Multiple Personality Disorder
Multiple Personality Disorder is also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which is a severe condition in which two or more identities, or personalities, are present and take control of an individual. The person will also experience memory loss, causing them not to remember any of their identities but their own. DID was called Multiple Personality Disorder until 1994, when the name was changed to reflect a better understanding of the condition, that it is characterized by a fragmentation, of identity rather than by a growth, of separate identities. Most of us have experienced mild dissociation, which is like daydreaming or getting lost in the moment while working on a project. However, dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation, 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 thought to stem from trauma experienced by the person with the disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that's too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self. You may wonder if dissociative identity disorder is real. After all, understanding the development of multiple personalities is difficult, even for highly trained experts. But dissociative identity disorder does exist. It is the most severe and chronic manifestation of the dissociative disorders that cause multiple personalities. DID is a disorder characterized by identity fragmentation rather than a proliferation of separate personalities.
The disturbance is not due to the direct psychological effects of a substance or of a general medical condition, yet as this once rarely reported disorder has become more common, the diagnosis has become controversial. When in control, each personality state may be experienced as if it has a distinct history, self-image and identity, reminding you that once they are back to their own personality they may not remember what had happened prior. Children with DID have a great variety of symptoms, including depressive tendencies, anxiety, conduct problems, episodes of amnesia, difficulty paying attention in school, and hallucinations. Often these children are misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
By the time the child reaches adolescence, it is less difficult for a mental health professional to recognize the symptoms and make a diagnosis of DID. The reported range of identities is from 2 to more than 100. Half of the reported cases include individuals with 10 or fewer. At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior. Each may have its own distinct history, self-image, behaviors, and, physical characteristics, as well as possess a separate name.
Alternative identities are experienced as taking control in sequence, one at the expense of the other, and may deny knowledge of one another, be critical of one another or appear to be in open conflict. Transitions from one identity to another are often triggered by psychosocial stress. Different alters may remember different events, but passive identities tend to have more limited memories whereas hostile, controlling or protective identities have more complete memories. The "alters" or different identities have their own age, sex, or race. Each has his or her own postures, gestures, and distinct way of talking. Sometimes the alters are imaginary people; sometimes they are animals. As each personality reveals itself and controls the individuals' behavior and thoughts, it's called "switching." Switching can take seconds to minutes to days.
It is not entirely understood why people develop DID, but they frequently report having experienced severe physical and sexual abuse, possibly during childhood. People with DID may also have post-traumatic symptoms,...
References: Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder). Last reviewed 10/10/2008 http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder?tab=Treatments
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