DID stands for Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously referred to as multiple personality disorder. DID is a mental health condition where an individual has two or more distinct personalities.
A DID diagnosis is rare; according to the National Library of Medicine, only 1.5% of the global population has been diagnosed. The diagnosis process is lengthy in order to fully understand and rule out any other medical conditions. Additionally, women are more likely to be diagnosed with DID than men.
What is a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Diagnosis?
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a mental health condition that involves an individual having two or more distinct identities, also known as “alters”. These identities affect the individual’s behavior, emotions, thoughts, memories, and sense of self. This disorder can lead to gaps in memory and hallucinations. A DID diagnosis is received after an individual undergos multiple tests by medical and mental health professionals to rule out other potential illnesses and disorders to confirm the individual has DID.
There are different types of dissociative disorders besides DID. The other disorders include:
- Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: When a person feels detached from their thoughts, feelings, and body, and when a person feels disconnected from their environment.
- Dissociative Amnesia: When a person cannot remember the details of an event that caused trauma or intense stress.
Related mental health conditions may also present themselves due to dissociative disorders that are likely related to severe trauma. These conditions include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Many of the signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder can mirror different mental and physical disorders, so it is important to get an official DID diagnosis with a mental health professional.
- Frequent occurrences of memory loss or feeling like there is “lost time” throughout the day/week
- Feeling disconnected or detached from the body and thoughts
- Suicide attempts or self-harm
- Inability to explain previous events and frequently forgetting how specific circumstances came about (wearing new clothes with no recollection of the purchase, unsure how the individual got somewhere)
- “Out of body” experiences, feelings of observing something happening rather than witnessing it in the first person
- Sudden flashbacks and memories of traumatic events
- Lack of self-identity
- Detachment from emotions and experiencing emotional numbness
Dissociative identity disorder is commonly associated with chronic childhood trauma and abuse. The abuse can be any combination of severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. DID is developed as a coping mechanism to deal with both the abuse, and the lack of nurturing resources during those intense traumatic experiences.
Although the majority of individuals diagnosed with DID have experienced severe trauma and abuse, dissociation may also occur due to unpredicatble and daunting family situations. DID may also be caused by specific traumatic experiences at a young age outside of abuse, such as experiences with war, natural disasters, severe poverty, etc. Usually, the severity of the DID disorder in adulthood matches the severity of the trauma experiences each individual endured in their youth.
Getting a DID diagnosis takes multiple assessments, and the process looks different for each individual. To diagnose DID, doctors might perform tests, ask about personal history, and review symptoms. Doctors need to understand an individual’s physical history to rule out diagnosis such as head injuries, brain tumors, sleep deprivation, intoxication, or other factors that may be causing memory loss or a disconnect from reality. If physical factors are not the cause of these symptoms, a mental health professional should then be consulted for further evaluation. The mental health professional will then perform an evaluation to identify other potential mental health disorders and, if appropriate, diagnose DID.
It might be difficult to get a DID diagnosis for multiple reasons. Sometimes, mental health professionals do not have enough training on the specifics of dissociative disorders and how to diagnose them, so they might not ask the proper questions.
Additionally, if an individual has experienced amnesia and memory loss during traumatic events or after due to dissociating, it might be hard for them to recall or talk about these symptoms and events, even if asked about them. Hiding these experiences is also a coping mechanism individuals have developed, which can contribute to feelings of difficulty in discussing these experiences.
Symptoms of DID typically present themselves from ages 5-10 years old, but parents, teachers, and other adults may miss them, or they may get misdiagnosed as ADHD. On average the first DID episode individuals experience is at age 16.
Luckily, there are mental health professionals who are capable of diagnosing DID, including those here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, who are thorough in their evaluation, and are trained to recognize DID in individuals.
Testing for DID
There is no single test that can be taken to diagnose an individual with DID. The diagnosis process is in-depth and comprehensive to give the person struggling with these symptoms the proper care.
Common Misconceptions about DID
In the media, there have been myths spread about DID, so there is a chance people have some false perceptions. This section is to help correct the narrative on the common misconceptions you might have about DID, and break the harmful stigmas around the condition.
- It is easy to spot when someone has DID
The truth is, it is not obvious when someone has DID. Movies may portray individuals with DID clearly changing their mannerisms, dressing with distinct styles depending on their state, or looking like a completely different person altogether. The truth is, when people have DID, they hardly present their different identities with such distinction to others.
- People who have DID are dangerous
The media has portrayed people with DID to be very violent when presenting another identity. The truth is, people with DID are no more dangerous than the rest of the population and are typically more frightened of dangerous situations than others are. Since DID is typically rooted in childhood trauma, people with DID typically do their best to not draw attention to themselves in any way.
- People with DID will never be treated
While DID does not have a cure, it is important to note that with the right mental health professional, people with DID can heal and lead happy productive lives. Finding a properly trained mental health professional who is knowledgeable in dissociative disorders is very important when treating this serious condition.
There is no direct cure for dissociative identity disorder. But that does not mean you cannot receive treatment that enables you to lead a full life. The most effective treatments are long-term and require patient dedication.
Effective forms of treatment can be:
- Psychotherapy: Commonly referred to as talk therapy, speaking with a therapist can help identify the triggers of one’s DID. Oftentimes, the goal of this therapy is to combine the different personality traits into one personality and work with the single personality to control triggers. Psychotherapy may involve working with family members.
- Hypnotherapy: Clinical hypnotherapy means healthcare providers use a form of guided meditation that can help recover repressed memories and consolidate different personalities into a singular personality. This type of therapy is commonly used along with psychotherapy.
- Medication: While there is no medication to specifically treat DID, your healthcare provider may suggest medications to treat commonly co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders.
Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder
With proper treatment and care, individuals with DID can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Working with a healthcare professional is helpful to gain a better understanding of what recovery and treatments will look like for you. With time and effort, you can be more comfortable at your job, in your home, and in your community.
Creating a strong support system with a combination of family and friends who are aware of your condition, and healthcare providers can make a positive difference in managing your symptoms, is crucial to living with DID. Do not be afraid to ask for help and communicate with those around you.
If a family member or friend has DID, it can be confusing at first. You can help by being properly educated on DID and its symptoms, offering to attend counseling or support groups, and staying calm when you notice sudden changes in behavior.
If you have harmed yourself, have suicidal thoughts, or violent behaviors, experience distinct periods you cannot remember, or have trouble functioning in certain areas of your life, reach out to a doctor for help.
Get treatment at The Phoenix RC today. Residential treatment centers like the Phoenix Recovery Center offer direct access to mental health professionals and doctors 24 hours a day to help individuals reach stability. Plus, individuals who receive care at the Phoenix get immediate access to professionals who provide diagnosis, prescriptions, and specialized care. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (801) 438-3185.