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Post  Kunoichi on Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:54 am

What is dissociative identity disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental illness that involves the sufferer experiencing at least two clear identities or personality states, each of which has a fairly consistent way of viewing and relating to the world. Some individuals with DID have been found to have personality states that have distinctly different ways of reacting, in terms of emotions, pulse, blood pressure, and blood flow to the brain. This disorder was formerly called multiple personality disorder (MPD) and is often referred to as split personality disorder. Although statistics regarding this disorder indicate that the incidence of DID is about 3% of patients in psychiatric hospitals and is described as occurring in females nine times more often than in males, this may be due to difficulty identifying the disorder in males. Also, disagreement among mental-health professionals about how this illness appears clinically, and if DID even exists, adds to the difficulty of estimating how often it occurs.

What are the signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder?

Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include:

* lapses in memory (dissociation), particularly of significant life events, like birthdays, wedding, or birth of a child;
* blackouts in time, resulting in finding oneself in places but not recalling how one traveled there;
* being frequently accused of lying when they do not believe they are lying (for example, being told of things they did but do not recall);
* finding items in one's possession but not recalling how those things were acquired;
* encountering people with whom one is unfamiliar but who seem to know them as someone else;
* being called names that are completely unlike their own name or nickname;
* finding items they have clearly written but are in handwriting other than their own;
* hearing voices inside their head that are not their own;
* not recognizing themselves in the mirror;
* feeling unreal (derealization);
* feeling like they are watching themselves move through life rather than living their own life; and
* feeling like more than one person.

What causes dissociative identity disorder?

While there is no proven specific cause of DID, the prevailing psychological theory about how the condition develops is as a reaction to childhood trauma. Specifically, it is thought that one way that some individuals respond to being severely traumatized as a young child is to wall off, in other words, to dissociate those memories. When that reaction becomes extreme, DID may be the result. As with other mental disorders, having a family member with DID may indicate a potential vulnerability to developing the disorder but does not translate into the condition being literally hereditary.

DID takes some time to diagnose and exclude schizophrenia as a possible diagnosis.

For further reading: Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook by Deborah Haddock.


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