Multiple Personality Disorder is more commonly known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5) published in 2013, this condition can be defined as: The presence of 2 or more distinct identities or personalities with enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to and thinking about the environment and self. In essence, it is a chronic path-psychological disorder which usually originates at an early moment of human development (childhood).
Identifiers of DID
One or more major life areas that become affected by the condition
Associated disturbances that are not part of any religious or cultural practice
Symptoms that are not caused by a direct physiological condition
Changes in the morphology of the brain
First manifestations at ages 9 through 12
Patients suffers and go through DID in a diversified way. Also, this disorder tends to co-exist with other conditions like anxiety and depression which makes more difficult assigning a particular list of symptoms to it.
There are many different myths related to DID that create a lot of confusion and misunderstandings around the topic. The myths regarding DID should be addressed for its basic comprehension.
1.DID is fake or a fad that’s ending
Evidence of DID can be found throughout the history of many cultures and at the beginning this provided partial credibility for the first formal attempts of research; however, for a long time, the actual existence of MPD or DID was very controversial. But over the years DID diagnosis has become easier, more consistent and structured. Hence, treating trauma and dissociation (important elements of the condition) has been beneficial for patients.
DSM-3 included DID as a disorder officially in its volume of 1980.
2. DID is over-diagnosed and mostly present in North America
The truth is that cases of DID can be found all over the world at similar or even larger numbers than in North America, certainly Turkey is a good example.
DID is diagnosed not only by experts on this subject (which would be suspicious on a large scale), however, many mental health professionals without specialization in DID reported this condition in their patients.
Since patients with DID frequently spend years under psychiatric observation and treatment before being properly diagnosed, hence, probably the real number of people suffering from this condition may be severely underestimated. Some authors suggest that up to 1.5% of the general population suffers from DID.
PS: It is very frequent for people with DID to not be aware of their condition. They probably only notice missing gaps of time in their memory.
3. DIDis caused by a very active imagination, suggestibility and a tendency to fantasize
Large studies tackled this issue years ago. The objective was to determine which factors had a stronger correlation with DID. At the end, trauma (specially childhood trauma) seemed to be the main factor that predisposed individuals to manifest the disorder
4. DID is just another name for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
DID an BPD share many characteristics and can be found simultaneously in the same patient. However, what differentiates DID is the presence of amnesia and interruptions of identity. DID and BPD are not the same thing
At the moment there is no known biological mechanism associated to DID. Almost all literature related to this topic focuses on childhood trauma, sexual abuse, incest and extreme discipline and punishment as main elements that lead to DID.
DID seems to be more common among women. This may be related to the much higher incidence of sexual assault that women (as a demographic group) tend to suffer.
There is no cure or special medication specifically oriented towards DID. As a consequence, the treatment is purely based on intensive psychotherapy focused on trauma that can last a long time. At the moment, experts recommend a treatment divided in 3 stages.
The first stage focuses on: Dealing with issues related to safety, stabilize symptoms and create alliances with the different identities.
Second stage: Processing and resolving trauma.
Third stage: Integrating all identities into one and promoting greater engagement with society.
Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder is the consequence of trauma and abuse and at the moment our capacity to deal with it is limited. A lot of improvement has been achieved over the years but there’s still a long way to go. Therefore, it is important that people known that this disorder is real and that there are ways to help those who suffer because of it. If you or someone you know is interested in finding help or being tested for DID, you should contact a psychiatrist.