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Multiple Personalities Information

Dissociative identity disorder is a diagnosis described as the existence in an individual of two or more distinct identities or personalities, each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. At least two of these personalities are considered to routinely take control of the individual's behavior, and there is also some associated memory loss, which is beyond normal forgetfulness. This memory loss is often referred to as "losing time". These symptoms must occur independently of substance abuse or a general medical condition.

Dissociative identity disorder was initially named multiple personality disorder, and, as referenced above, that name remains in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

While dissociation is a demonstrable psychiatric condition that is tied to several different disorders, specifically those involving early childhood trauma and anxiety, multiple personality remains controversial. Despite the controversy, many mental health institutes such as McLean Hospital, have wards specifically designated for dissociative identity disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is attributed to the interaction of several factors: overwhelming stress, dissociative capacity (including the ability to uncouple one's memories, perceptions, or identity from conscious awareness), the enlistment of steps in normal developmental processes as defenses, and, during childhood, the lack of sufficient nurturing and compassion in response to hurtful experiences or lack of protection against further overwhelming experiences. Children are not born with a sense of a unified identity--it develops from many sources and experiences. In overwhelmed children, its development is obstructed, and many parts of what should have blended into a relatively unified identity remain separate. North American studies show that 97 to 98% of adults with dissociative identity disorder report abuse during childhood and that abuse can be documented for 85% of adults and for 95% of children and adolescents with dissociative identity disorder and other closely related forms of dissociative disorder. Although these data establish childhood abuse as a major cause among North American patients (in some cultures, the consequences of war and disaster play a larger role), they do not mean that all such patients were abused or that all the abuses reported by patients with dissociative identity disorder really happened. Some aspects of some reported abuse experiences may prove to be inaccurate. Also, some patients have not been abused but have experienced an important early loss (such as death of a parent), serious medical illness, or other very stressful events. For example, a patient who required many hospitalizations and operations during childhood may have been severely overwhelmed but not abused. Human development requires that children be able to integrate complicated and different types of information and experiences successfully. As children achieve cohesive, complex appreciations of themselves and others, they go through phases in which different perceptions and emotions are kept segregated. Each developmental phase may be used to generate different selves. Not every child who experiences abuse or major loss or trauma has the capacity to develop multiple personalities. Patients with dissociative identity disorder can be easily hypnotized. This capacity, closely related to the capacity to dissociate, is thought to be a factor in the development of the disorder. However, most children who have these capacities also have normal adaptive mechanisms, and most are sufficiently protected and soothed by adults to prevent development of dissociative identity disorder. Perhaps the most common approach to treatment aims to relieve symptoms, to ensure the safety of the individual, and to reconnect the different identities into one well-functioning identity. There are, however, other equally respected treatment modalities that do not depend upon integrating the separate identities. Treatment also aims to help the person safely express and process painful memories, develop new coping and life skills, restore functioning, and improve relationships. The best treatment approach depends on the individual and the severity of his or her symptoms. Treatment is likely to include some combination of the following methods:

Psychotherapy: This kind of therapy for mental and emotional disorders uses psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems.

Cognitive therapy: This type of therapy focuses on changing dysfunctional thinking patterns.

Medication: There is no medication to treat the dissociative disorders themselves. However, a person with a dissociative disorder who also suffers from depression or anxiety might benefit from treatment with a medication such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine.

Family therapy: This kind of therapy helps to educate the family about the disorder and its causes, as well as to help family members recognize symptoms of a recurrence.

Creative therapies such as art therapy or music therapy: These therapies allow the patient to explore and express his or her thoughts and feelings in a safe and creative way.

Clinical hypnosis: This is a treatment technique that uses intense relaxation, concentration and focused attention to achieve an altered state of consciousness or awareness, allowing people to explore thoughts, feelings and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds[4]

People with DID generally respond well to treatment; however, treatment can be a long and painstaking process. To improve a person's outlook, it is important to treat any other problems or complications, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

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