The study of mental health diagnoses will open your eyes to the vast array of unusual and in some cases, debilitating psychiatric illnesses that plague some people. In your everyday life, you’ll eventually encounter individuals who grapple with unusual mental health diagnoses. Therefore, it’s wise to expand your knowledge base of such conditions. Today’s discussion focuses on Dissociative Identity Disorder.
You might be more familiar with a disorder called, “Multiple Personality Disorder” or MPD. However, what we used to call MPD we now refer to as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” or DID. One of a class of just a few dissociative disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume IV, TR (Text Revision), DID is a disorder that’s often discussed in the news media and even portrayed in film.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Defined
When a person has within them two or more separate streams of consciousness that include thinking, relating, and perceiving others and their environment and surroundings, they are diagnosed with DID (National Alliance on Mental Illness website). In the event that evidence exists that these multiple identities are caused by a drug, the individual would not receive a DID diagnosis.
However, once drugs and other medical conditions that could cause such a state are ruled out, a diagnosis of DID may be made. Do not be confused by the word “dissociative.” Simply think of the prefix, “dis-” meaning “not” combined with the word, “associate” which means “connected” or “to relate.” Therefore, one who suffers from DID has more than one aspect of her entire personality that has separated or split off from the whole, as the Psychology Today website explains. Thusly, these parts of the person’s identity are not connected with one another.
The use of the name, “multiple personality” is, therefore, not truly descriptive of the illness. Even so, we must be respectful of the fact that the individual with DID thinks and asserts that she has several differing representatives of herself living inside her. She believes this to be so (Psych Central website).
DID is often diagnosed by mental health professionals once the person reports several extended blocks of lost time or what might sound like repeated episodes of unexplainable memory loss. These episodes result from time lost by one aspect of the identity while the individual’s other personality (-ies) are “out” or present.
Descriptive Example of a Person with Dissociative Identity Disorder
A person with DID could, by day, attend work as a secretary who is quite straight-laced and controlled and then in the evening, dress in risqué clothing, don exaggerated make-up, and go out to the bars to pick up men. One with DID might also have an altered persona that behaves like a young child or teenager. The individual dealing with DID may or may not be aware she has other “alters” or “identities” within her psyche.
Interestingly, some of the identities will know about some or all the other personalities while some of them may be clueless as to the existence of the other so-called personalities within the person. It’s important to keep in mind that all of the alters or identities live inside a single human being.
Watch for my next article, “Causes and Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder.” I’ll provide more information about this unusual mental condition.
National Alliance on Mental Illness website
Psych Central website
Psychology Today website