Dissociative Identity Disorder… What is it?

Disclaimer. This article is for educational purposes and should not be used as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you believe that the symptoms mentioned in this article apply to you, please consult a medical professional. 

While we may experience a form of mild dissociation via daydreams, dissociative identity disorder is different. It is a severe form of dissociation where there is a disruption between who you are and your mind. To be more technical, dissociative identity disorder is a condition where there is a disconnect between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, or sense of self and who they are.

The cause of dissociative identity disorder is usually linked to an overwhelmingly traumatic experience and affects about 1% of the population. 

Research posits that individuals with histories of having suffered overpowering, frequent, and life-threatening disturbances or traumas in early childhood are more likely to have DID. Dissociative identity disorder can also occur if someone has experienced persistent abuse or neglect, even though physical or sexual abuse did not happen. 

During a traumatic event, your brain, as a coping mechanism, dissociates to make the event a bit more tolerable or lessen the emotional burden you might experience. 

According to the American Psychological Association and The Sidran Institute, the criteria for dissociative identity disorder is:

  • The existence of two or more personalities/states. The identities are differentiated by marked changes in memory, behavior, and thinking. The symptoms can be observed by others or reported by the individual. 
  • Amnesia or ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information, and/or past traumatic events. 
  • The symptoms cause significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning. 
  • The physiological symptoms are not caused by a psychotropic, alcohol, or other substance such as medication.

As highlighted in the DSM-5, a component of the diagnosis is that dissociative identity disorder is separate from any religious practice or belief. 

A key symptom of dissociative identity disorder is a spilt personality. Dissociative identity disorder is marked by noticeable shifts in attitude and personal preferences (clothing, activities, or etc.). The shifting of identities happens involuntarily and unexpectedly and is unwanted.

Those who have dissociative identity disorder may suddenly feel like observers of their actions. They may also feel as though their bodies are different. Each personality has distinct mannerisms– postures, gestures, preferences, and ways of talking. None of these separate personalities have their own autobiographical information but rather remember different details than the “host.” 

Psychologists and researchers now agree and see that these altering states are not mature personalities but rather represent a disjointed sense of identity. 

Along with marked differences in personality, people with dissociative identity disorder may experience headaches, time loss, amnesia, trances, and out-of-body experiences. These out-of-body experiences feel like being a passenger in your life. Often, 

Dissociative identity disorder affects people by changing their perception and their life. It causes bouts of depersonalization, derealization, amnesia, and identity confusion. 

Due to the stigma surrounding it and distress brought on by D.I.D., many people with D.I.D. are at high risk of suicide or self-injurious behavior. 

Dissociative identity disorder coexists with other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and other personality disorders, which may raise the risk factor. 

While there is no “cure” for dissociative identity disorder, long-term treatment can be helpful. Treatment includes psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical therapy. These two techniques can help the patient gain control over the dissociative process and symptoms. Hypnosis and adjunctive therapy can also be included if found helpful. 


Bhandari, S. (2020, January 22). Dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder): Signs, symptoms, treatment. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder. 

Wang, P. (2018). What Are Dissociative Disorders?– dissociative identity disorder. What are dissociative disorders? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders. 

NAMI. (2021). Dissociative disorders. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders. 

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