What is Dissociative Personality Disorder?

Dissociative Personality Disorder also formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder or split personality is a psychiatric condition which involves the presence of two or more distinct personalities or identities within the body of one person. The person experiences distinct multiple personality states, each personality recurrently dominating and controlling the person's behavior from time to time with its own pattern of relating, perceiving, enduring, thinking and interacting with the environment, world and self.
Dissociative personality disorder statistically occurs in women nine times more often than in men and about 3% of psychiatric hospital patients have the disorder.
There is no specific cause for dissociative personality disorder, but theoretically it is thought to stem from a combination of factors that include overwhelming stress, traumatic experience, childhood trauma and insufficient childhood nurturing. Most patients with dissociative personality disorder complain of child abuse such as sexual or physical abuse especially during early childhood. Dissociation is said to be a coping mechanism as the person literally dissociates him/herself from a traumatic, violent or painful situation or experience.
People diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder typically display a variety of signs and symptoms from time to time. Dissociation is the main symptom of this disorder where the patient experiences lapse in memory and Inability to remember important information and life events such as weddings and birthdays that are too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. The person also experiences blackouts such that the person could travel to a place but cannot remember how he got there.
Other symptoms include;
  • Multiple behaviors and mannerisms
  • Beliefs and attitude that is not similar to each other,
  • Severe memory loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of time,
  • Unexplainable phobias
  • DE realization and depersonalization - This is a profound feeling of being outside of themself where the person feels that rather than live their own life they are watching themselves move through life.
  • Hearing voices and dialogs in their head which are not those of the primary identity.
There is no particular blood test or investigation used to diagnose this disorder; instead it is diagnosed on the basis of signs and symptoms, proper case history and mental-health interview.
Dissociative Identity Disorder holds the most societal stigma than other disorders and it is often mistaken for schizophrenia. DID is alleged to be treatable but from my research it is apparent that there are no specific medications for its treatment.
Drugs are given to assist the person with symptoms like depression, insomnia, and anxiety but these drugs do nothing to address the disorder itself and some experts say that this is due to lack of prescription maintenance and effective use because of the multiple personality state of the person.
Psychotherapy is said to be the treatment of choice for individuals suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Some experts emphasize or propagate the integration of the various personalities into one whole personality as another form of treatment.
In a growing trend, people with DID are starting to document their trials on personal blogs and come together to form self-help mutual support groups through online communities and larger communities. These support groups are helpful and beneficial to persons with the disorder and some blogs give tips on how to cope with DID.
Here are some tips by Jess Mei, a DID sufferer and blogger on reducing the problems of living with dissociative identity disorder (DID). According to Jess, unfortunately there really are no set rules for 'dealing' with DID, because what worked well for one personality, might not for other personalities and what worked yesterday might also not work today.
So, keeping all this in mind, here are 10 general tips for living with DID. The number one thing to remember is - Be Flexible.
  1. If you drive, get yourself a GPS
This is important because depending on which of the personality drives at a particular time you might find yourself across town - or worse halfway across the state before you realize it. According to Jess, who says she found herself near the Canadian border one day, "one minute you are cooking dinner in your kitchen *blink your eyes* and the next minute you are behind the wheel of your car not knowing where you are going" or how to get back. First thing you should do is to program the GPS for home.
  1. Start an external notebook or an internal whiteboard
According to Jess keeping some sort of conscious continuity between your different personalities is one of the most important things you can do. She advises that you should make it mandatory for all your personalities to keep notes in a central notebook or even an internal whiteboard, writing down or taking note of important things they have done or committed like exams, doctor's appointment, dates etc. This helps you keep track of the times lost during personality switches.
  1. Let people around you know how to call out your more cooperative personalities
 Sometimes when you are having a panic attack or your personalities are in chaos Jess says it is helpful to have a trusted person around you call out a calming personality - a personality that gets things under control. She however warns that this should only be done by a trusted person otherwise the "call out" might worsen the situation and trigger a protector or a potentially violent personality.
  1. Secure your funds.
It is also important for you to understand that there are more than just you spending or wanting to spend your money. So, you should pay your bills as soon as you have money, pre pay or place your bills on auto pay, that way - your bills get paid whether you remember or not. Have all your living necessities and financial responsibilities taken care of, avoid carrying an ATM card on you, and even set up a two signatory account if possible. Any money spent afterwards will not affect your lifestyle.
  1. Have a place for important documents and papers (traffic tickets, IRS notices, etc.) and make sure that all your personalities know where they are.
  This is in keeping with your continuous consciousness. However, Jess says that this could be a difficult to adhere to because not all personalities are considerate or care to cooperate with the others and some could hide documents from other personalities so you should be a willing mediator and get all personalities to agree not to hide stuff.
  1. Keep an emergency contact phone number
Like your next of kin, psychiatrist, treatment facility and/or therapist phone number in your wallet, purse and/or cellphone.
  1. Set up a safety network for yourself in case of a panic attack or similar emergency.
 When you have DID, It is important to have a safety network or support team of people that care about you and are willing to assist you like your significant other, your therapist, understanding friends or even your child (ren). Seek out those trusted people and build your safety network from there.
  1. Keep your prescription drugs safe and also keep a journal of when you take them.
 Unfortunately, there are suicidal personalities that hate the body and all the other personalities. Sometimes these personalities come out and could harm the body by self-mutilating, attempted drug overdose or some other dangerous situations. So, it is important to keep drugs in a place that these personalities don't know about. It is also important to keep a journal of when you take your medication otherwise, if a personality comes out and doesn't know that you have already taken your prescribed dose, that personality might take another dose as well.
  1. Become a good actor/actress.
Learn how to 'play it off' when people you have never met come up to you and act like you two are good friends. They might be strangers to you, but good friends with one of your personalities and you don’t know because you didn’t have co-consciousness during the interaction with that person. So, become a good actor/ actress during these situations and use your judgment. Make sure to be careful.
  1. Be prepared to have your child alters come out at Toys -R-Us and other places.
If you have child alters, be kind to them and have something or toys for them to play with around the house.

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