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

what is dissociative identity disorder

How DID Is Diagnosed

Diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder can be a complex and time-consuming procedure. DID is diagnosed in a very similar way as most other psychiatric diagnoses. The following criteria, laid down by the DSM-5, must be met by a person to be effectively diagnosed with this mental disorder:

  • The person must exhibit two or more distinct alters or personality states or identities. Each alter must have their own separate pattern of “perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self.”
  • The personality disruption should include a noticeable change in the sense of self and agency, along with changes in cognition, consciousness, memory, motor function, behavior and perception.
  • The individual should be afflicted by the condition or experience difficulty in normal functioning is one or more crucial aspects of life, like social, personal or occupational, due to DID.
  • The must experience amnesia and recurrent gaps in memory with an inability to recall daily events, personal information or even traumatic experiences of both recent & distant past. 
  • The experience or distress should not be a part or the religious or cultural practices, like spiritual possession.
  • The symptoms of DID should not be due to the direct impact of substance abuse, like alcohol or drugs, or a medical condition.

Treatment Options For DID

Although there is no cure for dissociative identity disorder in the traditional sense, effective & dedicated treatment over a period of time can help the patient recover and get better. The objective of treatment is not to eliminate or get rid of the ‘alters’ or extra personalities, but to help the person identify the triggers for ‘switching’ and be prepared.

This will help them live harmoniously with all the personalities, including the primary one. A mental health professional with significant experience with dissociative disorders can help an individual to integrate separate personalities into a single identity.

Doctors usually take a multiple stage approach for the treatment of DID:

  • Stage 1involves managing the symptoms and making the patient feel safe & secure.
  • Stage 2 focuses on processing memories of abuse and trauma in a supportive & safe environment.
  • Stage 3 focuses on integrating the different alters into a unified personality.

Effective treatment options for dissociative identity disorder include the following:

1. Psychotherapy

Also referred to as psychosocial therapy or talk therapy, psychotherapy involves speaking with a mental health professional about the details of the disorder. The therapist will try to understand the triggers and the different personalities. The goal is to combine the alters into one and reduce the impact of triggers. 

2. Adjunctive therapy

Treatment options like creative, cognitive, or adjunctive therapies can also be helpful for DID patients. These can help the affected individuals to connect with different aspects of their identities and mind which they might have dissociated with or shut off to deal with trauma.

3. Hypnotherapy

Some experts also consider hypnosis to be an effective way to treat DID. When utilized along with psychotherapy, hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis can allow a therapist to get access to repressed memories. It can also help in dealing with difficult behaviors and integrating all the alters into one.

4. Medications

Currently, no medications are available that can be specifically recommended for treating DID. However, a therapist might suggest some medications for associated and co-occurring mental disorders, like anxiety and depression. These medications are used along with psychotherapy.

Some commonly suggested medications to help psychological symptoms associated with DID are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Tranquilizers 

Studies have found that effective treatment over a long period of time has been known to help people with DID. Treatment can significantly improve their functional ability in their personal and professional lives. 

Related: 7 Ways to Know Therapy is Working for You

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

Live Unified

If you think you have some of the symptoms or if you know someone with dissociative identity disorder, then it may feel confusing and overwhelming. Movies & TV shows often wrongly portray individuals with DID as violent or evil. However, that is far from the truth and only leads to spreading myths and misconceptions about this mental disorder.

If you want to help a loved one with DID or seek help for yourself, start by educating yourself about this psychological illness. You should also make an appointment with a doctor and talk to them to get proper information. A mental health professional can not only help you get a better idea about DID but also help you or your loved one reduce its effect and improve their quality of life.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Everything You Need To Know About DID
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What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Symptoms and Treatment
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What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Symptoms and Treatment
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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