Dissociative Identity Disorder

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Dissociative identity disorder (DID) facts

  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly called multiple personality disorder, is an illness that is characterized by the presence of at least two clear personality states, called alters, which may have different reactions, emotions, and body functioning.
  • How often DID occurs remains difficult to know due to disagreement among professionals about the existence of the diagnosis itself, its symptoms, and how to best assess the illness.
  • DID is diagnosed nine times more often in females than in males.
  • A history of severe abuse is thought to be associated with DID.
  • DID has been portrayed in the media in productions like The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil.
  • Signs and symptoms of DID include memory lapses, blackouts, being often accused of lying, finding apparently strange items among one's possessions, having apparent strangers recognize them as someone else, feeling unreal, and feeling like more than one person.
  • As there is no specific diagnostic test for DID, mental health professionals perform a mental health interview, ruling out other mental disorders, and referring the client for medical evaluation to rule out a physical cause for symptoms.
  • Individuals with DID often also suffer from other mental illnesses, including posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline and other personality disorders, and conversion disorder.
  • People who may benefit either emotionally or legally from having DID sometimes pretend to have it, as with those who molest children, have antisocial personality disorder, or in cases of Munchausen's syndrome.
  • Some researchers are of the opinion that sex offenders who truly suffer from DID are best identified using a structured interview.
  • Psychotherapy is the mainstay of treatment of DID and usually involves helping individuals with DID improve their relationship with others, preventing crises, and to experience feelings they are not comfortable with having.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a treatment method that integrates traumatic memories with the patient's own resources, is being increasingly used in the treatment of people with dissociative identity disorder.
  • Hypnosis is sometimes used to help people with DID learn more about their personality states in the hope of their gaining better control of those states.
  • Although medications can be helpful in managing emotional symptoms that sometimes occur with DID, caution is exercised when it is prescribed in order to avoid making the individual feel retraumatized by feeling controlled.
  • People with DID may have trouble keeping a job and maintaining relationships and are at risk for engaging in drug and alcohol abuse as well as hurting themselves and others.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/22/2012

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What's the Recommended Treatment Plan for Dissociative Identity Disorder?

While there's no "cure" for dissociative identity disorder, long-term treatment is very successful, if the patient stays committed. Effective treatment includes talk therapy or psychotherapy, medications, hypnotherapy, and adjunctive therapies such as art or movement therapy.

Because oftentimes the symptoms of dissociative disorders occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, dissociative disorder may be treated using the same drugs prescribed for those disorders. A person in treatment for a dissociative disorder might benefit from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

SOURCE: WebMD Medical Reference

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