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Dissociative Identity Disorder

Once called multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder is the most famous of all of the identity disorders. According to WebMD, it’s also pretty common. It is estimated that one percent of the American population is living with the disorder. Additionally, about 33 percent of people say that they often have the feeling that they are suspended above themselves, watching themselves go through life as if they are completely disconnected from the experience. In fact, it is believed that as much as seven percent of the population may be living with an undiagnosed dissociative disorder.

What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Though almost everyone has episodes of mild dissociation (e.g., daydreaming or completely immersing oneself in a project), those who are diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder experience a total disconnect from their memories, actions and sense of self. It is believed that dissociative identity disorder occurs when the patient is subjected to chronic emotional, physical or sexual abuse during childhood. In order to protect themselves from being mentally present during the repeated abuse episodes, patients may disconnect from their bodies in order to avoid re-experiencing the pain of the trauma.

*Dissociative Identity Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

What’s the difference between these two very severe mental health disorders? Schizophrenics believe things that aren’t real and about half of them hallucinate, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. Those with dissociative disorder actually do, say and think things normally – but as if they were someone else – and they often have no memory of it.

What Does It Mean to Live With Dissociative Identity Disorder?

The way that dissociative identity disorder manifests in day-to-day life is hugely disruptive to the patient. It can mean:

  • Amnesia. Forgetting personal information (e.g., who you are, where you are, where you’re from, where you’ve been, etc.) can strike at any time, leaving the patient feeling confused and lost.
  • Detachment from one’s body. Patients with dissociative identity disorder often feel as if they are disconnected from their body, watching themselves from the outside.
  • Feeling as if everything is surreal. The world may look foggy or as if it’s not real.
  • Confusion about identity. This could manifest in a number of different ways. One example is enjoying something during a period of dissociation that would ordinarily be repulsive.

It’s important to note that experts believe that when in the dissociative state, the patient is not actually living as a different person, but in a different personality state. Different personality states remember different parts of personal information and experience – but the host personality, or the personality state that answers to their real name, may not even be aware that the other personality states exist. Shifts between personalities – between two and 15, on average – can be triggered by external events.

The Path to Recovery

There is no cure for dissociative identity disorder, but treatment that incorporates medication, personal therapy, hypnotherapy, and alternative treatments has been proven to be effective in limiting the number of personality shifts that a person experiences. Need more information about what you can expect in treatment, or are you ready to learn more about your dissociative identity disorder treatment options? Call now to speak with a treatment counselor who can help.