How to tell if you have multiple personalities

Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder): Signs, Symptoms, Treatment

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

In this Article

  • What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
  • Who Is At Risk for DID?
  • How to Recognize Dissociative Identity Disorder and Its Associated Mental Disorders
  • How Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Diagnosed?
  • What Other Psychiatric Illnesses Might Occur With DID?
  • Are There Famous People With Dissociative Identity Disorder?
  • What's the Treatment Plan for Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is thought to be a complex psychological condition that is likely caused by many factors, including severe trauma during early childhood (usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, or emotional abuse).

What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative identity 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. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally shuts off or dissociates themselves from a situation or experience that's too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with their conscious self.

Who Is At Risk for DID?

Research indicates that the cause of DID is likely a psychological response to interpersonal and environmental stresses, particularly during early childhood years when emotional neglect or abuse may interfere with personality development. As many as 99% of individuals who develop dissociative disorders have recognized personal histories of recurring, overpowering, and often life-threatening disturbances or traumas at a sensitive developmental stage of childhood (usually before age 6).

Dissociation may also happen when there has been persistent neglect or emotional abuse, even when there has been no overt physical or sexual abuse. Findings show that in families where parents are frightening and unpredictable, the children may become dissociative. Studies indicate DID affects about 1% of the population.

How to Recognize Dissociative Identity Disorder and Its Associated Mental Disorders

Dissociative identity disorder 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. With dissociative identity disorder, there's also an inability to recall key personal information that is too far-reaching to be explained as mere forgetfulness. With dissociative identity disorder, there are also highly distinct memory variations, which may fluctuate.

Although not everyone experiences DID the same way, for some the "alters" or different identities have their own age, sex, or race. Each has their own postures, gestures, and distinct way of talking. Sometimes the alters are imaginary people; sometimes they are animals. As each personality reveals itself and controls the individuals' behavior and thoughts, it's called "switching." Switching can take seconds to minutes to days. Some seek treatment with hypnosis where the person's different "alters" or identities may be very responsive to the therapist's requests.

Other symptoms of dissociative identity disorder may include headache, amnesia, time loss, trances, and "out of body experiences." Some people with dissociative disorders have a tendency toward self-persecution, self-sabotage, and even violence (both self-inflicted and outwardly directed). As an example, someone with dissociative identity disorder may find themselves doing things they wouldn't normally do, such as speeding, reckless driving, or stealing money from their employer or friend, yet they feel they are being compelled to do it. Some describe this feeling as being a passenger in their body rather than the driver. In other words, they truly believe they have no choice.

There are several main ways in which the psychological processes of dissociative identity disorder change the way a person experiences living, including the following:

  • Depersonalization.  This is a sense of being detached from one's body and is often referred to as an "out-of-body" experience.
  • Derealization. This is the feeling that the world is not real or looking foggy or far away.
  • Amnesia. This is the failure to recall significant personal information that is so extensive it cannot be blamed on ordinary forgetfulness. There can also be micro-amnesias where the discussion engaged in is not remembered, or the content of a meaningful conversation is forgotten from one second to the next.
  • Identity confusion or identity alteration. Both of these involve a sense of confusion about who a person is. An example of identity confusion is when a person has trouble defining the things that interest them in life, or their political or religious or social viewpoints, or their sexual orientation, or their professional ambitions. In addition to these apparent alterations, the person may experience distortions in time, place, and situation.

It is now acknowledged that these dissociated states are not fully mature personalities, but rather they represent a disjointed sense of identity. With the amnesia typically associated with dissociative identity disorder, different identity states remember different aspects of autobiographical information. There is usually a "host" personality within the individual, who identifies with the person's real name. Ironically, the host personality is usually unaware of the presence of other personalities.

How Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder takes time. It's estimated that individuals with dissociative disorders have spent seven years in the mental health system prior to accurate diagnosis. This is common, because the list of symptoms that cause a person with a dissociative disorder to seek treatment is very similar to those of many other psychiatric diagnoses. In fact, many people who have dissociative disorders also have coexisting diagnoses of borderline or other personality disorders, depression, and anxiety.

The DSM-5 provides the following criteria to diagnose dissociative identity disorder:

  1. Two or more distinct identities or personality states are present, each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self.
  2. Amnesia must occur, defined as gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic events.
  3. The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas because of the disorder.
  4. The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices.
  5. The symptoms cannot be due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (such as blackouts or chaotic behavior during alcohol intoxication) or a general medical condition (such as complex partial seizures).

