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What is dissociative identity disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder is a psychological condition with many complexities. But what is it, how is it caused, and how can it be treated? Let’s discuss.

What is a dissociative disorder?

The three main types of dissociative disorders are:

  1. Depersonalisation-derealisation disorder

This is where people may have out-of-body experiences or feel that the world is not real.

  1. Dissociative amnesia

Sufferers may forget information, events, skills, or movements from their lives to a degree that is more severe than simply ‘forgetfulness’.

  1. Dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is quite a severe dissociation. DID was once known as multiple personality disorder, and those with the condition are often unsure about their identity. They can also have additional identities, which can lead to not knowing who they are. Thus, the main symptoms are multiple personalities, and potential gaps in their memories.

What causes dissociative identity disorder?

The causation of DID is not thoroughly understood. Many people can develop DID as a psychological response to trauma, although this is not always the case.

Disassociation is thought to be the brain’s natural coping mechanism from a traumatic event. When triggered, the person can literally shut off from the world and their personal problems, switching their consciousness to a brand new identity.

Statistically, most people with DID have a history of recurring traumas during their core developmental years between birth and the age of six. This includes circumstances such as neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, unpredictable behaviour of a care giver, or other environmental factors.

How to spot dissociative identity disorder

People with DID will often have several distinct personalities, all of which will have names, ages, and differing behaviours. These personalities can be perceived as different ages to the person in question, and different genders. They are often referred to as ‘alters’.

It is thought that these different identities represent or manifest the differing ways that the individual, or ‘host’, relates to the world around them. Each alter can have different ways of thinking, which can conflict with one another, and cause the host to have amnesia when an alter is in control.

Who can treat dissociative identity disorder?

If you wish to treat DID as a mental health practitioner, it is crucial to undergo training that will enable you to suitably understand this condition. Here at nscience, we provide a broad range of dissociative identity disorder courses that can help both current and prospective therapists from around the world to equip themselves with specialised skills and knowledge.  

DID training is essential for understanding and treating the disorder, as often people will have been misdiagnosed – and then not suitably treated – for many years prior due to the similarities in symptoms to other mental health disorders.

People with DID are also at risk of simultaneously suffering from borderline personality disorders (BPD), mood swings, suicidal tendencies, phobias, substance abuse, compulsions, auditory and visual psychoses, eating disorders, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety.

This can make clients with DID higher risk, and thus the utmost care and attention should be paid to ensuring the correct diagnosis and treatment.

DID can be treated with psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and movement therapy. However, this is simply a way to manage the disorder in the long term – there are no ‘cures’ or medications for the disorder at present.

With our series of workshops, seminars, conferences and courses here at nscience, we are committed to helping mental health professionals to be more effective in their work – including in relation to the treatment of dissociative disorders.

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