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What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Multiple Personality Disorder is a mental disease that exists in about one percent of the population and is supported by lots of research. The American Psychiatric Association named Multiple Personality Disorder in 1994 Dissociative Identity Disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. Dissociative identity disorder is usually diagnosed from trauma experienced by the person with the disorder like suffering severe trauma during early childhood (extreme physically, sexual, or emotional abuse). Sometimes people undergo traumatic experiences in their lives that are physical or mental and maybe both and if the experience was so intense, and so horrible, that the mind didn’t want to remember it, or didn’t know how to cope with it, then that one experience has the power to split a person’s mind into “another personality”. If this happens, the other personality or personalities come. This illness is a coping mechanism, the person dissociates himself from a situation or experience that’s too painful to absorb with his conscious. The three major types of dissociative disorders are: dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and Depersonalization-derealization disorder. Dissociative amnesia is memory loss that’s more severe than normal forgetfulness. You don’t remember evens that happened to you or people you have spoken with. Next, is Dissociative identity disorder and it’s characterized by switching to different identities. It’s when you imagine two or more people controlling you and your thoughts and telling you what to do. Each identity may have a unique name, personal history and characteristics, including obvious differences in voice, gender, manners and even physical qualities. Lastly, depersonalization-derealization disorder is a sense of detachment or being outside yourself and observing yourself from a distance as though watching a movie (depersonalization). Everyone around you can be hazy and time may be slowed down or sped up, and the world may seem unreal (derealization).


One of the major difficulties of DID is that it is so often called ‘disorder of hiddenness”. Many people with this disorder have grown up in an abusive family environment where they are forced to keep their suffering as a secret and where hiding becomes a way of life. In adult life the sense of shame around both sexual abuse and mental illness is a strong reason for why they hide it. Many people who have DID hide their struggles in their daily life around friends, and family. The ‘signs and symptoms’ of DID can therefore be non-existent to many people. This continues as they go through their normal daily lives until a crisis happens that makes them stress and reveal their inner personalities. This is when all normality is ripped away and dissociative symptoms begin to show. Many people have everything put together during the day but at night, that’s when they go through there chaotic scenes. People with DID often also suffer from borderline personality disorder, somatization disorder (physical pain without cause), major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts, 70% of people who have DID have attempted suicide. Some other symptoms are severe headaches, anxiety, eating and sleeping disturbances, substance and drug abuse, amnesia, hallucinations, and self-injuries such as cutting. The individual may also experience two or more distinct identities, also called “alters”. These distinct personalities will emerge during phycological stress and people with DID describe this feeling by hearing a child’s voice or a spiritual voice. They might also feel as if their physical appearance has changed, (like a small child, huge and muscular). This disorder can affect any age and symptoms can last just for a few moments or not appear for years. Although this disorder can start anywhere from early childhood to adulthood, the average age for people to get diagnosed is 5-6 but it does not show until there teenage years and early 20’s. For example, Juanita Maxwell has no memory of beating 73-year-old Inez Kelly to death with a lamp in 1979. Wanda Weston, however, remembers the incident with enthusiasm. She even confessed during trial, however Juanita and Wanda are in the same body. The judge however, ruled that she was not guilty due to insanity and was instead committed to a mental institution. This shows that when the person switches to their other personality, they have a whole new behavior, different actions and may be evil, and the other personalities wouldn’t even show.

What Are the Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder

People with dissociative identity disorder tend to have personal histories of constant, and severe traumas like physical or sexual abuse before the age of nine; which is an age where the brain is still being developed. The cause of dissociative identity disorder may also be extreme neglect or emotional abuse even if no physical or sexual abuse occurred. DID may also be related to a natural disaster, such as war. According to WebMD, findings indicate that parents who are intimidating and strict tend to raise children who experience DID. Richard Kluft, an expert in dissociative identity disorder, suggests that DID is caused by four factors:

1). Individuals have an innate potential to dissociate that is reflected in the fact that they are easy to hypnotize (have a high hypnotizable rating). 2). Traumatic experiences in early childhood may disturb personality development, leading to greater potential for dividedness in mental or emotional areas. 3). Individuals may be denied the chance to spontaneously recover because of continued emotional and/or social deprivation, this means they are repeatedly getting abused. 4) Final presentation is shaped by mental or emotional and external factors, including social influences.

