In this article, something as complicated as a mental disorder, and the root cause of it, is explained in detail, yet in a way that anyone can understand and even explain it.
You’ll get to know the answer to the question, “Is multiple personality disorder real?”
We have also mentioned some of the common myths related to this disorder. So keep reading to know more about it.
What is Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder
Is multiple personality disorder real? The Multiple personality disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is a complex mental illness recognized by DSM- 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, edition 5) as a disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states or an experience of possession, this mental disorder is also commonly called split personality.
In everyday language, it’s one of the dissociative mental disorders in which a person has alternate or separate personalities/ identities that they switch between with or without being aware of it. They all have different names, different preferences. They behave in a very distinct way from one another.
Some people with Dissociative Identity Disorder say that it’s like watching yourself from the back of your mind, after switching, whereas some people completely lose track of time and lose the memory of it.
What Causes Someone to Have Multiple Identities
Childhood trauma (Neglection by parents, physical abuse or sexual abuse, War-related experiences, Major Medical procedures) plays a huge role in this. As a child, our personalities and brains are still developing, adapting, and integrating. Children are vulnerable, and their childhood shapes their mental health adversely.
Severe and repeated trauma hinders the development of the child into one whole personality, and these traumatic memories affect their mental health in a way that even after they grow up, into adults, their personality isn’t integrated enough from their childhood, and they use disassociation as a coping or defense mechanism.
The trauma lives with them as they grow up and causes emotional disconnection and detachment, disconnection from surroundings and reality, and disruption in processes related to memory, identity and perception.
An experience can affect a person’s mental health in the long run very severely, so it is really important to have a therapeutic relationship with our family members and others.
So, now must have got the gist that the answer to the question of “Is multiple personality disorder real?” is yes.
How Does Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder Affect Someone
The psychological trauma and personal history adversely affect a person’s mental health system. These traumatic events affect a person severely.
They have headaches, amnesia, time loss, mood swings, unexplained sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, delusions, anxiety, hallucinations, depression, inability to remember large parts of childhood, the difference in handwriting from time to time, out of body experiences, self-harm, suicide attempts, violent behavior, sometimes they are not able to keep track of their distinct identities.
It makes their daily life quite inconvenient, it isn’t the same for all, but these are some symptoms that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder experience. It is one of the many pieces of evidence that agrees with “Is multiple personality disorder real?”
The identities may have different preferences, genders, accents, ethnicities, personality traits, behaviors, skills, and memories, and it’s like multiple people in one body. People with Dissociative Identity Disorder confirmed it’s like hearing voices, and for a little while, they dissociate from the world.
For example, if a person is driving to New York for an important meeting, if they switch into a separate identity on their way, an identity with different memories and even skills a lot of the time, may get confused as to why they’re in a car and drive back home.
After reaching back home, the identity that they initially had may switch back in, with no recollection of why they’re back home instead of on their way to an important meeting and what happened in the time they lost. This is an example of what a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder may or may not experience in their daily life.
Now moving on to the question that may or may not be popping up in your head, “Is multiple personality disorder real?”
Is Multiple Personality Disorder Real
It may seem unrealistic or not possible at first to some people; some of you might ask yourself, how is it possible to have two people with different memories and behavior in one body? How is it possible to have alternate identities so distinct from one another? Is multiple personality disorder real?
It may come off as a surprise to you, but 1-3 % of the general population has DID; they represent in the same amount as gingers (people with natural red hair) are present in the world.
There have been many cases, all these years, with true stories, and interviewers, as well as psychologists and other people, have seen people switch personalities in a genuine way in front of them.
A real-life example of Dissociative Identity Disorder
This may help you understand and get the answer to “Is multiple personality disorder real?” One of the prime examples of this is Jeni Hayne. She went through a lot of physical pain and sexual abuse at the age of 4 years.
She now has 2500 personalities and is clinically diagnosed with a Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her father, Richard Hayne, tortured her tremendously. This was one of the worst child abuse cases in the country, according to the Australian police.
