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
Sudden personality changes in your child? Read The Reason For Sudden Behavioral and Personality Changes in Kids
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 1 involves 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 includes the following:
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.
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.
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:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Antipsychotic medications