- Mental Health
Split Personality Disorder
“No offense….but do you have some kind split personality disorder?” Well, I was asked this startling question by one of my friends a few days back.
I almost laughed my heart out while my friend kept staring at me, wide eyed. He almost made me feel that I had some serious disorder which I wasn’t aware of and needed immediate attention. It took me quite a while to control my laughter as it gets convulsive at times. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Here was someone, very closely associated to me, openly declaring that I had two people residing in my body and I couldn’t do anything except laughing it off. I had no idea what made him draw such an absurd conclusion about me and as such I thought of seeking clarification on his judgment.
“You behave weird. I feel I’m dealing with a different person whenever I meet you. Sometimes you look like an innocent, vulnerable and needy kind of a woman and the other times you completely change in to an arrogant, self-reliant and fiercely independent person. I don’t know who am I dealing with here.” He was trying his best to sound polite and I found that cute.
Surfing internet for answers
That night I did a little digging on the internet for understanding what exactly split personality disorder meant. This is what I found:
Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is a fairly common effect of severe trauma during early childhood, usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. People suffering from such disorders indulge in daydreaming or get lost in the moment while working on a project. It 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 trauma experienced by the person with the disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that's too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self.
Symptoms of dissociative personality disorder
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 fluctuate with the person's split personality. A person may be able to switch from one state to the other within a matter of few seconds to a few days.
Along with the dissociation and multiple or split personalities, people with dissociative disorders may experience depression, mood swings, suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders, nightmares, panic attacks, sleepwalking, deep seated fears, alcohol or drug addiction, auditory or visual hallucinations and even eating disorders. Other symptoms may include headache, amnesia, time loss, trances, and OBE (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. (Information picked up from an article on www.webmd.com)
What causes dissociative identity disorder?
Researchers have established that as many as 98% to 99% of individuals who develop dissociative disorders have recognized personal histories of recurring, overpowering, and often life-threatening disturbances at a sensitive developmental stage of childhood. Dissociation may also happen when there has been insistent 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.
Diagnosing identity disorder is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it might take years to surface. Psychiatrists, most of the times, find it difficult to diagnose as it’s symptoms are more or less similar to other mental-health related problems like depression, anxiety, panic disorders etc. The patterns which are commonly found in such people are as follows:
· A person exhibits two distinct personalities at different times, each with a distinct enduring pattern of perception relating to his environment or his own self.
· At least one of these (in case it’s only two personalities) identities persistently takes charge over the person’s behavior.
· A person slips in to a state of unexplained forgetfulness and finds it almost impossible to remember certain important details about his life.
· In extreme cases, a person might even suffer from temporary blackouts, chaotic behavior or seizures.
There have been some Hollywood actors who have been reported to have suffered from identity disorders at some point in their lives which might as well explain how beautifully they portray such roles on the screen. Famous people with dissociative identity disorder include retired NFL star Herschel Walker, who struggled with dissociative identity disorder for years but has only been treated for the past eight years.
Walker even published a book about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder, along with his suicide attempts. In his book, he speaks about 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 which he always suppressed. These "alters" could withstand the abuse he felt; other alters came to help him rise to national fame. Today, Walker realizes that these alternate personalities are part of dissociative identity disorder, which he was diagnosed with in his adulthood.
Statistics show the rate of dissociative identity disorder is .01% to 1% of the general population. Still, more than 1/3 of people say they feel as if they're watching themselves in a movie at times, and 7% percent of the population may have undiagnosed dissociative disorder.
Effective treatment includes talk therapy or psychotherapy, medications, hypnotherapy, and adjunctive therapies such as art or movement therapy. Often times the symptoms of dissociative disorders occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, dissociative disorder and as such may be treated using the same drugs prescribed for those disorders. A person in treatment for a dissociative disorder might benefit from anti-depressants.
Coming back to myself
Wow! That was some bit of detail. I wasn’t sure if I could fit perfectly within the parameters of a ‘personality disorder’ or a ‘psychotic syndrome’ but one thing did happen……
“I kept looking at myself in the mirror for a long time.” LOL