Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. Dissociative identity disorder is thought to stem from a combination of factors that may include trauma experienced by the person with the disorder.  About 90% of the cases of DID involve some history of abuse.  The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism — the person literally shuts off or dissociates himself from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self.

It is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct or split identities or personality states that continually have power over the person’s behavior. There’s also an inability to recall key personal information that is too far-reaching to be explained as mere forgetfulness. There are also highly distinct memory variations, which may fluctuate.

Possible Symptoms

  • Existence of two or more identities
  • Depersonalization: detachment from one’s body
  • Derealization: world is not real of foggy/far away
  • Identity confusion or altercation: confusion about who one is. Trouble defining interests or viewpoints.
  • Severe headaches or pain in other parts of the body
  • Amnesia
  • Time loss or trances
  • Hallucinations
  • Out of body experiences
  • Self-persecution, self-sabotage
  • Rarely violence (self or outwardly inflicted)
  • Self-harm, or 
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior (suicide in 70% of cases)

Overlapping Illnesses

  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disorders (insomnia, night terrors, and sleep walking)
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias (flashbacks, reactions to stimuli or “triggers”)
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Compulsions and rituals
  • Psychotic-like symptoms (including auditory and visual hallucinations)
  • Eating disorders


  • Psychotherapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Adjunctive therapy (ex movement therapy)
  • Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, or antipsychotic to help associated symptoms

Further readings and research
APA: Risk factors and treatments
Ementalhealth: How to identify DID
Mayoclinic: DID overview
Psychologytoday: Montreal centres
Youtube: Living with multiple personalities story