Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)
The following criteria must be met for an individual to be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder:
- The individual experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self). Some cultures describe this as an experience of possession.
- The disruption in identity involves a change in sense of self, sense of agency, and changes in behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and motor function.
- Frequent gaps are found in memories of personal history, including people, places, and events, for both the distant and recent past. These recurrent gaps are not consistent with ordinary forgetting.
- These symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Particular identities may emerge in specific circumstances. Transitions from one identity to another are often triggered by psychosocial stress. In the possession-form cases of dissociative identity disorder, alternate identities are visibly obvious to people around the individual. In non-possession-form cases, most individuals do not overtly display their change in identity for long periods of time.
People with DID may describe feeling that they have suddenly become depersonalized observers of their own speech and actions. They might report hearing voices (a child’s voice, the voice of a spiritual power), and in some cases, these voices accompany multiple streams of thought that the individual has no control over. The individual might also experience sudden impulses or strong emotions that they don’t feel control or a sense of ownership over. People may also report that their bodies suddenly feel different (like a small child, huge and muscular), or that they experience a sudden shift in attitudes or personal preferences before shifting back.
Sometimes with DID experience dissociative fugues, where they discover they have traveled but have no recollection of the experience. People vary in their awareness of their amnesias, and it is common for people with DID to minimize their amnestic symptoms, even when the lapses in memory are obvious and distressing to others.
More than 70 percent of people with DID have attempted suicide, and self-injurious behavior is common among this population. Treatment is crucial to improving quality of life and preventing suicide attempts.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
- National Institute of Mental Health