as two personalities with entirely separate lives that know nothing of each other. Rather, the personalities may be distinct but in different ways. The secondary identity(or identities) may only be present for short amounts of time, and they are triggered by specific situations or instances.

Those who live with DID report that they're aware that something strange is happening to them. Some feel that they are pushed into the background while someone else is in control of their body. Some feel that they hear voices that have their own stream of consciousness and thought. Some have reported feeling impulses or even emotions that are so strong but that they don't know where they came from. They may even note that they feel a shift in their body, their personality or their attitude that shifts back just as suddenly.

On the other hand, some may not know what is happening to them and realize that they have suddenly arrived somewhere different from where they remembered being and with no recollection of how they got there or what may have happened in between.


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Why It Happens

There are a number of different reasons that this disorder may occur, but one of the most common is some type of abuse. Within the United States, Canada, and Europe as many as 90% of people who have been diagnosed with the disorder experiencedsome type of abuse as a child. Those who have a biological relative who has the disorder are also more likely to be diagnosed with it.

Of course, the fact that it tends to occur with a high frequency among these types of individuals doesn't mean that an individual who hasn't gone through any of these traumas in their past is entirely exempt. Anyone could develop dissociative identity disorder, which is definitely something you want to keep an eye on. If you recognize any of the signs or symptoms we've discussed here in yourself or someone else, you should seek out professional help immediately. The sooner you can get started on treatment the better.

Treatment For Dissociative Identity Disorder

Once a diagnosis is made, it's time to start the treatment process. This process generally focuses on the distinct identitiesand how to join them together into one cohesive entity. By breaking down the walls between each one it's possible to slowly start the integration process. With therapy, it is definitely possible to start this process and to eventually bring the individual around to a happy and healthy life that they can live without the other personality there.

Often, it's important to discuss the potential reasons for the development of the entitiesto fully integrate them. Sometimes stressors are a reason that a secondary identityemerges, and it's essential to evaluate the situation and the trauma that happened in the individual's childhood. When the person with DID confronts their abuse, they can begin to heal. However, this isn't something they can do alone. Someone with DID needs to seek professional help in order to process their feelings. A mental health professional can guide them in their journey to wellness.

Medications don't treat or cure DID, but rather aid in curbing the symptoms of the illness, such as depression, anxiety or panic attacks. Psychiatric medications vary and also may include sedatives to calm extreme levels of anxiety during times of distress. With the help of medication and intensive trauma therapy, it is definitely possible for someone with this disorder to continue to improve and to have more positive and healthy functioning throughout their personal life, as well as their professional life. Seeking treatment is essential, however, as integrating the entitiesisnot something that can be accomplished at home.

What A Diagnosis Means For You

So, what does it mean for you if you are diagnosed? Well, it means that you definitely need to start looking at some professional help. A therapist will be able to help you start putting things together so you can figure out what's going on in your life and how to get to the type of life you want to live. If you're not really sure what's going on or whether you might be living with this or any other dissociative disorder, you should still speak to a professional to find out more. They will be able to help diagnose you and figure out a plan for the future.

Getting the help you need and continuing treatmentis extremely important. Even if you think that you have overcome the problem, or if you think you've figured out the root of the problem you should continue to take any medications that are prescribed to you and continue to talk with a professional to make sure you're staying on the right track. Because many people who are diagnosed with this disorder have childhood trauma, it is extremely possible that problems could come back up later that cause additional problems. Make sure you're looking for a professional, whether that's with a therapist in your area or with the help of an online mental health professional.

How Online Therapy Can Help

Recent studies show that online therapy can be a useful method of treating symptoms of trauma—one of the primary causes of dissociative identity disorder. In a study published in Depression and Anxiety, a peer-reviewed journal, researchers examined the effectiveness of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) when treating individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The report mentions the high toll trauma can take on those experiencing it, and the treatment gap that exists due to various barriers to care, including perceived stigma, high costs, and lack of trained professionals, particularly in less-populated areas. Online therapyis a way of circumventing those barriers by increasing accessibility and providing remote counseling to those who need it.

As discussed above, online counseling is an accessible, flexible way of managing dissociative disorder-related mental health concerns, such as trauma, panic, or anxiety. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you’ll have access to thoroughly vetted mental health professionals. A licensed online counselor can help you work through a dissociative disorder diagnosis. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from those who have sought help in the past.

Counselor Reviews

“I worked with another counselor for over 6 months before working with Arielle Ballard. In one 30 minute session, I got more accomplished in terms of structuring goals, building coping mechanisms, and recognizing thought patterns, than I had in the 6 months working with the other counselor. I'm pleased with my progress and am very greatful to Arielle.”

“I cant speak highly enough about David. I came to BetterHelp about 3 months ago with severe PTSD that was ruining my life and my relationships. In a short time I began to learn better and healthier coping mechanisms, tools to stop and change thought patterns and find a new sense of peace and confidence. What a difference. I would recommend David to anyone that may be seeking help from trauma and anxiety, he is very good.”

Conclusion

If you’ve been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, know that there is help available. There are trained counselors and therapists that are skilled at treatingpeople with DID. They can support you on your journey to wellness. Don't lose hope, there is a way to heal from your past, and it starts by seeking treatment.


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