Dissociative Identity Disorder

Many of us are familiar with the tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where the amiable and friendly Dr Jekyll “transforms” into the shockingly evil Mr Hyde, committing crimes and terrorising the town. While this household character comes from the world of fiction, his condition is similar to one suffered by a rare few around the world: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).


What is DID?

DID is a psychological disorder characterised by the presence of two or more different identities within a person. These identities each possess different traits and a unique history and can arise at different times within the person. This leads to symptoms such as amnesia and hallucinations; as this results in one losing his/her connection with reality, DID is classified as a dissociative disorder.


DID is considered an extremely rare condition, affecting only 0.1 – 1% of the population. Females are considered more vulnerable to DID than males, and 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.


Is DID the Same as Multiple or Split Personality Disorder?

Yes, DID was previously referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder. However, the word “multiple” was replaced with “dissociative” to better indicate the absence of a singular identity in the person, rather than the presence of various identities. Additionally, the word “personality” refers to stable traits of a person; this was changed to “identity” as sufferers of DID clearly do not exhibit these stable characteristics due to their multiple identities. Understanding these nuances will help to bolster our ability to identify and empathise with those with DID.


Occurrence with Other Conditions

It is possible that other conditions can arise in tandem with DID. Such disorders include:


Causes of DID

Most mental health professionals attribute DID to the experience of trauma from situations such as:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Severe Psychological Abuse
  • Natural Disasters
  • War

The possibility of developing DID increases when such trauma is experienced during childhood.


What are the Symptoms of DID?

DID is characterised by the emergence of “alters”, alter egos to the person’s original personality, otherwise known as the “core”.

The emergence of an “alter” can be pinpointed from the following symptoms:

  • Sudden changes in behaviour, e.g. the way the person talks
  • Claims to be a person of a different ethnicity, gender, age, etc.
  • Engagement in different activities, e.g. playing sports the core personality usually doesn’t play

Outside of such behaviour, those who experience DID also experience other symptoms such as:

These symptoms usually arise in childhood, making it difficult to identify DID as such behaviour in children is usually associated with learning difficulties or simply childish behaviour.


Treatment of DID

DID can be treated with psychotherapeutic techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)Professionals also commonly employ treatment with different phases: The first stage emphasises the improvement of the client’s quality of life, the second stage gradually re-introduces distressing memories to the client with the aim of stopping re-dissociation and the last stage deals with the reintegration of the multiple personalities into the “core” identity without the loss of memory. In cases of comorbidity where other disorders arise together with DID, medication is usually prescribed to reduce the symptoms of these other disorders as well.