Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personality Disorder is one of four main dissociative disorders according to the DSM- IV-TR. Dissociative Disorders are marked by major changes in the memory that doesn’t have a clear cause, making one part of a person’s memory separate from the rest. (Comer, 176) The DSM-IV-TR states that Dissociative Identity Disorder is usually a result of extreme physical and/or sexual abuse (527).

The World of Psychology describes Dissociative Identity Disorder as a person with two or more distinct, unique personalities and having severe memory disruption concerning personal information about the other personalities (732). While The Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology puts it simply as “a disorder in which a person develops two or more distinct personalities referred to as alternate personalities (182).

So I would think that a perfect definition of Dissociative Identity Disorder would a disorder in which a person develops two of more personalities, that interferes with daily life and disrupts a person’s memory in a way that they can’t always remember personal information. People with Dissociative Identity Disorder have two or more personalities know as Alternate personalities or Subpersonalities. Alternate personalities have their own set of memories, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Often a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder will have a primary personality that appears more than the rest.

When one personality changes to another it is called “switching”, usually brought on by stress. It is thought that 50% of people with DID have more than 10 personalities and in 80% of cases the host personality or primary personality does not know about the alters but the alters have varying levels of awareness for each other (S. Wood, E. Wood, Boyd, 732). According to Comer personalities may interact through mutually amnesic relationships, mutually cognizant patterns, one- way amnesic relationships, and co-conscious alternates (182).

Mutually amnesic relationships are relationships in which personalities are not aware of the any of the other alternates; conversely, in mutually cognizant patterns personalities are aware of the others. One-way relationships are the most common in which, “some alternates are aware of the others, but the awareness is not mutual” (Comer, 182). Co-conscious alternates are considered the “quiet observers” (Comer, 182) they watch the other alternates’ actions and thoughts but do not interact with them. Sometimes co-conscious alternates make themselves known through auditory hallucinations and automatic writing (Comer, 182).

According to Comer “Women receive this diagnosis at least three times as often as men” (182), while The World of Psychology says “about 90 % of treated cases are women” (732). Experts claim that Dissociative Identity Disorder is rare; however in recent years diagnosis of this disorder has gone increased. Some researchers assert it is iatrogenic, or created by the therapist while others argue that the disorder is now better understood. A great example of this controversy is the story of Sybil. A women who had 16 different personality and some thought was diagnosed with DID because her therapist wanted to have such a case.

The reason this became so debated was because psychologist knew very little about Dissociative Identity Disorder and thought the therapist was trying to get ahead in the mental health community. The therapist was not a very good writer and had a professional come in to write about Sybil, again making the case seem as though it was a money making antic. However after seeing the research in my abnormal psychology class I would say Sybil had DID. I could see her switching and how her personalities changed throughout the documentary.

It seems that Hollywood portrays many things in this world as better, more dramatic, or more common than what they really are. Dissociative Identity Disorder was seen that way in not only Sybil the movie but also in The Three Faces of Eve. Some clinicians argue that DID is better understood in today’s society while other still argue that it’s rare or made up by therapist. It’s hard to say whether or not DID is real but then again how do we really know, because society makes labels for groups of people who are not considered normal. However I have always wondered what is normal, what society says it is or what we personally feel it is.

I have taken 3 psychology classes and find that there are disorder in the world that effect people and their daily live, that need treatment and then there are others that seem almost made up or imaginary. However I don’t believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder is one of those because seeing documentaries and research as convinced me that it’s real and it’s not something a person came get rid of on their own. Treatment options for Dissociative Identity Disorder include drug treatment, out-patient therapy, or residing in a mental health hospital.

Therapists assist the patient “recogniz[ing] fully the nature of their disorder, recover gaps in their memory, and integrate their alternates into one functional personality” (Comer, 188). Hospitalization is beneficial because the therapist can closely monitor and get acquainted with all the alternates and the patient can be confronted with the disorder. The therapist can also slowly combine all the personalities together to form one. This method is referred to as “fusion” and the alternate personalities don’t like it because the therapist is killing them.

Drug treatments used to treat Dissociative Identity Disorder include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. In all I have found Dissociative Identity Disorder to be fascinating and eye opening. I find it interesting that the human mind can take very traumatic events in one’s life and give that person multiple personalities as a way to cope. Not to say that having a number of personalities would be easy but I believe that for some people have those personalities is what keeps them from committing suicide. It’s not easy to for a person to deal with any abuse let alone sexual abuse.