The distinct personalities may serve diverse roles in helping the individual cope with life's dilemmas. For instance, there's an average of two to four personalities present when the patient is initially diagnosed. Then there's an average of 13 to 15 personalities that can become known over the course of treatment. Environmental triggers or life events cause a sudden shift from one alter or personality to another.

What Other Psychiatric Illnesses Might Occur With DID?

Along with the dissociation and multiple or split personalities, people with dissociative disorders may experience a number of other psychiatric problems, including symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • 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

Are There Famous People With Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Famous people with dissociative identity disorder include comedienne Roseanne Barr, Adam Duritz, and retired NFL star Herschel Walker.

Walker wrote a book about his struggles with DID, along with his suicide attempts, explaining he had a feeling of disconnect from childhood to the professional leagues. To cope, he developed a tough personality that didn't feel loneliness, one that was fearless and wanted to act out the anger he always suppressed. These "alters" could withstand the abuse he felt; other alters came to help him rise to national fame. Treatment helped Walker realize that these alternate personalities are part of dissociative identity disorder, which he was diagnosed with in adulthood.

What's the Treatment Plan for Dissociative Identity Disorder?

There are currently no formal, evidence-based guldelines to treat DID. Many treatments are based on case reports or are even controversial.  

While there's also no "cure" for dissociative identity disorder, long-term treatment can be helpful, if the patient stays committed. Effective treatment includes:

  • Psychotherapy: Also called talk therapy, the therapy is designed to work through whatever triggered and triggers the DID. The goal is to help “fuse” the separate personality traits into one consolidated personality that can control the triggers. This therapy often includes family members in the therapy.
  • Hypnotherapy. Used in conjunction with psychotherapy, clinical hypnosis can be used to help access repressed memories, control some of the problematic behaviors which accompany DID as well as help integrate the personalities into one.
  • Adjunctive therapy. Therapies such as art or movement therapy have been shown to help people connect with parts of their mind that they have shut off to cope with trauma.

There are no established medication treatments for dissociative identity disorder, making psychologically-based approaches the mainstay of therapy. Treatment of co-occurring disorders, such as depression or substance use disorders, is fundamental to overall improvement. Because the symptoms of dissociative disorders often occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, medicines to treat those co-occurring problems, if present, are sometimes used in addition to psychotherapy.


Signs, symptoms, causes, and more

A split personality refers to dissociative identity disorder (DID), a mental disorder where a person has two or more distinct personalities. The thoughts, actions, and behaviors of each personality may be completely different.

Trauma often causes this condition, particularly during childhood. While there is no defined cure for DID, long-term treatment may help people combine their personalities into one.

This article discusses split personality disorder, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and more.

Share on PinterestTrauma during childhood is a possible cause of split personality disorder.

A split personality is a popular term for DID. In the past, DID was known as multiple personality disorder.

People with DID have two or more distinct personalities. They do not present as simple changes in traits or moods. A person with DID expresses significant differences between these alternate identities, which can also be referred to as alters.

Often, these personalities are completely different from each other. These fragmented personalities take control of the person’s identity for some time.

A person also maintains their primary or host identity, which is their original personality, and will answer to their given name. Their primary identity is generally more passive, and they may be unaware of the other personalities.

When a personality change happens, the new personality will have a distinct history, a new identity, and different behaviors.

These split personalities, or alters, often have their own distinct:

  • name
  • age
  • gender
  • moods
  • memories
  • vocabulary

A new personality will see themselves differently. For instance, someone assigned male at birth may have an alternate identity as a woman. They may experience themselves with female biological sex characteristics.

The shift between these personalities tends to occur when a person faces a certain stressor or trigger.

The exact cause of DID is not fully understood. However, there is a strong link between the condition and trauma. This may be particularly true for trauma or abuse during childhood. In Europe, the United States, and Canada, 90% of people who experience DID are victims of severe trauma in childhood.

The condition represents someone who struggles to integrate and assimilate certain aspects of their own identity, which become disjointed over time.

The signs of DID may vary, but they include a change between two or more separate personalities.

Symptoms include:

  • Experiencing two or more separate personalities, each with their own self-identity and perceptions.
  • A notable change in a person’s sense of self.
  • Frequent gaps in memory and personal history, which are not due to normal forgetfulness, including loss of memories, and forgetting everyday events.

