Dissociative Identity Disorder

In dissociative identity disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder, two or more identities alternate being in control within the same individual.

Also, the individual cannot recall information that would ordinarily be readily remembered, such as everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic or stressful events.

  • Extreme stress during childhood may prevent some children from integrating their experiences into one cohesive identity.
  • Individuals have two or more identities and have gaps in their memory for everyday events, important personal information, and traumatic or stressful events, as well as many other symptoms, including depression and anxiety.
  • A thorough psychiatric interview and special questionnaires, sometimes facilitated by hypnosis or sedatives, help medical professionals diagnose the disorder.
  • Extensive psychotherapy may help individuals integrate their identities or at least help the identities cooperate.

How many individuals have dissociative identity disorder is unknown. In one small study, about 1.5% of people had the disorder in a given year.

Dissociative identity disorder has the following forms:

  • Possession:
    • In the possession form, the individual’s different identities appear as though they were outside agents who had taken control of the individual.
    • This outside agent may be described as a supernatural being or spirit (often a demon or god, who may demand punishment for past actions) but sometimes is another person (often someone who has died, sometimes in a dramatic fashion).
    • In all cases, individuals speak and act very differently from the way they normally do.
    • Thus, the different identities are obvious to other people.
    • In many cultures, similar possession states are a normal part of the local culture or religion and are not considered a disorder.#
    • In contrast, in dissociative identity disorder, the alternate identity is unwanted, causes substantial distress and impairment, and appears in times and places that are inappropriate for the individual’s social situation, culture, and/or religion.
  • Non-Possession:
    • Non-possession forms tend to be less apparent to others.
    • Individuals may feel a sudden alteration in their sense of self, perhaps feeling as though they were observers of their own speech, emotions, and actions, rather than the agent.

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