At this moment I am me. While in the next moment, I can be a completely different personality, with a different name and probably different likes and dislikes. Maybe I’m a stronger person, or maybe not. That’s Dissociative Identity Disorder.
It’s as if multiple minds are playing around in a single body.
Under this condition, a person lives with multiple personalities. However, out of these multiple personalities, one may or may not know about the other one. For instance, here’s a case study Prof. Paulette M. Gillig published in Psychiatry MMC in 2009, where he wrote about a case example of Mary.
She was 30 years old with a traumatic past of sexual abuse. The instances first began when she was merely 20 months old. During her conversation with a psychiatrist, sometimes she behaved as herself, Mary. While sometimes, she completely changed to another personality called Edith. Often, she also mentioned a crying baby. In this case, Edith was aware of Mary. But, she was not aware of the crying baby. This was a case of dissociative disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID):
DID was previously known as multiple personality disorder (MPD).
We often dissociate ourselves from the world to fight some form of stress. Additionally, sometimes dissociation is a natural way to cope with stress. But if this dissociation becomes too severe to handle, then it comes out in the form of DID. However, the risk is more at a young age. Especially when you have had a traumatic childhood.
DID is a complex, chronic, posttraumatic mental disorder in which a person lacks the sense of self-identity.
A dissociative person loses track of reality. It is not only associated with alternating separate identities. Further, due to amnesia (loss of memory) and no sense of reality, episodes of memory disruption often occur. A person with this condition usually assumes to be someone else. They develop fictional characters and sometimes assume to be one of them. Like in the case of Mary, there are two fictional characters, Edith and ‘the crying baby.’ At some point, Mary behaves like Edith. Then sometimes, she claims to hear a crying baby.
Due to a lack of research, not much is known about the entire functioning of a dissociative mind. However, there are a number of hypotheses. Some of them suggest that DID is not because of some chemical disturbances in the brain or some issue in any brain circuits. Rather, it is related to several environmental factors and biological reasons. Although the main cause is a trauma, it may also include abusive history like emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
A study pointed out that around 90% cases of DID have some or other kind of abusive history.
It is mostly associated with any incident that may have left a horrifying memory at an early age. Traumatic memories might set in at an age when even fairy tales seem real; when you are not even mature enough to differentiate between what’s real and surreal. Traumatic incidents like losing a loved one or being or witnessing violence could be some instances.
What exactly happens:
Although obvious symptoms may occur in early adulthood, yet sometimes, it often starts right in the childhood. It begins when as a child you find yourself isolated and stressed when you think no one cares or loves you. Consequently, you become afraid that your presence may hurt someone nearby, you eventually start dissociating yourself.
First, you dissociate from your family, then friends, then society, then gradually from your own self. You start developing fictional characters in your head. These imaginary companions become the ones you can love and in turn, be loved by.
This further happens when you go through extreme torture, whether physically or mentally. Consequently, you find yourself and your personality so weak that you start thinking about being someone else and eventually you develop a completely different personality.
The human mind is very complicated. It is capable of fooling you anytime. As much as it is a fantastical organ, one needs to beware of it.
It is completely natural to dissociate yourself to cope with a certain situation. It is also completely fine to change your approach, behaviour or way of handling a problem, but do not let your mind to play with your body. Once you start noticing periods of a void in your memory or experience sudden blank outs, do not take it lightly.
Since dissociation is often rooted in childhood, as a parent, it is your duty to handle your kids with care, attention, and obviously, love. It is your responsibility to not let them feel abandoned or alone in the face of problems.
DID is a case dependent disorder. Thus, the cause, processes, number of different personalities, the behaviour of personalities, and other related issues may vary from case to case.
Edited by Preetika Dubey