When these other personalities take over, they often talk with a different vocabulary, and gesture differently. In some cases, one personality may also pick up certain habits that the other does not, such as smoking, or becoming violent.

In the shift from one personality to another, a person may experience other symptoms. Some people can have anxiety, as they may be afraid of the personality change. Some may become very angry or violent. Others may not notice or remember these transitions at all, although another person may notice them.

Specific personalities may appear in response to certain situations. These symptoms can cause a person significant distress, and disrupt their ability to live their life normally.

Other symptoms may include:

  • amnesia
  • losing sense of time
  • going into a trance-like state
  • out-of-body experiences, or depersonalization
  • engaging in behaviors that are unusual for the person
  • sleep disturbances

A person with DID may also experience symptoms of other conditions, such as self-harm. One study notes that more than 70% of people with DID have attempted suicide.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Trauma often triggers DID as a psychological response, so it is a strong risk factor, especially in childhood. This trauma can stem from:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional neglect
  • psychological abuse

In some cases, a child may not experience a clear form of abuse, but may not grow up in a safe home environment. For example, they may live with highly unpredictable parents, and start to dissociate in response to the stress that comes with this.

Dissociative identity disorder may appear alongside other disorders. This means that several mental health disorders could arise from the same cause.

Other common disorders that can occur alongside DID include:

  • borderline personality disorder
  • depression
  • substance use disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • eating disorders
  • anxiety
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

It takes time to diagnose DID. Misdiagnosis is common, and doctors need to observe a person’s symptoms, and dismiss other conditions.

To properly make a diagnosis, doctors need to see the different personalities and how they affect the person.

Time is also an important factor in seeing the full scale of the symptoms. This is because people who seek help for DID commonly present with symptoms linked to other mental health conditions.

Additionally, as DID often occurs alongside other disorders, doctors need to rule out the symptoms of other conditions before they make a diagnosis. As such, they may prescribe therapies or medications to treat these conditions first.

There are no guidelines on how to treat DID. Doctors often prescribe treatments on a case-by-case basis.

No specific medication exists for DID. Treatment plans manage any conditions that occur alongside DID, and they can combine psychotherapy, with any necessary drugs to help with symptoms.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the main treatment for people with DID. Techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, may help a person work through and learn to accept the triggers that cause personality shifts.

In DID, psychotherapy aims to help integrate a person’s identity and learn to cope with post-traumatic experiences.

Other therapies

Art therapy, movement therapy, and relaxation techniques may all have a place in the treatment of DID. These methods may help people connect aspects of their mind in a low-stress environment.

Childhood trauma is often the cause of split personality disorder, now referred to as DID.

A person will subconsciously create other personalities to handle certain aspects of themselves and their traumas, without which they cannot cope.

There is no specific cure for DID. However, many people can help manage their symptoms and work to integrate their identities through regular psychotherapy. They can also ease any other symptoms with medication.

Read this article in Spanish.

“How I learned to live with multiple personalities inside”

  • Emma Young
  • Mosaic

Image copyright iStock more.

How does such a person feel? How does he manage to get along with several of his alter egos?

Melanie Goodwin never knows for sure which of the many personalities living in her will come to the fore at one time or another - whether it will be 16-year-old Melanie, and then she will have to ride a bicycle to work (since "that " Melanie can't drive a car), or it will be 3-year-old Melanie, and then you will need to take a teddy bear with you for a walk.

Until she turned 40, nothing special happened to Melanie, she just did not remember herself at the age of 16, and nothing more.

However, a family tragedy triggered catastrophic changes in her head. Suddenly she realized how many different personalities lived inside her, and the barriers between these personalities began to crumble.

All these personalities were Melanie - only Melanie of different ages: at 3 years old, at 16 years old and so on.

And the age of these Melanies was not accidental. Gradually, breaking through the frightening dissonance in her head, memories came to Melanie: about violence from adults - first against a 3-year-old child, and then further - up to 16 years old ...

"I have no proof," she emphasizes. "I just have to live with what I think happened to me and my current reality."

Melanie has dissociative identity disorder. It used to be called multiple personality disorder. The name change reflects a more accurate understanding of the essence of the disease by specialists.

Identity is memories, behavior in different situations, attitude to different things, perception of one's age… And all this changes within one person at once and completely.

Melanie refers to herself as "we". "We are made up of nine different people, each of whom leads his life, trying to get rid of the memory of the abuse that happened to him as a child."

