Dissociative identity disorder

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

Imagine not having control over what you do? Imagine being a nice person one moment and a completely different person the next second? I know you may be wondering if such scenarios exist. I am here to inform you that they do! It is called dissociative identity disorder formerly known as multiple personalities.

Dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative identity disorder is a mental disorder that involves a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings and sense of identity. You may assume this to be normal because you have probably day-dreamt before or experienced mood swings but the characteristics are completely different.

Individuals with dissociative identity disorder have two or more separate identities. The person’s usual identity or personality is called the core and the “alters” are the additional identities that pop up. Some have 1 alters while others may have up to 20 or more. The personalities control their behaviour at separate times. The alters are distinct and have their own:

· Name

· Gender

· Likes and dislikes

· History

· Moods

· Memories

· Thoughts

· Vocabulary and so on

Formerly, dissociative identity disorder used to be called split personality or multiple personalities. Presently due to extensive research, it is termed dissociative identity disorder. The core personality is usually passive and may not be aware of the alters.

Causes of dissociative identity disorder

Firstly, this is a rare mental disorder. It occurs between 0.01% and 1% of the population. In some communities, they may be accused of being possessed by supernatural beings.

The exact cause of this disorder is not clear but there has been a great link about 99% between the condition and trauma. People who experienced severe and chronic trauma in their childhood usually before 6 years often have the condition.

The trauma includes:

· Sexual abuse

· Physical abuse

· Emotional abuse

· Sometimes, natural disasters.

· Witness war

  • The condition has been observed in people who had frightening and unpredictable parents. The children become dissociative.
This disorder is a coping mechanism for the victims as they obtain the alters to get out of the traumatic conditions which are unbearable for them.

Personal identity starts forming during the sensitive stage of childhood, hence, the child steps outside of himself or herself and observe the trauma as if it were happening to a different person.

Ultimately, they use the alters to get out of stressful conditions throughout their whole life. It eventually leads to gaps in memory and hallucinations (seeing, believing or hearing unreal things). This disorder even though forms during childhood, is usually detected during adulthood.

Symptoms of dissociative identity disorder

Each individual may not experience this disorder in the same way. Generally, the alters have their distinct way of acting. The alters are imaginary people but they may even be animals for some. Switching occurs when one identity is overtaken by another. They are usually triggered by past or stressful events. It can take seconds, minutes, days and even weeks for switching to occur.

When an individual switch, the person will forget key information about themselves or even their family which is more than mere forgetfulness. During that phase, they detach themselves from the current happenings around them as if they are watching the event on television. They speak and act differently than their core depending on the type of alter present. In some cases, the alters may pick up behaviour that the individual would have normally avoided such as smoking, drinking, reckless driving, etc.

As mentioned earlier, some people may not notice the transitions while others would. If they are aware, they become anxious and violent in between the transitions. Some have sleep disturbances and out of body experiences like a trance. Some may want to attempt suicide.

Diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder

It is difficult to diagnose this disorder because it may come with other disorders such as

· Eating disorder

· Depression

· Borderline personality disorder

· Post-traumatic stress disorder

· Substance use disorder

· Obsessive-compulsive disorder and so on.

Many people are diagnosed between their 20s and 50s whilst others are usually given the wrong diagnosis years before they discover it. Due to the presence of other disorders, it takes time to detect them. Additionally, psychiatrists have to meet all the different identities, examine how they affect the individual and find a solution. There are no blood tests specific to detect this condition but laboratory tests are run to rule out brain and head injuries.

Treatment of dissociative identity disorder

Presently, there are no formal treatments or guidelines used to cure this disease. It is managed not cured. Effective management practices include

· Psychotherapy or talk therapy- done to work on the triggers and how to integrate those personalities into normal life. sometimes, the family or support system is invited.

· Hypnotherapy- this is done to visit those traumatic conditions to control the behaviours that result from them. This is not applied in all cases.

· Medication- this is given to people with other conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Dissociative identity disorder is NOT preventable. It is usually not the child’s fault. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have this condition, seek professional help. If you know someone or a relative with this condition, kindly support them and be calm around them. The disorder is complex and controversial. Remember to report to the clinic if the individual becomes suicidal.

References

  1. Cleveland clinic. Dissociative identity disorder. Retrieved fromhttps://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9792-dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder
  2. MedicalNewsToday. Split personalities. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/split-personality
Psychology

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.