Dissociative identity disorder is characterized by a person’s identity fragmenting into two or more distinct personality states. People with this condition are often victims of severe abuse. Some people describe this as an experience of possession. The person also experiences memory loss that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. If you believe someone you know has DID, you may get the impression that you’re communicating with not one, but several different people, as the person switches between personalities. Often, each identity will have their own name and characteristics. They’ll commonly have an unrelated detailed background with obvious differences in age, gender, voice, and mannerisms.
Dissociative identity disorder is a relatively rare and controversial condition, making it complicated to study and research. Researchers continue to assess how common dissociative identity disorder is in the population. Available research indicates that approximately two percent of people in the world experience dissociative disorders and they are more commonly diagnosed in women.
Research has sought to investigate why dissociative identity disorder is more common in females. Studies have found that women have symptoms more regularly than males. As males are more apt to hide symptoms and traumatic histories.
Men also display more aggressive behavior and less memory loss than females do, resulting in less diagnosis. Females face childhood abuse more frequently than males, also making dissociative identity disorder more likely to occur in the female population.
- Patients with DID have often dealt with violent and traumatizing experiences in the past. These experiences could include witnessing someone die or undergoing physical abuse. Because these moments are too stressful to remember, these patients tap into their dissociation to escape. When a moment triggers a traumatic memory, these patients might cope by daydreaming or acting differently.
- Due to their dissociation, or separation from their sense of self, a number of DID patients are likely to struggle with memory issues. Often times, they may even fail to remember key pieces of personal information. They might recall something scary that happened to them but forget normal, everyday events, such as things that happened at work or in their personal lives.
- In cases of dissociative identity disorder, a person can experience one or more other identities. Although it’s not always going to be as obvious as you would think, each separate identity may have its own name, personal history, sometimes voice, gender and other specific characteristics.
- Dissociative disorders can be found in people of all ages, races, ethnicity, and backgrounds. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that about 2 percent of people experience dissociative disorders.
How to cope
Learning new coping skills is an important aspect of managing symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. Some strategies that can help include:
- Meditation: Practicing meditation may help people become more aware of their own internal mental states.7
- Relaxation techniques: Such strategies can help people better cope with stress and learn how to better manage dissociative symptoms.
- Mindfulness: This practice can help people gently bring themselves back to the present moment when they begin to experience flashbacks or dissociative symptoms.2
- Using reminders: Writing things down can provide a useful visual reminder when people find themselves experiencing periods of forgetfulness or dissociative amnesia.
Although we may typically see dissociative identity disorder portrayed a certain way, it is important to know the facts, and remove any stigmas attached to mental health disorders so those who are dealing with the issue feel the freedom and encouragement to seek the help they need.
In many cases, DID stems from childhood trauma, so psychotherapy and even family therapy is highly suggested. In terms of medication, there is currently no medication that’s specifically used to treat it. Instead, some people may be prescribed medication to help deal with mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. If you or someone you know may be dealing with symptoms associated with dissociative identity disorder, seeking help from a therapist is a great first step to help better cope.
When to see a psychologist
- You are aware or others observe that you involuntarily and unwillingly have two or more personalities or identities that have a distinctly different way of relating to you and the world around you.
- You experience beyond ordinary forgetfulness, like extensive gaps in your memory for important personal information, skills, and events.
- Your symptoms aren’t caused by a medical condition or from the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Your symptoms are causing you problems or stress in important areas such as your personal life and at work.
CBT-Kenya (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Kenya) counseling center offers counseling and therapy sessions for persons from all walks of life. We focus on helping clients gain insight into themselves by going through a healing process. Our purpose is to help you to achieve your therapeutic and life goals, to improve the quality of your life and to help you to build strong relationships in your life. Get in touch or book an appointment on +254 739 935 333, +254 756 454 585 or email@example.com.