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Living with dissociative identity disorder can be scary at times. Nor is it easy for those who live close to such people.

Life with dissociative identity disorder can sometimes feel like hell, she testifies. This is a complete breakdown of the self-image that ordinary people take for granted: that we are one and only individual.

The sudden realization that several personalities live in it, and sometimes they even fight among themselves, was like a bolt from the blue for Melanie. And at some point it seemed to her that she was no longer able to cope with this.

How did she manage to find a way to live with several Melanies inside?


Melanie and I speak in the relaxed atmosphere of the Pottergate Center for Dissociative Disorders in Norwich, UK.

The Center is headed by Rémy Aquaron, psychotherapist-analyst, former director of the International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders.

In a career spanning over 30 years, Aquaron has worked with hundreds of patients with these disorders. In most cases, he says, these people were abused as children by adults, usually before the age of 5.

According to the theory, in order to cope with memories of the stressful experience, the child ceases to associate himself with the one who suffered. That is, it divides itself into several parts.

One part of his personality still keeps memories of the horror of the experience, while the other part, as it were, was born after the event and has nothing to do with it.

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Or, for example, one part remembers the emotional trauma, another goes to bed, and the third goes down to breakfast to go to school later.

If violence against a child has continued for several years, if the child has suffered from different adults, then even more personalities may appear within one.

This "disconnection" from suffering helps the child to live on. In fact, this is such a radical way of adapting, Aquaron notes.

Melanie sees it this way: “If you find yourself in a situation that is completely impossible to survive, you disconnect it from yourself in order to survive. Emotional trauma can “freeze” you in time. scattered throughout your life."

Image copyrightDavid Brandon Geeting

Image caption,

If a child has suffered from multiple adults, there may be many personalities within one

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The End of the Story Podcast

It's been four years since Melanie discovered her multiple personalities, and one day in the library where she worked, she stumbled upon Joan Francis Casey's The Pack. As she began to read, Melanie quickly realized that she, like the author, had dissociative identity disorder.

She told her husband about it, with whom she had lived for more than 20 years by that time. "He said, 'You know, that makes sense,'" recalls Melanie.

"Because he might one day ask me, 'Do you want coffee?' and I would say, 'Yes, I do!' And on another day, to the same question, I could answer: "You know that I don't drink coffee. I'm allergic to it."

"16-year-old Melanie doesn't drink coffee, but I love coffee! My husband used to say that he never knew which Melanie he would come home to in the evening. I didn't understand what he meant then... How but I didn’t guess before, he says now ... "

Unlike some other people with dissociative identity disorder, Melanie feels that there is a dominant part in her whose age corresponds to the age of her body.

Is it then possible to say that the "real" Melanie is more than just a composite of a three-year-old child who is easily scared, a 16-year-old girl who is not averse to flirting, and a 64-year-old woman who is now sitting on couch in Remy Aquaron's office and eloquently describes his condition?

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Not everyone who experienced severe emotional trauma as a child develops a dissociative identity disorder. There is another important component that can trigger the onset of the disorder: the lack of a normal, healthy attachment to an adult.

Attachment in developmental psychology means the bond that arises between an infant and those who care for him, look after him, while simultaneously teaching the child to respond correctly to certain phenomena and cope with emotions.

Without such a connection, which can be destroyed by the death of a close relative, neglect of the child or abuse of him, the little person is left to himself, he is left alone with his emotional traumas.

The same children who develop such an attachment, in the future successfully cope with all the challenges of life, notes Wendy Johnson, professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

"First of all, they have an easier relationship with others. As a rule, they earn more, are recognized in the team and face less aggression. And their lives are more prosperous. "

Of course, all this does not mean that in the early years our personality is formed completely and for life. As the circumstances around us change, we begin to change too.

Image copyright David Brandon Geeting

Image caption

Adolescents and young adults often question self-identity because that's the age at which things change in and around them

It's no surprise that adolescents and young adults often question self-identity, adds Johnson . After all, it is at this age that many things change in them and around them.

Attachment to an adult and stability in life give a feeling of being a whole person. Without this, the traits of the individual can swing as if on a swing over a wide range.

One of Melanie's personalities suffers from anorexia, another has attempted suicide twice because she could not bear the pain of realizing what was happening to Melanie's "others".

Three-year-old Melanie is easily stunned when confronted with things that remind her of past emotional traumas. On the other hand, 16-year-old Melanie has an easy-going personality and is not averse to flirting.

