The human mind is continuously served with different pieces of information. While you are reading this on your screens, your cat could be yawning; a garbage truck could be passing by near your window, and just about another billion things could be happening at the exact same moment. Your brain filters a lot of this information through what is called the process of dissociation.
Everyone dissociated for certain intervals throughout the day, but for some people, the process of dissociation comes with a whole new set of problems and concerns associated with it.
Think of how you associate yourself with a personality. While you might take the whole idea of being a singular self and identifying with a cohesive identity, it is not the same for everyone. Imagine trying to live in a state of confusion and anxiety and constantly feeling like you are losing touch with the idea of reality and who you are as a person.
Sounds exhausting and difficult, right?
Well, this is the reality of people living with the extremely rare and commonly misunderstood condition named dissociative personality disorder (previously referred to as multi-personality disorder).
Dissociative personality disorder (DID) forms a familiar plot story for multiple Hollywood films and television series, where the character suddenly transforms into a different person altogether due to a certain trigger. Have you ever wondered how true this depiction of DID is?
Well, the answer is not quite. While the disorder is extensively exploited in the mainstream media, it seldom finds the right representation. This is why living with DID can be extremely tough, as people dealing with it are almost never able to find a supportive environment.
To help get a clearer picture of what DID is, let us dive deeper into the realities of living with dissociative personality disorder, its symptoms, and available treatment options.
What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociative identity disorder is a mental condition where people are uncertain about their personal identities and who they are. They may feel the presence of different identities within themselves, each with a different voice and personality, acting independently of each other.
The varying personalities in DID are a set of different and altered states of consciousness. These different states are termed alters. Alters are fragmented parts of your consciousness that break off and form different personalities within you.
DID generally affects survivors of intense trauma and can often get volatile and difficult to manage. One such example of trauma can be related to childhood abuse. During such instances, the mind is unable to understand what is happening to the body, which takes it to an altered state of consciousness that can allow processing of the situation.
In most cases, once the trauma is over, the mind wants to return to the state of reality. However, if the trauma is recurring in nature, it can lead to dissociative identity disorder.
Symptoms of DID
While the primary symptoms of dissociative identity disorder are the presence of different personalities, there are other symptoms associated with the condition. These symptoms include the following:
- having trouble remembering facts about yourself and your life ( known as dissociative amnesia),
- wandering around with no memory of what has happened (known as dissociative fugue state),
- feeling as an observer, watching yourself from the outside (known as depersonalization),
- having vague and dream-like memories,
- feeling like your body is taking different shapes and transforming into different sizes,
- feeling like you are unable to control your emotions or behaviors, and
- being unable to recall childhood memories (known as memory blanks).
While there is no clear set of treatment options for DID, it is a myth that the condition cannot be treated. Treatment can help individuals significantly improve their symptoms and regain control of their minds and bodies.
Therapy is the most common treatment option. A trained therapist can help you recognize and work through the various stages of managing your condition. The common goals of therapy, apart from managing distress and symptoms, include:
- identifying the source of trauma,
- acknowledging and reframing distorted perceptions,
- integrating different identities, and
- treating any other co-occurring disorders.
Medications are generally not used to manage symptoms of DID. However, your mental health care provider might prescribe medications to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can otherwise halt the progress in therapy.
Read more: Understanding What Is Adjustment Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder might develop from traumatic experiences as a way of coping. However, it is actually a real mental disorder that can cause significant distress to the concerned individuals and their loved ones.
If you or someone you love have been suffering from any symptoms of dissociative personality disorder, it is important to find timely professional help. Access to professional help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn more about them, click here.
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