October 24, 2014
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Picture yourself walking down the side of the road, window shopping with friends and enjoying a Friday afternoon. Suddenly, your mind goes blank and when you come back to, you don’t know how much time has passed. Your friends are staring at you with confused looks and you don’t know why. Your friends tell you that your speech, mannerisms, and everything else about you changed, and you demanded that your name was something different from what they know you as. This would be what it would be like if you suddenly got Dissociative Identity Disorder. This of course is an extreme example but for those suffering with DID that is their reality. This dissociative identity disorder is complex, and even though it has been studied, it I still not completely understood.
Previously known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder is classified as “a dissociative disorder involving a disturbance of identity in which two or more separate and distinct personality states (or identities) control an individual’s behavior at different times.” (National Allience on Mental Disorder ) DID affects a person in the sense that they completely disassociate from who they are and become controlled by another identity. During this episode the individual usually does not remember some of the events that happened, or how much time as passed as a different personality is in control. The different personalities are referred to as alters, who can have different characteristics of speech, mannerisms, attitudes, thoughts, or gender orientation. When an alter presents itself, there is an immediate change in the “hosts” demeanor. It is thought that “the dissociative aspect is 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.” (National Allience on Mental Disorder ) In essence, the alters are the protectors of their hosts, handling situations for them.
DID has long been a disorder that is not quite understood. Studies have come up with a few reasons for what could possibly cause this dissociation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one reason might be that “DID results from extreme and repeated trauma that occurs during important periods of development during childhood.” (Cleveland Clinic, 2012) The trauma experienced could be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. It is found that the trauma is too much to cope with as the person grows up and instead of facing the problem, they dissociate and alters are formed to protect them. This coping method is a way for the person to remove themselves from the trauma, or situations that may trigger thoughts or feelings associated to the trauma, and instead have whatever is going on happen to “someone else.” Most cases of DID seem to stem from some kind of suffering, however there could be other reasons. Unfortunately it is still not completely understood.
DID is a complicated disorder to understand. It is even more difficult to know if a person is actually suffering from DID or if they have other things going on. There are many signs and symptoms to look out for. One of the most interesting symptoms of DID are the “alters” or other identities that the person or “host” seems to switch between. Web MD gives a description of alters.
“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. When under hypnosis, the person's different "alters" or identities may be very responsive to the therapist's requests. (Goldburg,