So, really, "it all makes sense," as her husband said. It's not 64-year-old Melanie acting like a three-year-old, it's just that her other personality comes to the fore at a certain moment, and Melanie is not acting at that moment - she really becomes a child or a 16-year-old girl.

Reconnecting with the past

Due to the fact that the memories of one of the personalities may not be available to others, those suffering from dissociative identity disorder "lose" entire periods of time. It sometimes seems to them that they just jumped over a few days, or even weeks.

"Some have affairs on the side. But you can't say that about them, because at these moments they simply don't remember that they are married or married," says Melanie.

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She herself suffers from the fact that she does not have a chronology of her own life, cannot imagine the order in which various events happened to her, starting from birth. Her life is divided into fragments that do not fit well with each other.

“I know that I am married,” she gives an example. “But I understand this only as an observer, looking at myself from the outside. It has not become a part of me, it is not stored in my memory.”

People with this disorder often complain about a very superficial perception of life, confirms Aquaron. "For most of us, memories, backed up by experienced emotions, provide a personal chain of events going back to our childhood, which gives us a sense of 'self-continuity'. A person with a dissociative disorder cannot track himself through time."

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Nostalgia can be good for people with dissociative identity disorder

In this sense, one of the psychological advantages of religiosity, faith in God can be considered that a person never feels lonely, abandoned, his relationship with God existed both when a person was a child, and when he grew up, and so until death. Wherever you are, God is always with you, emphasizes Aquaron.

There are other ways to reconnect with your own past. Previously, psychologists believed that nostalgia could be harmful. Now their opinion has changed. Nostalgia just forms the very feeling of "continuity of oneself", it enhances the sense of belonging to the world around.

This sense of "one self" helps people navigate life, and especially society.

Internal conflict

Nina Strominger and her colleagues at Yale University explored the concept of the "real self" in their scientific review - not just for people with dissociative identity disorder, but for all of us.

Consider, for example, the situation, suggests Strominger, when a deeply religious person experiences homosexual impulses. "His religion forbids him to give in to these impulses, and now he fights them every day," she explains. "So who is the real one? The one who tries not to give in to his impulses, or the one who experiences them?"

The answer, Strominger found, depends on who you ask. "Ask people with liberal views and they will say, 'Well, yes, this is a person with homosexual impulses.' But ask the same question to a person with conservative views, and he will tell you: 'The real one here is the one who resists such impulses.'

In other words, everything is relative.Strominger, however, found one aspect of human behavior that can be considered the most fundamental in determining "realness" - even more so than our memories.0011

Photo copyright, David Brandon Geeting

Photo caption,

A person's ideas of what is moral and what is not can change over time

Strominger has worked with families of people with dementia, dementia and insanity. Patients gradually not only lost their memory - their personality underwent significant and often negative changes in moral terms.

For example, they began to lie recklessly. There were, however, positive changes - people became softer and kinder.

According to relatives, their loved one became different not when he lost his memory, but when his moral qualities changed.

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"In scientific works on the nature of self-identification, morality has not traditionally been paid much attention," says Strominger. It was believed that the main thing is the memory and traits of your character. The results of our study say something else. "

As Melanie admits, some parts of her self have different ideas about morality. She explains this by the different life experiences of these individuals and by the fact that some of them were formed at a time when views on morality were simply different.

In addition, a person's ideas of what is moral and what is not can change over time, notes Wendy Johnson.

Thus, our core - who we think we are - can change. In this regard, it is logical to assume that the feeling of ourselves as something frozen is largely an illusion that helps us avoid a mental disorder like dissociative identity disorder.

And as the experience of Melanie and other people with this disorder shows, this illusion is extremely important for a person.

Breaking down barriers

Melanie was very helpful with the help of specialists. The first step was a correct diagnosis. After all, her illness is quite easy to confuse with something else.

Those who hear voices are often referred to as schizophrenics, those who experience frequent mood swings may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Someone who, like a three-year-old child, hides under the bed out of fear, can be called a psychopath. And so on.

Even in the UK, the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder is very reluctant, despite the fact that it is in all the main psychiatric reference books.

It is believed that now in the country about 1% suffer from this disorder (about the same as schizophrenia), but there are still skeptics who believe that these people can just play with a split personality, these are their personal fantasies . ..

However, recent research confirms that these people do not play, and this is not fantasy.

