In Blog, Mental Health

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) has now become more understood in the public sphere. Formerly known as “multiple personality disorder”, DID has long been portrayed as a condition that was either intentionally “imitated” or rare enough to be considered a total outlier in the realm of mental illness. We now know that neither of these representations is true, as the misrepresentation and misinformation surrounding it have somewhat dissipated.

According to StatPearls Publishing, “Dissociative disorders show a prevalence of 1% to 5% in the international population”. They also note that “severe dissociative identity disorder is present in 1% to 1.5% of this population.” Between 80 and 400 million people worldwide struggle with some form of DID. This clearly debunks the imitation and outlier myths. One aspect of DID that is not a myth is the fact that it is much more prevalent in women.

What Exactly Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

According to the aforementioned article, someone with DID is described “as a person who experiences separate identities that function independently of each other and are autonomous of each other”. Also, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) criteria for DID include at least two or more distinct personalities. Each personality varies in behavior, sense of consciousness, memory, and perception of the outside world.” Now, that is what DID looks like, but where does it arise from? Research has confirmed that one of the leading underlying causes of DID is trauma.

The dissociative aspect of DID arises from the way in which an individual copes with a severe trauma they have experienced in their life. An individual “dissociates” from themself as a way to distance themself from the experience. For individuals struggling with DID, that trauma quite often occurs in childhood.

Childhood trauma, especially childhood sexual trauma, has been linked as one of the primary underlying causes of DID. This is also one of the main reasons that DIDs affect women more than men. Statistically, sexual abuse is more prevalent in the female adolescent population.

Why Does Dissociative Identity Disorder Affect Women More Than Men?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse.” This statistic embodies one of the primary reasons that DID is often found more in women than men: women experience more frequent childhood sexual trauma.

It is also important to understand that, according to the CDC, “Someone known and trusted by the child or child’s family members, perpetrates 91% of child sexual abuse.” This means that the victims must continue to live with, or associate with, their abusers. Further, this explains why young women often don’t report their abuse and repress any memories of it.

Often, this repression is what can lead to DID. Without a verbal outlet, the trauma can be internalized and manifest as the symptoms of DID. Of course, sexual trauma is not the only cause of DID across all populations. It can also manifest from trauma related to natural disasters, sudden family illness and/or death, and as a result of other untreated mental illnesses. 

How to Best Treat Dissociative Identity Disorder

Many treatment modalities have been used to treat DID. The primary treatment options lie in the realm of therapy and psychotherapy. The most common of these two therapies are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These therapies can help an individual investigate and understand the underlying traumas, so they can then begin to mitigate and manage their symptoms.

There are also two other treatment options that have been shown to be effective in treating DID. The first is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR can help an individual begin to work on the behaviors often linked with the cognitions associated with their trauma. The second option is pharmacology. Since DID is a rather serious mental health disorder, medication can help stabilize some of the more severe symptoms as the other therapeutic methods are administered.

The Importance of Individualized Care at The Phoenix Recovery Center

At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we make it our mission to create a unique recovery plan for each of our clients. We do not work in “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” recovery, and we do not see people as their illnesses.

Everyone that comes to The Phoenix Recovery Center has their own story to tell and goals they want to attain. We are here to listen and help them attain those goals. 

For our clients that struggle with DID, we work hard to get them past that trauma so they can begin to live the lives they have always deserved. Recovery is not a gift; it is a right, and it’s one we take very seriously at the Phoenix Recovery Center.

If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with DID, you are not alone. We can help you get the care you need and deserve. For more information on DID and other issues of behavioral and mental health, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

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