You’ve almost certainly heard of multiple personality disorder (also known as dissociative identity disorder and multiplicity), but you may not have received accurate information about it. Here’s what you need to know about multiplicity:
What Is It?
Multiple personality disorder is nearly always induced by a traumatic childhood, and it is caused by the desire to accept one’s painful circumstances. Often, certain past traumatic events are remebered by one or more of the alter egos but not by the sufferer’s main personality.
How Common Is It?
The condition is rare, and it only affects a tiny portion of the population. There are less than 200,000 cases in the US.
What Are The Symptoms Of Multiple Personality Disorder?
Often, the symptoms go unnoticed by sufferers due to dissociation. These are the most common symptoms of the condition:
Multiple Personality Disorder Causes Extreme Dissociation
People with multiple personality disorder dissociate in terms of time, place, and personal identity. This leads to the formation of alter egos.
It Can Cause Hallucinations
Unlike psychotic disorders, these hallucinations are not constant or long lasting. Instead, it’s far more common for them to occur briefly during the shift of personality.
In many cases, the hallucinations take the form of internal audio hallucinations where the sufferer is aware that the voices are within their mind rather than external. This is much different than psychotic disorders as the sufferer has some level of insight into their condition during the hallucinations.
Blackouts Can Occur
If total amnesia occurs as a result of a switch between personalities, an individual may be unaware how they got to where they are currently located when one of the alters is present. In some cases, this can leave individuals with the condition confused about how to get back home.
Two Personalities Can Be Present At Once
Another dissociative occurrence that can happen during the “switching” period, and this is called confronting. While this experience is often brief, it can be very distressing to the individual experiencing it.
How Do Alters Tend To Behave?
Alters are generally not violent, but they tend to be very different from the individual’s main personality. In fact, it is possible for alters to have a different hand dominance than the main personality. In some cases, the alters are a different gender than the sufferer’s physical body. Also, it’s not uncommon for some alters to be children as opposed to the sufferer’s chronological age.
People With Dissociative Identity Disorder Often Self-Injure
Due to dissociation, the self-injury can be exceptionally serious. Here are some examples of self-harming behaviors that are common among individuals with dissociative identity disorder:
- Some individuals with the disorder have found that they cut or burned themselves while one of their alters was present, and this can be extremely alarming to the individual with the condition. If they experienced total amnesia, the individual may believe that someone else injured them.
- In some cases, individuals with dissociative identity disorder find that one or more of their alters engages in high-risk behaviors that are not directly intended to harm the individuals, but they may result in accidental harm.
- In some cases, one of the alters is present as a “punishing” alter, and these alters often engage in dangerous acts of self harm.
Dissociation Tends To Happen After Stress
Often, individuals who are experiencing extreme stress will try to avoid the pain that they are experiencing, but people with dissociative identity disorder will escape through their alters. Dissociation is particularly likely to occur in response to stressors that are similar to traumatic events that were endured during childhood.
How Does The Condition Affect An Individual’s Life?
The condition can affect one’s work life, social life, and personal life to a serious degree. In some cases, individuals who have the condition have difficulty holding down a job and maintaining serious relationships, but this is not always the case.
The process of “switching” results in dissociation that essentially removes one’s consciousness from the outside environment, and this can impair one’s functioning. However, there are many ways that the disorder can be managed.
The severity of the disorder varies considerably from one individual to another, and one factor that influences how well an individual with the condition will function is when the switch tends to occur and what the personality of the alter(s) is. If the dissociation tends to occur at important times, such as in work environments, severe impairment is likely.
Why Is The Disorder’s Existence Controversial?
There is no question about the fact that dissociative identity disorder is a real condition, but it often doesn’t manifest itself in the stereotypical image of the disorder.
What Do People With The Disorder Experience?
Some individuals tend to dissociate more heavily than others, and the number of alters is also highly variable. Some individuals only have one alter along with their ordinary personality, but others have dozens of alters! In fact, there have even been cases reported of individuals who have more than 100 different alters.
How Can Dissociative Identity Disorder Be Treated?
Luckily, it is possible to treat the disorder, but this can be a complex process. In many cases, the condition has been present since childhood. Talk therapy is the most important part of treating dissociative identity disorder.
However, the goal of treatment is not to get rid of the alters. Instead, the goal is to successfully integrate them into the sufferer’s identity. Here are some examples of therapies that can treat the disorder:
- Hypnotherapy: In some cases, hypnotherapy allows alters to be able to communicate with one another more freely than otherwise, and this can help to reduce the severity of the condition over time.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This treatment involves changing problematic behaviors, and it can be help sufferers to become less stressed.
- Family Therapy: This form of therapy can allow individuals with dissociative identity disorder to relate to loved ones better.
In addition, medications can be given. Here are some examples of medications that are given to people with the condition:
- Tricyclic Antidepressants: These medications are used to treat depression, and they have a highly extensive history of use. One example of such a medication is Prozac, but there are others.
- SSRIs: These medications are designed to improve your mood, and they are a commonly prescribed form of antidepressant. Individuals with dissociative identity disorder often find that this class of medication results in a substantial improvement in mood.
- Atypical Antipsychotics: These antipsychotics can have fewer side effects than other medications.
- Conventional Antipsychotics: These medications are known to reduce psychotic symptoms, but they can come with a long list of side effects for some individuals.
- Anti-Anxiety Medications: There are a variety of medications that are used to treat anxiety, but they all work by reducing activity in the central nervous system. This can reduce the amount of stress that dissociative identity disorder sufferers experience, and this can reduce the frequency of “switching”.
Famous People Who Suffer From The Condition
There are famous individuals who suffer from the disorder, and one example of a famous person with dissociative identity disorder is Herschel Walker. Herschel Walker had a successful career as a football player, and he’s also a business owner. He has learned to successfully manage his condition as a result of therapy.
Another famous person who suffered from the condition is Roseanne Barr. However, she had a successful career as a comedian despite her illness.
Gregory Dianatti had a long and successful career as a character in musicals, and he suffered from dissociative identity disorder. His condition caused him to believe that he was related to John Travolta.
Truddi Chase’s fame came about as a result of an Oprah interview about her multiple personality disorder. Her condition was serious, and it stemmed from sexual abuse that occurred at an early age. She had an incredible 92 alter egos.
When Was Dissociative Identity Disorder First Recognized?
While the concept of dissociation has been recognized since the early days of psychology, the condition was first discovered in 1968, and more research has been conducted since then. The entire category of dissociative disorders was created at the same time as multiple personality disorder.
What Age Do Symptoms Of The Disorder Usually Start?
The age of onset is highly variable, but the condition rarely begins after the age of 20. In many cases, symptoms start during the teen years, and many people develop the condition around the age of 16.
What Are Some Early Warning Signs Of The Disorder?
Individuals who develop multiple personality disorder often have an unstable sense of identity and a tendency to dissociate that can begin before the development of alter egos. This can manifest itself as “spacing out” at inappropriate times, forgetting important information, or changing the way that one presents themselves frequently and seemingly for no apparent reason.