Photo copyright, David Brandon Geeting

Photo caption,

Feeling like something frozen is in many ways an illusion that helps us avoid mental breakdown

Melanie is now director of First Person Plural, an association for people with dissociative identity disorder, she often talks to psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners and social workers, trying to convince them that this disorder is a real thing.

These patients can be helped, but they only begin to experience relief after many months of therapy under the guidance of a specialist.

According to Melanie, deep and mutual trust is needed in a relationship with a doctor who helps her to establish relationships between different parts of herself, pushes them to talk to each other, to understand and respect each other.

Melanie's life is slowly getting better. But she still experiences certain difficulties, for example, going for a walk with her husband - after all, at any moment, 16-year-old Melanie can be capricious and ask to wear a different dress, and 8-year-old Melanie wants to take her favorite toys with her.

One day, on her way to work in the library, she let the 16-year-old girl dress as she wanted, but she had to ride a bicycle - that Melanie cannot drive a car.

"Gradually we learned to understand what is happening to us all," she adds.

In critical situations, for example, when someone suddenly walks into the library, reminding them of something bad from childhood, "I can turn to my little ones and say: don't worry, the library is a place where no one will offend you. I promise you everything will be fine."

So Melanie's different personalities still exist. But they have learned peaceful coexistence.

"We are not one, but we agreed to live in harmony," says Melanie. "Most of the time, that's how it works out."

Read the original of this article in English at BBC Future . This article first appeared on Mosaic and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license.

Multiple personality disorders - symptoms and signs, effective treatment and prevention methods

Split personality is a disease that is clearly characterized by the manifestation of another personality in a healthy person. In other words, these are cases when a person can react differently to one situation. Another personality is infused into him and this is a frightening factor for others. If the disease begins to progress, then a person may simply forget what happened to him a few minutes ago and with whom he had a dialogue. Sometimes one gets the impression that he lives for a long time in two parallel universes. Therefore, we offer qualified help and advice regarding any psychological illness.

A few facts about splitting

  1. In almost all cases, the disease has a direct connection with psychological disorders that occurred
    in childhood up to 9 years;
  2. Women are more likely to suffer from violence, so the disease is more common among them;
  3. 20% of patients with this disease used psychotropic drugs;
  4. More than half of patients with split personality syndrome have tried to commit suicide, the situation worsens during sleep.

Split personality is an obsolete name. But a few centuries ago, this syndrome was called the "devil's possession" of the human body and its consciousness. People were sure that supernatural forces were beginning to take possession of a person and we were obliged to help him. The second name appeared relatively recently and is not compatible with reality. People believed that devils inhabited such persons and controlled them. There were no methods of treatment at that time, but demons were cast out in the most cruel ways. Will not go into details.

Dissociative identity disorder was first described by the Swiss physician Paracelsus in the distant 16th century. At this point, the opening halted for years. Officially registered only in 1975. Many doubted the existence of the disease and were sure that patients were just playing a role. Today, split personality is officially recognized as a disease and requires mandatory treatment.

Symptoms, signs of a split personality and treatment of the disease

Symptoms include:

  • The patient may move away from a particular situation and become someone in certain life episodes. If we take into account the second personality, then it differs from ordinary behavior and physical actions. For example, if in ordinary life he is calm, then he may begin to behave uninhibitedly. Characteristic signs are that a person begins to speak in a voice that is not his own and new manners appear.
  • The appearance of personalities directly follows from what circle of communication a person is currently in. Many peoples believe that this is a manifestation of possession. A person can feel
    organically lack, loss of space, and after something happens to him, he simply does not understand who led him.
  • Begins to forget those moments that happened. This can have a negative impact on work activity, because moments of life begin to disappear from memory in fragments.
  • Patients often report hearing voices. Often, at the moment a person is in a trance. The peculiarity is that if the patient has been in a similar position at least once, he wants to return to it again. This feeling of something new does not leave alone. It acts like a drug, affects the mood
    and lifestyle.
  • Possible increased depression and anxiety, mood swings. It is often mentioned that such patients have nightmares. Approximately 60% of people try to die voluntarily.

Risk group

There is no exact definition of why the disease appears. Doctors are confident that this may be a reaction to stress in childhood and adolescence. Also, a dissociative problem can start under the influence of any kind of violence,
including sexual. As a result of research, in families where parents were engaged in tyranny, children may have a split. Do not forget that any mental disorders require treatment!

