Split personality or Dissociative Identity Disorder

As the term indicates, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a type of psychological disorder wherein an individual dissociates themselves from the real identity. There is disconnection with the patient’s thoughts or actions that most commonly, occurs due to extreme or repetitive trauma at an early age. The trauma could be emotional neglect, physical or sexual abuse. This dissociation or detachment is actually, an escape mechanism to keep the distressing, traumatic memories away from the present consciousness.

Split personality

Formerly known as Multiple personality disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder is characterised by the presence of two or more different personalities in an individual. Also, called ‘split personality disorder’, the alternate personalities present may be of different age, gender or race with different characteristics, behaviour, emotions or habits. For example, a shy person may suddenly ‘switch’ into an aggressive and rude personality or vice versa. This switching of personalities could be for a few seconds or days altogether. The trigger for such switching of personalities is usually, stress or reminder of old traumatic experiences.

Symptoms:

  • A sense of confusion about one’s identity.
  • Amnesia or extreme forgetfulness for important personal information or life events such as wedding, birthday etc
  • Hearing other voices apart from their own
  • Blackouts or time lapses: finding items or meeting people they cannot recall.
  • Difficulty handling stressful situations
  • Sense of being overpowered or possessed by someone else.
  • Detachment from the real world or present situation.
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Self-destructive behaviour or suicidal tendency

Diagnosis:

A clinical psychological interview with complete medical history and mental health assessment is required to make the confirmed diagnosis as Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms may coexist with other personality disorders or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Treatment of Split personality:

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most important tool in treating Dissociative Identity Disordera. Medications may also, be prescribed for associated symptoms. Other treatments include:

  • Behavioural therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) , a type of treatment for patients with visual hallucinations, nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Art or music therapy to soothe the patients and provide a comfortable environment to express themselves.
  • Meditation and other relaxation techniques to calm the mental turmoil.

Prevention:

Communication is the key to prevention. As children who are traumatised, stressed, neglected or abused are more prone to develop DID, it is important to talk and provide emotional support to them at the earliest to prevent damaging their mental health.         

Counselling parents for a healthy parenting style and happier family environment may help the kids cope with stressful situations easily.

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Dr Nidhi M Jhamb

Dr Nidhi is a homoeopathic physician by profession who believes in a holistic approach towards healing. She loves to solve Sudoku puzzles and relaxes by dancing her worries away. Her passion is to write medical content in very simple language that anyone can easily understand.

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