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Most of us would have heard about Multiple personality disorder or split personality, which is presently known as Dissociative identity disorder. It is really a rare disorder that affects 0.01 and 1% of the population. But how much do you know about it?

Multiple personality disorder

We might have come across people who act different and weird at times. But that would be in a rare situation. What if a person acts constantly weird and different? A girl called Shirley Mason became popular for her weird behaviors. She was born to a sadistic mother who gave her enemas which are used to treat certain medical conditions, to fill Shirley’s stomach with cold water.

When she grew, she experienced herself in different cities and hotels and she had no idea how she got there. But then she was recognized with 16 different personalities in her and they concluded that she had multiple personality disorder. What is it really? And what is it like to live with multiple personality disorder?

What is multiple personality disorder? 

It is the existence of two or more separate identities in a person, and these identities control the behavior of the person. Each of these separate identities will have its own personal history, traits, likes, and dislikes. And this leads to a gap in memory and hallucinations which means believing something to be real, which is actually not. This occurs at any age and more than men, women have a high chance of getting it. 

Personal preferences and attitudes change which may suddenly shift and shift back, and it is hard to predict when and where.

They are involuntary causing distress, and people with this dissociative identity disorder may feel that they are going through some differences observing their actions, speech, and bodies where for example, they can feel like they have a huge and muscular body, opposite gender and transformed into a small child. 

Over time experts agreed that the split personality fits in the category of dissociative disorder more than in the category personality disorder section and so the name got changed to dissociative identity disorder to represent the disorder in a better way. Personality is something that is pretty unchanged in our lifetimes but split personality and Dissociative identity disorder come as a result of trauma. 

How does it work?

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They will have at least two or more personalities and the person’s usual personality is known as core and the other personalities in him/her are known as alters. So when one of the alter takes control of the person’s behavior, they will experience amnesia for a period of time. 

The alter and the core personality will have separate individual characteristics, including the way of thinking, relating to surroundings, and history. The alter can also be indifferent genders with different names, preferences, and manners. 

Stress or reminder of trauma can make the person switch alters unexpectedly. It can also benefit the person, where if the person is a character who is scared of doing things, the alters can help do it in a confident way. But this can create problems in work and personal relationships. 

They may feel disconnected from their own thoughts, body, and feelings, experience headaches, body pain, odd surroundings, depression, mood swings, amnesia, memory loss, self-injuries, hallucinations and will even try to do suicide.

Because rather than hurting others, they end up hurting themselves where 70% of them had tried to attempt suicide. Moreover, they may feel that they have no control over themselves.

Causes of Dissociative identity disorders

Dissociative identity disorders usually develop when the person experiences trauma, which means an emotional response to past terrible events like accidents, war, kidnap, torture, rape, or natural disasters. They form in children who have got impacted due to long-term physical sexual or emotional abuse, or if they have come from an environment that is frightening or unpredictable.

A person or child who faces trauma uses this mechanism to escape and as a result, it responds with multiple personalities to stressful situations. 

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What is it like to live with multiple personality disorder?

Their voices will be inside their head more like the conscious thoughts having in the mind. The voices would be similar to the voices you hear in a crowded place or a voice when your partner or boss talks to you. The person might hear their opposite gender’s voices or a child’s voice.

They would miss their early life where for example they’ll find photos of them playing with their toys, or with their pet, but they will have no memory of playing with it. They might feel like a puppet controlled by different personalities, where one of the alters might need to cook, and so the person will be compelled to do so.

They sometimes won’t remember what they did, they get blamed for things, moving things around and they receive groceries and do not remember when they ordered. 

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At times they will feel like people have aged, and think that they look older, whereas actually the person with the disorder has aged as well, but they do not remember it. This is because of the younger voices inside them as if they look through the person’s body to find it different due to the split personality.

A voice of age 10 will be confused looking at the hand of a person aged 40. Sometimes they might feel upset and odd, or they can be crying without feeling stress or sadness. The reality can be tough for the person, family, and close friends. 


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Children who go through emotional, physical, and sexual abuse may be at high risk to develop this mental disorder. See a doctor immediately if your child has been abused or experienced traumatic events for your child to recover and adopt healthy skills. Talk to a trusted person in your faith community, ask for help like parenting support and family therapists and look for community education programs for you to learn a healthier parenting style. Prevent and help the people who are subjected to dissociative identity disorder.

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