Prognosis and treatment

There is an opinion among psychiatrists that the earlier a nervous personality split occurs, the worse the social prognosis. It should be noted that bifurcation is the most dangerous syndrome. It is almost impossible to achieve a complete recovery after a mental illness of this type. First of all, this is due to the fact that each of the personalities may have psychological deviations.

The main methods of treatment are cognitive and rational, when the specialist works to develop criticism of his own condition. Psychologists in the behavioral field are engaged in therapy exclusively. It is very important to try to reproduce all the traumas that could occur in communication with parents, with a soulmate, with friends. This will help to understand why there was a need to hide behind two masks.

The essence of the methods lies in the fact that the doctor is constantly trying to collect all split-off personalities from a person and combine them into a single
form. Hypnosis is an excellent mechanism for collecting information from parts. By the way, hypnosis is a double-edged sword, it can both help the patient understand the problem and strike at the psyche. In a word, this is jewelry work that should be done by a good professional.

Drug treatment of multiple personality disorders is used to eliminate the secondary effects that occur. When depressed, it is necessary to use antidepressants. It is possible to treat with several drugs at the same time.

Disease prognosis

Treatment takes a long time, but if the desired result is observed, then this will affect the quality of life and improve significantly. This is a rare disease, so you can only trust a qualified specialist. Three combinations are often used - psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals and hypnosis.

Treatment of a split personality

If we compare the disease with third-party mental disorders, then this is a much more difficult situation. Medicines are needed to eliminate superficial symptoms. The main method is psychotherapy.

The task of a psychologist is to collect a person according to all the "split" persons. In this case, long conversations, hypnosis and drugs that help to stir up the patient help. This mechanism can both bring results, and vice versa aggravate the situation. Therefore, when choosing a doctor, we recommend that you be careful. Only a good professional can cope with the task. Doctors are sure that it is almost impossible to finally cure a split personality, it tends to remain in the body. It may take years and the recovery cannot be called complete.

Causes and diagnosis

As practice shows, the disease begins to develop against the background of a stressful state. Difficult moments in life, psychological trauma in adolescence force our psyche to build defense mechanisms and change perception. The brain experiences a blockage on the main personality, which ultimately ends in a split, which we talked about. So it turns out that one person is sleeping, and the other is having fun in the club.

Dissociation of the body is a normal phenomenon, which is inherent in nature. But violence is far from all the concomitant factors for the appearance of the disease. Several criteria can be noted:

  • Slightly suggestible persons who love to be in the center of events and attract attention;
  • Presence of defects in the functioning of the nervous system;
  • Use of psychotropic substances, alcohol;
  • Adverse effects from anesthesia;
  • Prolonged stress that people often experience during military operations, tsunamis, floods and other disasters.

It should be noted that at the first examination, the doctor may not see any abnormalities. A clear symptom is memory problems that occur in older people. That is why doctors do not like to determine this diagnosis.

DID is most often confused with schizophrenia. But the two syndromes have a huge number of differences. Schizophrenia is manifested by the presence of hallucinations and a person's belief in something supernatural. This is a disease that completely destroys from the inside, but does not create twins.

There are also such people that a split personality is just a violent fantasy. Diagnosis of the disease can be after numerous tests, observations and hypnosis. To diagnose the diagnosis, doctors can use disinhibitory drugs.

How to identify a split personality on your own

Almost anyone can deploy when, for example, he shows fantasy, imagines talking to someone or hovering in the clouds. Many kids come up with imaginary friends, play with them and come up with different stories. This is not paranormal. The problem begins at the moment when a person cannot control his personalities and switch in time. It can quickly turn from one to the other. Scientists cannot say how this phenomenon is revealed.

During the change of a person from one personality to another, the following can be observed:

  • A sharp change in character, a change in gestures, facial expressions, handwriting, voice, taste preferences. The person may begin to tell other stories from life. Often the opposite person has completely different habits and a difference in outlook on life.
  • Ceases to control behavior, gestures, statements and actions. He can cry, is depressed, and after a few minutes he bursts into laughter to such an extent that it will be difficult to stop him.
  • May present with incoherent speech, amnesia, or lowing.
  • Memory lapses that eliminate memories, events that happened just the day before, and even habits. It is usually worth sounding the alarm when a person begins to forget too much information.
  • One person can turn on and off suddenly. Therefore, even with a psychotherapist, he can tell completely different stories, simply because he does not remember what he was talking about earlier.
  • Deterioration of health, insomnia. It can be like a sudden tingling of the abdomen, so problems with the digestive system, migraine.

