Multiple Personality Disorder (now Dissociative Identity Disorder) was first discovered by Dr. Jean Martin Charcot in the late 1880s. He was the chief physician at Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. He called this new disease Hystero-Epilepsy as the symptoms resembled two already discovered illnesses, Hysteria and Epilepsy. Ever since it was discovered, people have been fascinated with the illness which later came to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual) defines Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) as a disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states or an experience of possession. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is considered as a severe form of dissociation in which an individual’s mental process produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of identity. There are various causes of DID. It may be trauma experienced by the person early in life. The dissociative aspect is considered to be a coping mechanism against adverse situations. Psychological response to interpersonal and environmental stresses, particularly during early childhood years often leads to DID. Emotional neglect and abuse in the early years interfere with personality development. Dissociation can happen even if there is no overt physical or sexual abuse. 99% of individuals who develop dissociation have personal histories of recurring, overpowering or life-threatening traumas or disturbances. Studies show that DID affects about 1% of the population.
The disease is associated with overwhelming experiences, traumatic events or abuse that occurred during childhood. Some of the criteria for the diagnosis include the existence of two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”). The distinct identities are accompanied by changes in behavior, memory, and thinking. The signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual. The second trait is ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events. The final symptom includes significant distress or problems in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.
There are sudden shifts in attitudes and personal preferences as DID is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states or split identities. Patients often cannot recall key personal information. There are also fluctuating memory variations. Not everyone who suffers from DID experience the same symptoms or personality changes. For some, the “alters” are of the same age, sex and race. Each has his own postures, gestures and their own way of talking. It becomes highly confusing as the observers will see the same person behaving, talking and walking in different manners as each personality reveals itself and controls the individual’s behaviors and thoughts. This process of revealing is known as “switching”. Switching can take seconds, minutes or days. Some seek the help of hypnosis where the person’s different “alters” or identities may become responsive to the therapist’s questions. Other symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder are headache, amnesia, time loss, trances, and “out-of-body” experiences. Patients with DID have a tendency toward self-persecution, self-sabotage, and violence, both self-inflicted and directed towards others. There is usually a “host” personality who identifies with the person’s real name. The “host” personality, however, is often unaware of the presence of other personalities. The four main effects of DID are depersonalization, derealization, amnesia and identity confusion or identity alteration. Some other psychiatric disorders that might occur with DID are depression, mood swings, suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders, anxieties, panic attacks and phobias, alcohol and drug abuse, compulsions and rituals, hallucinations and eating disorders.
Psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and adjunctive therapy may help patients with DID. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. It is designed to work through whatever triggers the DID. The goal of psychotherapy is to fuse the different personalities into one. Clinical hypnosis can also be used to bring repressed memories to the front and work on them. Art therapies or movement therapies often help people to cope and connect with the parts of their minds that they have shut off to cope with trauma. This type of therapy is known as adjunctive therapy. However, there is no established medication treatment for DID.