Another case of DID is a lady, Truddi Chase. At the age of 2, Truddi Chase was a victim of physical and sexual abuse and was neglected by her mother in her childhood and teenage years, which caused her DID. When Truddi Chase was just two years old, she moved out to the country with her mother and stepfather. At this time, she was sexually abused by her stepfather. For years, Truddi was able to suppress her memories by holding them in alternate personalities that rarely came to the surface. Each of her 92 personalities served different roles and held different memories. One personality named Black Catherine held most of her rage. Another personality, Rabbit, held the pain. Although a person went through severe trauma does not mean they will automatically get DID, everyone is different and everyone’s brain functions differently. DID is often blamed on drug use or as a little child, they have “imaginary” friends, these things fuel DID and makes it more likely to happen.

The Three Types of DID

Dissociation is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, actions, and sense of who they actually are. Examples of common dissociation include daydreaming which involves “losing touch” with awareness of one’s surroundings. During a traumatic experience such as a disaster or abuse, dissociation can help a person cope with what’s going on. This may make it difficult for them to later remember the details of the experience.

Dissociative Amnesia

This is the most common type of dissociative disorder, it is not the same as normal amnesia although symptoms are extensive forgetfulness and loss of time. The memory still exists but it’s just buried deep in the persons mind and cannot be recalled, (example: a woman who was raped in an elevator refuses to ride in elevators even though she cannot recall the rape). This is a blank spot in the individual’s memory, during which they cannot remember events that occurred or conversations they had. This condition can occur due to specific traumatic events like intense survival (war) or sexual abuse. An amnesic episode can last for minutes or hours, although it can also last for days, weeks, or months.

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder

This condition is when a person goes through a consistent, emotional, chaotic episode from some type of event in their life. People who struggle with this disorder describe themselves as watching their feelings, thoughts, and actions from outside themselves, as though watching a movie. Other people describe the experience as feeling like they were in a foggy state and the world around them was not real. Symptoms can last anywhere from minutes to years. Example: someone saying, “I don’t feel any emotion” “, you’re not aware of what your saying and have no control.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Although all dissociative conditions were at one time combined as multiple personality disorder (MPD), dissociative identity disorder is the current term used when referring to classic symptoms of multiple personality disorder. Dissociative identify disorder involves the multiple identities of at least one other personality, originally referred to as split personality disorder, but involves on average of 3-16 “alters”, but more than 100 cases had more than 100 identities.


The primary treatment for DID is long-term psychotherapy with the goal of deconstructing the different personalities and uniting them into one. Other treatments include cognitive and creative therapies. Although there are no medications that specifically treat this disorder, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed to help control the mental health symptoms associated with it. With proper treatment, many people who have DID, experience improvement in their ability to function in their occupational and personal lives and begin to cope and learn how to function with their other identities. Treatment does take up to five years or more, that is because the person diagnosed with DID is often suicidal or hostile and you can jump to multiple personalities at once. Patients who undergo psychotherapy have to go through several stages. First step is uncovering the patients alters, second phase is treating the traumatic memories, and third and final step is carefully treating the patient’s newly integrated personality. Therapist who treat DID patients encourage further treatment after finishing the stages because the patient has not learned the social skills that most people acquire in young ages and early adult life.


In conclusion, people who are diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder went through lots and lots of suffering that sometimes it’s too hard for them to bear. These people look normal and we are usually oblivious and don’t notice the change in personalities. When they are under lots of stress emotionally and physically they tend to have chaotic scenes and their inner emotions show. The only prevention for this disorder is not hurting people, physically, sexually, and emotionally. Every person goes through pain in different ways and this can be the outcome of abuse. Their lives are changed forever, starting from younghood to adulthood. The abusers don’t realize the permanent mark they leave on the person and this affects them forever. It will take them a lifetime to recover and sometimes they don’t get the chance to get help because they end their life. They are filled with confusion and hear voices in their head, controlling every aspect of their life, making them do horrible things, and when they come back to their normal self, they don’t even remember what happened and this can lead them to be oblivious to the crimes they commit like murder. Our duty is to stop these things from reoccurring and helping those who suffer in secrecy.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.