Dissociative Identity Disorder

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

Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as "Multiple Identity Disorder" is a mental disorder that affects 1% - 2% of the global population. The disorder is considered rare, however, the prevalence rates are similar to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Anyone can be affected by DID; however, women are more likely to develop it. A mild episode of dissociation is quite common and not indicative of a disorder. These mild episodes are described similar to a daydream.

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The name "Multiple Personality Disorder" is no longer used because it was a bit misleading: it gave the impression of several different "people" within the same body. This is not really the case. Dissociative Identity Disorder belongs to a group of dissociative disorder, in which the affected individual person experiences a disconnect from their personality, and a discontinuity between memories, actions, and thoughts. This disconnection is involuntary and is a way of escaping reality, as a coping mechanism. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders[1] describes the following the diagnostic symptoms of DID:

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  • Two or more distinct personalities exist in one individual; one personality is always present (Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters).
  • Dissociative amnesia including gaps in the recall of important personal information and everyday events.
  • Severe distress and impairment in functioning because of the disorder.
  • The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices.
  • The disturbance can't be explained but substance use or another medical condition.

A person with DID alternates between multiple identities or states and these identities may have their own names, backgrounds, memories, characteristics and may even be different ages. Often, the disorder appears as a discoordination of personality without a single "sense of self," giving the impression of multiple personalities.

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Most people who have DID have suffered from some kind of trauma or abuse in early childhood, and have were usually exposed to an extensive period of time. As the name suggests, the dissociative identities are often developed as a response to trauma either as a coping mechanism or as a way to separate from the trauma. The DID can also be developed on people involved in natural disaster, after abuse and after military experience.

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The main signs of dissociative disorders are:

  • Out-of-body experiences.
  • Amnesia or blackouts (in the absence of heavy drug or alcohol use).
  • 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 behaviour.
  • Referring to him or herself as "we"
  • No recalling certain actions or events.


Like many mental health disorders, the diagnosis of DID can be complex and requires both physical and psychological tests and observations. Physical examinations are often used to rule out other conditions that can cause some of the symptoms. Once physical conditions are dismissed, the DID is diagnosed based on personal history and observed symptoms. The treatment for disorders like this one can include both medications and psychotherapy. The treatment doesn't focus on the different identities, but instead on the patient's symptoms/conditions that follow this disorder such as traumatic memories, depression, and dissociative events

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Case Studies

  1. 1
    Chris Sizemore
    Chris was portrayed in the 1953 movie The Three Faces of Eve. Chris developed DID after witnessing four accidents close together as a young child. Chris had 22 different personalities and didn't attend therapy until she was in her 20's. After 40 years of therapy, Chris reported all the personalities were able to coexist.
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  2. 2
    Shirley Ardell Mason
    At a young age, Shirley experienced severe trauma by her mother and subsequently developed 16 identities.
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  3. 3
    Kim Nobel
    Kim also experienced severe trauma as a young child and subsequently developed as many as 100 different identities. Kim has received therapy for many years and has written a book outlining her life with DID.
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  1. https://justines2010blog.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/dsm-iv.pdf

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Categories : Biology

Recent edits by: Irfan Khan, Sharingknowledge, Jen Moreau

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