Monday, April 29, 2013

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is the result of a traumatic event. With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being the least extreme on the scale of post-trauma disorders, DID is one of the most extreme.  DID is a sort of coping mechanism for the stress of the experienced event, and results from the separation of the event (and thoughts, memories, feelings, and ultimately personality) into parts rather than dealing with the overwhelming whole.  This also leads to a separation of thought/experience and emotions; so a person may feel nothing while remembering or experiencing something, or have an emotion but not know why they are feeling that way.  DID always develops in childhood after experiencing traumatic events such as sexual or physical abuse, terror, or repeated medical trauma.  Symptoms may appear later in adulthood triggered by stress.

People with DID have multiple 'alternate personalities', or 'alters' or 'parts'.  Some of these parts may be aware of the others, while some may be completely unaware that they have more than one personality and experience a sort of amnesia during an episode of that alter.  There is no specified treatment for DID, but it is dealt with by long term visits with a therapist. During therapy, the therapist and DID patient work on three major steps: "establishing safety, stabilization, and symptom reduction", "working through and integrating traumatic memories", and "integration and rehabilitation".

DID is much more wide-spread than it is often thought to be, as it is easy for sufferers to hide their symptoms out of embarrassment and often live very high functioning lives in normal society.  Therefor, it takes someone that really knows them and sees them at their most personal times to see that something is wrong; it even often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in mental health facilities and Borderline-Personality Disorder of Schizophrenia.

When I learned that DID is a result of trauma, it automatically changed my opinion and understanding of the disorder.  Due to the way that DID is perceived in the media, I obliviously thought that people with multiple personalities were just crazy, however now that I have read this article, I have a much better knowledge about the disorder.  I was also reminded of the video we watched as a class earlier in the semester with the man who was convinced that loved people and things in his life were "impostors" as a result of his dissociation of emotion and memory.  However, for DID people, I don't quite understand how this dissociation between memory and emotion results in alternate personalities.  I understand the aspect of breaking things down into parts that are easier to cope with (different emotions brought on by the event are expressed in different alters?), however I am not sure of where the emotional/memory dissociation comes into play.  All of these symptoms fall under the Post-Tramatic coping spectrum, but what causes them to manifest into such different, and varying in extremeness, disorders?

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