Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a complex mental health condition that typically occurs after severe childhood trauma. The condition used to be called multiple personality disorder, but researchers have since found patients don’t actually have several personalities. Instead, they have a sense of self that has become fractured enough that the different aspects are no longer integrated with each other. Every DID case is different, and researchers are still looking into the neurological and psychological components. The disorder has been badly misrepresented in media; individuals with dissociative identity disorder are no more likely to be violent or predatory than the average population. By understanding the symptoms of DID, individuals better understand the differences between fact and fiction.
Multiple Or Split Personalities
The most characteristic symptom of DID individuals recognize is multiple or split personalities. However, calling them ‘personalities’ is questionable. Rather than having multiple personalities, an individual with dissociative identity disorder has several alternate senses of self that aren’t unified as a whole. These senses of self are called ‘alters.’ Alters typically each have their own name, speech, distinct body language, and memories. When another alter ‘fronts,’ meaning they are the one controlling the body and interacting with the world, they typically don’t have access to the memories of the other alters. This can lead to blackouts, which is where the dissociative part of the disorder’s name comes in. There hasn’t been enough research proving exactly how alters form neurologically or why. The most prevalent theory is different alters are a form of self-protection. A protective alter may endure abuse so the main ‘host’ doesn’t have to experience those memories.
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