Dissociative Identity Disorder

Edited by JuSilveira, Jen Moreau, Sharingknowledge, Irfan Khan and 1 other

Recently a film called "Split" came off, and everyone has been talking about.

(Relax: no spoiler alert is needed here).


Just a quick overview: the film is about a guy who suffers from DID and has around 23 personalities (some of them evil), and he ends up kidnapping these three girls. From this time on, a lot of things happen involving the girls and the different personalities, but I'll stop here before spoilers start to come out.

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Of course, there is some fantasy here and there, but the film is focused on the guy's disorder, the DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is also commonly known as "Multiple Identity Disorder" (although this name is not particularly correct).

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It is estimated that around 2% of the population suffers from this disorder, and this makes it as common as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In the USA the same percentage of adults suffers from this disorder, but almost half of the adult population experiences at least one dissociation event in their lives. A mild episode of dissociation is quite common: they are similar to a daydream.Anyone can be affected by DID; however, women are more likely to develop it.

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Here I will give some key information about this psychological condition, showing that it is way more complex than what the fiction shows.


What is It?

The DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) is a type of dissociative disorder, which is a group of disorders where the person experiences a kind of disconnection with its own personality, and also a discontinuity between their memories, actions, and thoughts. This disconnection is involuntary and is a way of escaping reality, as a coping mechanism.

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The name "Multiple Personality Disorder" is not used anymore because it was a bit misleading: it gives the impression of several different "people" within the same body. This is not really the case. A person who has DID alternates between multiple identities or states and these identities may have their own names, backgrounds, memories, characteristics and may even have different ages. It's like the parts of someone's personality are not coordinated and without a single "sense of self," it gives the impression of multiple personalities.

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Dissociative identity disorder.jpg

There is a fascinating case that happened in Germany that can illustrate how far this disease can go, and how different the personalities can be. A 33 years old blind woman with DID who had ten personalities was able to see in 8 of them. This was perceived after she began psychotherapy: right after one of the sessions where she discussed a major trauma she started to be able to see again.

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Most people who have DID suffered from some kind of trauma or abuse in early childhood, usually when they are exposed to it for a long-term. They are often developed as a response to trauma, and a few times the "identities" that appear have the personality that would help to cope with the whole situation (usually a tough and stronger personality). The DID can also be developed on people involved in natural disasters or that witnessed some kind of combat.

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The main signs of dissociative disorders are:

  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Mental health problems (depression, suicide thoughts, and anxiety)
  • Emotional numbness
  • Memory loss of specific event, times and/or people. Memory loss can be caused other conditions but on DID this memory loss too deep to be explained by other conditions.
  • Constant mood changes
  • Self-destructive behavior



The diagnosis of this disorder is a bit complicated because there is no imaging and/or laboratory test that can do it. The physical exams are often used to rule out other conditions that can cause some of the symptoms (the memory loss, for example, can be caused by brain injury or sleep deprivation), but not to diagnose the disorder itself. Once physical conditions are ruled out, the DID is diagnosed based on personal history and overall symptoms.

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The treatment for disorders like this one can include both medications and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Different than what people might think, the treatment doesn't focus on the different identities, but it focuses on the patient's symptoms/conditions that follow this disorder such as depression, painful memories, and dissociative events. This helps with the harmony between all these states and makes it easier for the patients to control their impulses

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These approaches can help the person to deal with the whole disorder and have a life as normal as possible. However, it is important to know that there is no cure for this mental disorder.


Referencing this Article

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Dissociative_Identity_Disorder. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Apr 26, 2017, from https://scienceaid.net/Dissociative_Identity_Disorder

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Recent edits by: Irfan Khan, Sharingknowledge, Jen Moreau

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