This caused Jeni to create multiple personalities in her mind, and she used this as a coping mechanism from a young age to deal with her severe trauma and mental health conditions.
She had a little girl called a symphony, the protector muscles, the organizer Eric, and many more personalities within that one body. It was like an army of identities helping her cope with her trauma.
And in the landmark trial in March, Jeni testified in court, along with her multiple personalities and valid evidence against her father. What an extraordinary case, perhaps the first person with Dissociative Identity Disorder to testify along with their separate identities in court.
Each time you ask yourself, Is multiple personality disorder real? Remember that this is one of many cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder in the world.
People with Dissociative Identity Disorder have distinct identities, and due to their childhood trauma and emotional distress, identity alteration is possible and has been proven and identified by the DSM-5 and hence is real.
There have been multiple interviews with people with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and if you watch them, you can clearly see the ingenuity and how the person’s behavior switches, and you can tell it isn’t a hoax.
There are multiple people sharing their stories through the internet or books, and some of the people may be making it up for whatever reason, but the disorder is real and does exist.
So, the answer to “Is multiple personality disorder real?” is definitely yes.
Other Dissociate Disorders
1. Dissociative Amnesia
Not only is multiple personality disorder real, but there are also other dissociative disorders too.
Dissociative Amnesia (DA) is generally considered the most common dissociative disorder. Like the name itself says, the main symptom of Dissociative Amnesia is memory loss, which usually occurs suddenly for a few minutes or hours and rarely, for months or years, it’s more than just ordinary forgetfulness.
This isn’t about not being able to remember something like where you kept the charger, it’s a disorder that makes people lose time in a way that they can recall living certain events, or sometimes certain information about themselves or something else, a piece in their life goes missing, which may or may not be limited to certain specific areas (thematic).
It may involve waking up in the morning and not being able to recall what they did the entire day on the previous day and confused wandering around (dissociative fugue).
De-realization disorder: It is a dissociative disorder in which you feel detached or disconnected from your surroundings. It is a mental state that makes people and things around you feel unreal for a few moments. This usually happens in the form of episodes.
The most common causes of De-realization are childhood neglect or trauma, seizure, dementia, drug abuse, Schizophrenia, depression, stress, anxiety, other dissociative disorders.
Dissociative Symptoms of De-realization are:
1. Surroundings feeling, blurry, artificial, or distorted
2. Sounds feeling distorted or too loud or faint
3. Objects looking sharper than usual
4. It feels like the time has either stopped or is moving too fast or slow
5. World feels muted or fake
De-personalization- It is very similar to De-realization; the only different thing is that in this dissociative disorder, instead of feeling detached from your surroundings, you feel detached from yourself and your thoughts, feelings, and body.
A nervous system that’s less reactive to emotions, physical conditions like seizure disorders, or certain mental or physical illnesses can be the biological causes of it.
But it can also occur due to traumatic experiences such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, a parent with a mental illness, childhood neglect, war, loss of a loved one, accidents, life-threatening danger, natural disasters, etc.
Dissociative Symptoms of De-personalization are-
1) Feeling disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, and body
2) Feeling lifeless or robot-like
3) Feeling as if you’re observing yourself like a third party from outside your body
4) Emotional numbness to your senses
5) Feeling as if you and your body, arms, legs are distorted
6) Feeling that your memories lack your emotions and that they may or may not be your memories
7) Panic or anxiety attacks
Myths About Dissociative Identity Disorder
Since we have came to the conclusion that the answer to “Is multiple personality disorder real?” is yes, then let’s look into the myths related to them.
1. Myth: Dissociative Identity Disorder is a ‘fad’
This is a myth that brings up the question, “Is multiple personality disorder real?”
Some people suggest that Dissociative Identity Disorder is a “fad that has died” a fad is something that has been popular for some time; you could call it a trend or a phase.
Dissociative Identity Disorder cases have been described in the literature for hundreds of years, it has been around forever, and sure the number of diagnosed cases hasn’t been the exact same throughout.
