Unlocking the Mystery: What’s Multiple Personality Disorder?

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is a complex and often misunderstood mental health disorder. Those who experience DID may have two or more distinct personalities, each with their own thoughts, behaviors, and memories.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for DID, as well as dispel some common misconceptions surrounding this often mysterious disorder.

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a mental health condition where a person’s sense of identity is fragmented, resulting in the appearance of two or more distinct identities or personalities, also called alters.

Individuals with DID have gaps in their memory and may experience intense periods of stress or trauma that cause them to switch between these different identities. Each alter may have their own unique traits, such as name, age, gender, and specific memories and behaviors.

DID is a relatively rare disorder, affecting approximately 1-2% of the world’s population. It is often attributed to severe childhood trauma or stress, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

What are the Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder?

  • Identity confusion: Feeling uncertain or unsure about one’s sense of self or identity.
  • Recurrent gaps in memory: Regularly experiencing blackouts or lost time.
  • Inability to recall important personal information: Frequently forgetting important events, people, or places.
  • Rapid shifts in mood and behavior: Displaying a range of emotions and behaviors that seem to come from different personalities or alters.
  • Hearing voices or having hallucinations: Hearing voices or seeing things that are not real.
  • Feeling detached or disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings.

It’s important to note that many of these symptoms can also be indicative of other mental health disorders or medical conditions, and a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional is necessary for a proper diagnosis.

What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder is often linked to severe and prolonged trauma, particularly during early childhood development. This can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect or abandonment.

Children who experience trauma or abuse may develop DID as a way to cope with the overwhelming emotional pain and distress. Dissociation, or the separation of certain experiences from awareness, allows the child to “escape” to an alternative reality and make sense of the trauma and abuse.

Additionally, some experts believe that genetics may play a role in the development of DID. However, the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood, and much more research is needed to determine the neurological and genetic factors that can lead to DID.

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Diagnosed?

The diagnostic criteria for DID are outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

To receive a diagnosis of DID, an individual must experience the following symptoms:

  • Two or more distinct personality states or alters, with each having their own unique set of behaviors, thoughts, and memories.
  • Recurrent memory gaps related to important personal information.
  • Significant distress or impairment in daily functioning or relationships as a result of the symptoms.
  • The symptoms cannot be attributed to another medical or mental health condition or substance use.

Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, including a detailed medical and psychiatric history, mental status exam, and various psychological tests and assessments.

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Treated?

Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Psychotherapy, particularly talk therapy, is considered the most effective form of treatment for DID. This can involve individual, group, or family therapy, and may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and/or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

The goal of therapy is to help the individual integrate their different identities and mend the gaps in their memory. This involves exploring the underlying traumatic experiences and emotions that led to the development of DID and learning new coping mechanisms and skills to manage symptoms.

Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder

Myth: Dissociative Identity Disorder is not a real mental health condition.

This is a harmful and false belief that perpetuates stigma and misunderstanding of individuals with DID. DID is recognized as a legitimate disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and research shows that it affects a small but significant percentage of the population.

Myth: People with Dissociative Identity Disorder are dangerous or violent.

There is no evidence to suggest that individuals with DID are more likely to be violent or dangerous than anyone else. Like all mental health conditions, DID does not define a person’s character or behavior.

Myth: People with Dissociative Identity Disorder have “good” and “bad” personalities.

Each alter or personality is unique and distinct, but it is harmful to label them as “good” or “bad.” These labels are arbitrary and can further stigmatize individuals with DID.


Dissociative Identity Disorder is a complex and often misunderstood mental health condition that requires compassion, understanding, and proper diagnosis and treatment. We hope this article has provided valuable information and dispelled some of the common myths surrounding DID.

Commonly Asked Questions about Dissociative Identity Disorder

  • What is the difference between Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia?
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia are two separate mental health conditions that are often confused. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking and behavior, while DID involves the presence of two or more distinct identities or personalities.

  • Can Dissociative Identity Disorder be cured?
  • While there is no “cure” for DID, it can be effectively managed with proper diagnosis, medication, and psychotherapy. Many individuals with DID are able to integrate their different identities and lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

  • Is it possible to develop Dissociative Identity Disorder as an adult?
  • While it is more common for DID to develop during childhood, it is possible for adults to develop the condition as well. However, the causes and mechanisms of adult-onset DID are not yet fully understood, and more research is needed in this area.

  • Is Dissociative Identity Disorder rare?
  • Yes, Dissociative Identity Disorder is a rare mental health condition that affects approximately 1-2% of the world’s population. However, it is also believed to be underdiagnosed and underreported, and more research is needed to accurately determine the prevalence of this disorder.


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.
  • Brand, B. L. (2019). Dissociative Identity Disorder: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Clinical Course, Treatment, and Cost-effectiveness. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 42(3), 393-404.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Dissociative Disorders. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders

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