Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

Most of us on some occasion or another have experienced a loss of identity or dissociation with ourselves, especially when we are overly engrossed in some work or day dreaming. Some people experience a severe disassociation with themselves, when they remain unconnected with their own thoughts, feelings, memories and actions, resulting in a loss of self-identity. This condition is better known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). DID is a coping mechanism resorted to by the individual, having its roots in an experience that has brought pain, wherein the person experiences an inability to integrate it into his conscious self.

Behavior Patterns in DID Affected Persons

DID affected persons display multiple personalities existing in one individual, often called ’split personalities’ or ‘ alters.’ The ‘alters’ present will each have a different identify, age, race and even sex, and different personality traits, postures, mannerisms and even quirks, that close associates find strange and even contradictory. The dissociated states may be quite immature personalities that are disjointed. There is difficulty in recalling any personal information, sometimes quite extensive to be explained away as just plain forgetfulness.

As each personality manifests itself, the individual’s behavior will display ’switching.’. Mood swings and memory variations may become apparent when there is a ’switch’ between one alter and another, and could last from minutes to even days. There could be indulgence in rituals and compulsive behavior that is difficult for the person to handle, and appears bizarre to others. All this happens because of the confusion arising from the ‘alters’ present in the person. At times there could be more than one ‘alter’ present. Under hypnosis the therapist may be able to evoke responses from the different ‘alters’ present.

Apart from the split personalities present, persons affected by DID are likely to display symptoms like mood swings, depression, insomnia, night walking and nightmares, eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse and reckless behavior. There may be suicidal tendencies. The actions of the person may also show behaviour that is suggestive of self-sabotage and self-persecution through directing violence towards himself or outward.

They may display behaviour that is normally not associated with them, like stealing form a family member, friend or employer, because they feel driven to do it and are unable to explain why. Sometimes they feel they are ‘not in the body,’ like as if someone else within is running the show.

DID afflicted people a sense of ‘derealization’ that the world around them is unreal. They may feel disoriented about time and experience a sense of loss.

Who Gets Affected By Dissociative Identity Disorder

DID or MPD is a condition that is the result of several factors both biological and environmental. Environmental factors could be circumstances and situations faced during the sensitive, formative stage of childhood, upto 9 years, which were either life-threatening or too overpowering for the child to handle and sometimes recurrent. Dissociation can occur as a result of parental neglect or emotional abuse even when this is not as apparent as sexual or physical abuse. Sometimes a child may become dissociative because parental behavior is unpredictable and frightening.

Treatment of DID

Long-term treatment of DID is successful, if the patient realises his afflication and remains committed to treatment. It could be hypotherapy, psychotherapy, talk therapy, and other complementary ones like movement or art therapy. Symptoms of DID are very similar to other conditions like anxiety and depression and medication is generally the same.

Energy psychology methods are also found to be helpful with DID, because they can soothe and calm the patient. Therapies like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can help. A skilled practitioner can teach a patient how to use this technique that works on the energy meridians of the body. With experience the patient will feel more confident and be able to handle anxiety.

Another technique called Family Constellations, a therapeutic method developed by Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherapist, is used by psychotherapists and alternative practitioners to release deep-rooted tensions that occur within individuals and between people. It has been known to heal victims of trauma caused by the holocaust, child abuse, etc. Probably DID sufferers can be helped with this technique.


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