The D in D.I.D.

Dissociation. What is it? Why did Multiple Personality Disorder have a name change to Dissociative Identity Disorder? When did it happen and who decided it? All good questions. Most people, if you ask them if they know what Dissociative Identity Disorder is, won’t have a clue. But you mention Multiple Personality Disorder, and they’ll immediately know, or at least have heard of it. But they, like so many other people, will be confused as to why it had a name change.

So let’s look into the Dissociative part of D.I.D. and why it’s important.

First of all, what is Dissociation?

The Better Health Channel characterises Dissociation as a “mental process of disconnecting from one's thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. The dissociative disorders that need professional treatment include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder and dissociative identity disorder.”

Having multiple Parts, or Alters, is a symptom of Dissociation, not the other way around. When the person was subjected to horrendous abuse and trauma at an early age, the child learned to disconnect themselves from what was happening to them in order to survive. The child’s unintegrated personality remained unintegrated. Integration is the opposite of Dissociation. Where Dissociation is when the Parts drift further apart and amnesic barriers develop between the various Parts of self, Integration is the coming together of Parts and the lowering of those barriers. Total Integration, or Fusion as we now know it, is when those separate Parts of self merge, or fuse, to become a Whole in the way they should have done in childhood if no trauma was present.

The child’s only coping strategy was to completely disconnect from reality, and the part of self that was able to deal with what was happening became an Alternative state of consciousness to the core personality. Alter is short for Alternative state of consciousness or self. And this is the result of dissociation.

When leading specialists in the field of psychiatry worked all this out, they made the decision to change the name from Multiple Personality Disorder to Dissociative Identity Disorder to better reflect the dissociative aspect of the condition. It’s a much more accurate description than M.P.D. The name change took place in the early 90’s and was added to the DSM-4.

What does Dissociation feel and look like? This can vary from person to person. It’s interesting to note that every single person on this planet dissociates. Everyone. Daydreaming is the most common and basic form of dissociation and everyone has daydreamed at least once in their lives. It becomes a disorder when the dissociation severely interrupts a person’s life in every aspect. Not all forms of Dissociation means a person has D.I.D. or multiple Parts/Alters. Only those with D.I.D. or OSDD (Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorders) have Alters. There are many dissociative disorders, and as always, if you suspect you are dissociating and losing time at a level that is uncomfortable for you, please visit a health professional for evaluation and assessment. Here is a list of the most common symptoms of dissociation:

  • Feeling disconnected from yourself

  • Problems with handling intense emotions

  • Sudden and unexpected shifts in mood – for example, feeling very sad for no reason

  • Depression or anxiety problems, or both

  • Feeling as though the world is distorted or not real (called ‘derealisation’)

  • Memory problems that aren’t linked to physical injury or medical conditions

  • Other cognitive (thought-related) problems such as concentration problems

  • Significant memory lapses such as forgetting important personal information

  • Feeling compelled to behave in a certain way

  • Identity confusion – for example, behaving in a way that the person would normally find offensive or abhorrent.

Treatment usually involved some form of psychotherapy with a trained psychiatrist or psychologist. Symptoms can be managed in time and by learning good grounding and coping strategies.

So in conclusion, the thing to remember is that D.I.D. is a Dissociative disorder not a personality disorder. People with D.I.D. do not have broken personalities. Their personalities are intact and fully functional… they just have more of them than a person without D.I.D.

Hope this was helpful in understanding Dissociation.