Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (abbreviated DID) is a unique and intense psychological disorder. While this has previously been called Multiple Personality Disorder, DID is not a true personality disorder due to the nature of its dissociative symptoms.
Dissociation means separation or breaking. With DID, this is the separation is a separation of self or identity.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria

To be diagnosed with DID, a person must meet the following criteria (direct from DSM 5):

  1. Disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states, which may be described in some cultures as an experience of possession. The disruption of marked discontinuity in sense of self and sense of agency, accompanied by related alterations in affect, behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and/or sensory-motor functioning. These signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
  2. Recurrent gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic events that are inconsistent with ordinary forgetting.
  3. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. The disturbance is not a normal part of a broadly accepted cultural or religious practice. Note: In children, the symptoms are not better explained by imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.
  5. The symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., blackouts or chaotic behavior during alcohol intoxication) or another medical condition (e.g., complex partial seizures)


Understanding The Symptoms

Dissociative Identity Disorder, at its core, is a disorder of multiple personality states or identities (often referred to as alters). This is one the body’s way of protecting an individual experiencing significant trauma. Basically, your brain creates separate compartments (personalities) to help you cope and protect you from the trauma. The simplest way for me to think about DID is to think about the brain creating separate compartments for each piece of the person.
This change in personality state or identity can be reported by someone who witnessed the change, or by the individual with DID, different from previous criteria for the disorder.
In some cultures and religions, possession is a normal part of life and often seen as a form of blessing. This piece was added to the criteria to take into account this belief.
Unlike most other disorders, DID is not an inherent disorder; something must happen to trigger its development. Many other disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may present without a true cause.

Common Struggles

DID is often mislabeled in the general population as schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. Regardless, DID is not a personality disorder, but a dissociative and trama-related disorder. Essentially, instead of having problematic personality traits, the individual’s personality is fragmented into different “people.”
People often fear these individuals because they have DID. While fear of the unknown and unexpected is a part of human nature, it is crucial to treat people with DID with the same respect and openness as others.
Many people with DID will hide their experiences, if they are even aware of them, because they do not wish to be treated differently.
Some people with DID are not even aware of their condition.


The most common association with DID is significant trauma during childhood, often physical or sexual abuse. This accounts for 90% of people with a DID diagnosis. Because of this significant trauma, the person’s identity is broken into several pieces that can be displayed separately.
The other association with DID is significant medical procedures during childhood.


The first step in treatment is to find someone who specializes in working with people with DID or other dissociative disorders. Different therapists have different views of treatment, ranging from integrating the various identities into a single identity (final fusion), to striking a cooperative arrangement between the identities.
For friends and family of people with DID, it is important to educate yourself on DID, as well as see the person as a person.
Finally, recognize that people with DID have experienced significant trauma in their life.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
I tried really hard to explain DID in a clear manner. If you have questions about anything, please let me know below!

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