So you think you might have multiple personalities...

Do you or a loved one possibly have Dissociative Identity Disorder?

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Having "multiple personalities" may not be what you think...

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, has been dramatized, scrutinized and disbelieved over the years. Despite the controversies that have existed around this disorder, it that has been found in between one and six percent of psychiatric patients. If you have ever questioned whether you or a loved one might have this disorder, this article will look a bit closer at DID to help you determine whether this diagnosis might be a real possibility for you.

What DID is not

Many people might refer to someone as having multiple personalities because their personality seems to change from one minute to the next. While everyone differs in the extent to which they experience varying personality states, multiple identities are actually normal. Just think about your own multiple personality states. For example, who you are as a parent is probably a lot different than who you are as a professional or who you are when you are with your own parents.

Someone's personality changing from moment to moment does not qualify him or her for a diagnosis of DID. One big difference between someone whose personality can change at the drop of a hat and someone with DID is that the person with DID does not remember the different personality states.

Possible signs pointing to the possibility of DID

A bad memory. This is not to say that most people with bad memories have DID, but most people who have DID also have bad memories.

Time-loss. Even more indicative of the potential for DID is the experience of losing chunks of time. In other words, a block of time will go by of which the person has no recollection. This does not pertain to someone who is lost in a good book or someone who is driving on a seemingly endless stretch of highway, but the legitimate experience of memory gaps on a regular basis.

Realizing you did something that you have no memory of doing. It is a common experience of many people with DID to find clothes in their closets that they do not recall purchasing. They may find the wrappers of food that they do not remember eating, and sometimes these wrappers were of food that they do not even like. Another example includes arriving some place without the knowledge of how one traveled there. 

Other people telling you about things that you do not remember doing. Friends and family members can be helpful in identifying DID because they can point out the discrepancies between what someone with DID remembers and what actually happened. Another experience of someone with DID is when someone who seems like a stranger is convinced that they have met before. 

The experience of depersonalization or derealizationSomeone who may at times feel unreal, mechanical or robotic may be experiencing depersonalization or derealization, which are psychiatric symptoms common among people with DID.

People who experience these symptoms often have the sense of watching one's self from a distance, being out of their own bodies, and sometimes being detached from themselves.

What to do about it

If the possibility of having DID seems to be real for you or a loved one, the best course of action is to seek mental health treatment. While choosing a psychotherapist, it is important that you feel comfortable with the person, but it is also crucial that they understand DID and how to work with someone who has it.

Even if someone is a doctoral level psychotherapist, he or she may not have sufficient training and understanding of the disorder to provide the best help for you. It is very important that you are selective about who you choose to work with, as many professionals are not adequately trained to work with people who have DID. Do not be afraid to ask prospective therapists about their training and understanding of this disorder so that you can be sure you will be in good hands.

Sources

Putnam, F.W. (1989). Diagnosis and treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press.

Rifkin, A., Ghisalbert, D., Dimatou, S., Jin, C., Sethi, M. (1998). Dissociative Identity Disorder in psychiatric inpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 844-5.

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