But it isn’t something like a trend that people are making up to look good or interesting, some may make a story up, but not everyone. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a recognized disorder with thousands of cases and patients that require help.
But it isn’t a hoax or a fad. It is very much real and not just around for a short period of time, and each time someone asks you, “Is multiple personality disorder real?” tell them that it is and that it isn’t a fad.
2. Myth: Dissociative Identity Disorder is extremely rare
Dissociative Identity Disorder has been found to occur in as many as 1% of the general population. Yes, 1% may not sound like a huge amount, but it is more common than one would imagine. About 6% of Dissociative Identity Disorder patients have gone through extremely severe and torturous childhood trauma.
3. Myth: This disorder makes people violent
People with Dissociative Identity Disorder have had their fair share of dealing with society’s stigmatizing nature. Considering that they can switch identities, people simply assume that one of those identities would be violent since it isn’t always under the control of the patient.
Several times all the fingers point to the person with Dissociative Identity Disorder when it is a matter of criminal activity.
It is possible for a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder to have a violent identity, but just as much as any other person. Hence it’s false that every person with Dissociative Identity Disorder is violent.
4. Myth: The portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder in movies and TV is sensationalized.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is misunderstood and exaggerated by the media several times, leaving an impact and impression on the viewers about what Dissociative Identity Disorder is like.
They show it to be very sociopathic or violent, like in the movie Split, and particularly its trailer. It plays on the public’s worst fears and myths about Dissociative Identity Disorder.
The negative stereotypes of the disorder perpetuated by TV and movies may discourage people living with the condition from getting help, due to either feeling mocked, guilty, or embarrassed.
The people who have already dealt with the trauma of such severe form that it causes them to have alternate personalities with severe symptoms, don’t need any more mockery or trauma on their plate.
5. Myth: Dissociative Identity Disorder is the same as borderline personality disorder
A borderline personality disorder is nowhere near being the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Borderline personality disorder makes a person severely afraid of abandonment and being alone, to an extent where they have fits of anger, self-harm episodes, unstable relationships, an unclear image of themselves, extreme mood swings, and the chronic feeling of emptiness due to it.
Since one can clearly tell that they’re both very different, why is there even any confusion? People’s misinterpretation regarding DID and BPD has happened due to the poor definition of BPD given in various editions of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)
In DSM-5, this ninth criterion of BPD is “transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.” the word ‘dissociative’ seems to have misled people into thinking that it is the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Yes, they have a few similar symptoms, such as self-harm, anxiety, identity crisis, risk-taking, mood swings, but the core and main elements of the two are very different clearly.
Is multiple personality disorder real? It isn’t that easy for a person to accept that there is a possibility that there may be more than one identity in their body, but it is important to diagnose it in order to grow.
If you’re confused about if you do or do not have DID, here are some symptoms that you may be noticing-
- Others observe multiple identities in you, which come involuntarily, and each has its own perception, personality traits, thinking about itself and the outside world.
- You have gaps in memories that you can’t explain in your day-to-day life, as well as in past traumatic events.
- Your symptoms cause you significant stress or problems in your relationships, work, or other important areas of your life.
- You experience “Out of body experiences.”
You should visit a Psychiatrist that will perform a psychiatric diagnosis with the help of a:
Physical test: The doctor will examine you by asking in-depth questions about your personal history as well as your reviews and symptoms.
Psychiatric test: The mental health professional will ask questions about your feelings, thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Psychiatric test: The mental health professional will ask questions about your feelings, thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5: The mental health professional will compare your symptoms to the symptoms given in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical manual) that was published by the American psychiatric association.
Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder is very much real, and it is important to remove the stigma around its name since a disorder because of trauma is nothing to be ashamed of.
It doesn’t make you any less of a person; or a villain, and it’s important to have a correct diagnosis and a proper treatment to have a better and more convenient life.
I hope this was helpful and answered the question ‘Is multiple personality disorder real?’