But, even if most of the symptoms coincided, depression, anxiety disorder, apathetic attitude to life are more often diagnosed. This only complicates the choice of methodology.

Treatment takes a lot of resources and effort. Sometimes, it can take a lifetime. But it is necessary to alleviate the patient's condition, and reduce the manifestation of symptoms. You can start treatment of the disease after the appointment of a qualified specialist. All information regarding treatment is given in the form of a certificate and is not a guide!

Drug treatment

Among the drugs can be noted:

  • Antipsychotics. They help to reduce the progressive effects of the disease, for example, by eliminating the most dangerous symptoms and signs - manic behavior and hallucinations. They are an excellent drug for reducing stress, relax the body, help to fall asleep and not think about the problem.
  • Tranquilizers. Do not use without a doctor's prescription! Otherwise, it could cost your life! This drug can push a person to suicide, so it is prescribed under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Antidepressants. They help to cope with depression, apathy, unwillingness to live, loss of interests and hobbies. They help to fill oneself with energy and fight for life with new strength.


Helps to achieve good results in the general condition, because its character changes and some symptoms disappear. His disadvantage is that he can play against us and cause a new violation. It is important that the patient is under control at this point. More often this method is used to reduce the feeling of anxiety.

Electroconvulsive technique

Appeared in the 1930s and used to treat schizophrenia. There was an assumption that the brain under the influence of the disorder is not able to create certain impulses and they were created artificially.

How to use: several electrodes were attached to the head, which had a short-term effect on the brain. The main task was not to have a traumatic effect on the brain, but to have an impact on it. Within two months, doctors managed to achieve a positive result.

Psychotherapeutic treatment

The work with the patient can be carried out both alone and together with the family or in a group. We ourselves can make adjustments to the psychological health of the people around us without noticing it.

It is important to correct the way the patient communicates with others, to help him learn to build relationships. The task of the psychologist in this case is to help the patient regain power over his own life.

What if a person refuses treatment?

We need to understand why he does this. It may take time to talk about the problem. Try to explain that there are no complications in the course of treatment and you will easily walk the path together. You should not tell scary stories, but you don’t need to lie that you will be cured in a month.

You can call a doctor yourself without permission. You need to write a statement that will be the reason for the inspection of the house. If the doctor sees that there are no symptoms in the patient's condition that threaten his life and those around him, he is offered to sign papers for a course of treatment, but you have the right to refuse. Involuntary hospitalization is possible when a person is in a complex psychological disorder, and his actions can harm loved ones.

How to live with a person who has a bifurcation

Multiple personality syndrome negatively affects not only the patient, but also loved ones. A few recommendations for those who wish to improve relations with a person who has DSV:

  • Down with rose-colored glasses. This is a disease that will take many years to heal. Maybe even in a lifetime you will not be able to completely get rid of it.
  • Be patient. The patient unknowingly began to get sick with DSD, everything happened by chance
    serious circumstances in life.
  • Get information from professionals. A good psychiatrist can help in resolving the issue, but not friends who read somewhere that everything can be cured by using a magic pill.
  • Don't panic! Keep in mind that when he switches from one personality to another, complex processes take place in the body. This is a real trauma that is difficult to endure. Try to keep yourself in control, controlling the situation.
  • Create an environment for him that will not be disturbing for the psyche. Try to reduce the number of nervous breakdowns.
  • Pay attention to his condition. In time, replenish stocks of medicines that block further development of the disease.
  • Keep the situation under control. Pay attention to when it starts to "switch". It could be a fit of rage.
  • Don't take his words to heart. They just have to understand that at the moment his behavior is uncontrollable.
  • Rest. Caring for a person with a nervous breakdown is exhausting, so allow yourself to rest.

A huge number of films have been made about people with ADHD, where they show their inner world in detail and demonstrate the disease. In life, everything happens differently. Two personalities - a complex of symptoms that absolutely do not guarantee that a person will turn into an uncontrollable maniac. A large number of patients with dissociative identity disorder are completely harmless to society.

These are people with whom you can find a common language. If you choose the right treatment, then the disease will not develop further. If we analyze the information from the site, we can say that such people are safe for society.

Bifurcation is a chronic disease that usually takes more than five years to heal.

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