What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Symptoms and Treatment

what is dissociative identity disorder

Crucial Facts On DID 

Due to a lack of adequate research on dissociative identity disorder, conclusive statistics are not readily available. However, available studies confirm the following facts regarding DID:

  • According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), research indicates that approximately 2% of the global population meet the full criteria for dissociative disorders.
  • Around 75% of individuals have at least one episode of depersonalization/derealization experience during their lifetime.
  • Women tend to be diagnosed more with a dissociative disorder than men.
  • Around 7% of the population may experience DID, but they are left undiagnosed.
  • Studies have found that DID can occur at any age, even during childhood.
  • About 99% of people with dissociative disorders have experienced recurring abuse, traumas or life-threatening experiences during childhood.
  • Dissociative identity disorder and substance abuse are directly related and drug abuse may adversely affect treatment. In fact, around 17.2% of an inpatient group receiving substance abuse treatment were diagnosed with DID.
  • Misdiagnosis of DID is common as the symptoms of this mental illness are similar to other mental disorders. 
  • Patients with DID can have an average number of alters ranging from 2 to 10. However, the maximum recorded alters in one person was 100.
  • The alters or alternate identities usually do not merge spontaneously.
  • If left untreated, DID can lead to further abuse in the patient.
  • Tendencies for self-harm and suicidal behavior are common among sufferers of DID. Over 70% of patients with DID have attempted suicide.

Read: How To Help A Person Who Is Feeling Suicidal

How DID Can Affect A Person

Dissociative identity disorder can significantly change how an individual lives their lives. Here are some of the common ways how this psychological process affects a person:

1. Depersonalization

The sufferer feels a recurring sensation of being outside their body. Similar to an out-of-body experience, they have a sense of getting detached from their own physical body.

2. Derealization

The person gets a strong feeling that their surroundings or even the world around them is not real. They believe that whatever is happening with them or around them is fake or imaginary.

3. Dissociative amnesia 

The person experiences a deficit in memory or memory loss, which is not a result of a medical condition or injury. This is not similar to general forgetfulness. 

4. Dissociative fugue

It is a certain episode of amnesia or memory loss. The person is unable to remember specific events or personal information for a period of time. They can also experience micro-amnesias and forget about a discussion or parts of a conversation immediately afterward. They may also detach from certain emotions.

5. Identity alteration/identity confusion

The person is generally confused about their own selves and their identity. They may suddenly become confused about their interests, career goals, sexual orientation, and perceptions about politics, religion, and society. They may also be confused about a particular situation, location and may even experience time distortions.

6. Blurred identity

The person feels like multiple people are living inside them or multiple voices talking inside their head. They might even feel that they have been ‘possessed’ by one or more entities or identities.

However, as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (), some cultures around the world may not consider this as a dissociative disorder, as possession may be believed to be a spiritual or supernatural experience/ritual.

Symptoms Of Dissociative Identity Disorder

People with dissociative identity disorder show various noticeable symptoms when they switch between alters at different times.DID shares several symptoms found in other mental illnesses and disorders like trauma and PTSD. Some of the common symptoms of DID in adults include:

  • Exhibition of multiple personalities or alters
  • Feelings of dissociation & detachment 
  • Behavior inconsistent with character (primary identity)
  • Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and mood swings
  • Sense of lost time
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Severe headaches 
  • Pain in different parts of the body
  • Amnesia and gaps in memory 
  • Depersonalization 
  • Derealization 
  • Hallucinations & delusions
  • Obsessive-compulsive symptoms
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Different levels of functioning 
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping problems
  • Out of body experiences
  • Self-persecution and self-sabotage
  • Issues with sexual performance
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-injury related behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts
What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Symptoms and Treatment

However, the symptoms of DID may vary between adults and children. Symptoms of DID in children may include:

  • Dissociating or becoming unresponsive (zoning out)
  • Having recurring nightmares, frightening dreams & memories
  • Triggering or mental distress to reminders of abuse & trauma 
  • Sudden physical reactions to memories related to trauma & abuse 
  • Sudden unexpected and unprecedented changes in appetite, preferences, interests & activities

Related: The Reason For Sudden Behavioral and Personality Changes in Kids

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts