5 Signs of Multiple Personality Disorder

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay

Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder is a complex psychological disorder, which is difficult to diagnose and controversial. It is characterized by severe episodes of dissociation. Dissociative behavior can be divided into two categories: detachment and compartmentalization. Detachment is a voluntary or involuntary feeling or emotion that accompanies a sense of separation from normal associations or environment. Compartmentalization is a splitting off of the personality into separate parts where there is a lack of communication and consistency between each part. One key characteristic of dissociative identity disorder is that there have to be at least two distinct personality states. Many healthcare professionals believe dissociative identity disorder is a genuine disorder while other mental health professionals feel it is an offshoot of other mental illnesses and should be removed from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, fifth edition).

Research suggests that dissociative identity disorder is a reaction to a person’s environment. Interpersonal and environmental stresses, particularly during childhood, result in a vertical splitting of consciousness. It is believed to originate from severe and persistent periods of childhood trauma or neglect. This differs from a horizontal splitting that results in repression. People who suffer from dissociative identity disorder spend an average of seven years before they get an accurate diagnosis. Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder will vary depending on the individual. However, to be diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder a person must meet these 5 criteria.

1. Disruption of identity caused by the presence of two or more distinct identity states
A person with dissociative identity disorder experiences a splitting of their personality which manifests as one or more distinct personalities. The different personalities may be self-reported or reported by others. Each personality has a distinct pattern of perceiving and thinking about the environment and self. A person with dissociative personality disorder will report feelings of being depersonalized. They will report feeling out of their body and having strong impulses that they feel are not their own. One personality will always be present. The alternate personalities are known as alters and exhibit different behaviors, consciousness, memories, perceptions, cognitions and sensory-motor functioning. Alters can have different accents, memories, ages, names, functions, genders and other traits. The alter personality with the most control is called the host, which may or may not be the person’s original personality. There are common alters that exist 1) child and adolescent, 2) protector or rescuer, 3) persecutor, 4) perpetrator and 5) avenger.

2. Recurring periods of amnesia
The individual with dissociative identity disorder has recurrent lapses in memory which goes beyond normal forgetting. This amnesia is caused by the childhood trauma that was suffered at a young age. Many people with dissociative identity disorder do not recall the trauma. There is a blocking of whole chunks of memories. Entire periods of their lives may be forgotten as well as moments of their day. The amnesia can appear in the following ways:

a) There are large gaps in childhood memories
A person may recall some of their childhood and then have blank periods where they recall nothing.

b) Will forget dependable memories
A person will not be able to remember what happened during their entire day and may forget a skill that they have. For instance, they may not be able to recall their ability to play the piano or repair computers.

c) Discovery of everyday actions that they do not recollect
A person with dissociative identity disorder may wake up and find that they have purchased an entirely new wardrobe. The wardrobe may include items they would never wear. Further, they will have no recollection of having purchased the items. Some may experience a dissociative fugue and find they have traveled to a different county, state or even country and have no recollection of how they got there.

3. The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas as a result of the disorder
This is a common criteria for all serious mental illness diagnoses. The disorder must cause severe distress and impairment in functioning.

4. The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices
The disorder is not viewed as normal in society. For example, in Western culture, an imaginary friend is seen as normal/appropriate and not indicative of a mental illness.

5. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance
The symptoms that are experienced are not a result of substance abuse. For instance, this does not include blackouts from alcoholism or drug abuse. In the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, blood work may be taken to make sure no drugs are in the person’s system.

This article is not meant to diagnose or be a guide for self-diagnosis. The purpose of this article is to educate readers on a serious mental illness. The purpose of this article is not to vilify or shame individuals who suffer from this serious illness. If you feel you or someone you know meets the necessary criteria please know you are not alone and seek the help of a mental health professional.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a professional relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a medical professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Copy of Dr. Eric Perry

“I help ambitious and high achieving individuals manifest a life of success and fulfillment in order to achieve the life they truly desire.”

Dr. Eric Perry | drericperry.com

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56 responses to 5 Signs of Multiple Personality Disorder

  1. Nicolle says:

    I’m lucky enough to not have this disorder, but I’ve read about it before because I had dissociative coping mechanism as a child and wanted to learn more. 🙂

    I’d go to school and not recall any of parents’ fights when I was with my friends, then I’d go home and not remember much about school (including needing to do homework and the teacher’s scolding). It wasn’t that I didn’t remember anything (I did when I really thought about it), but there was like an unintentional on-off switch flip for each location / situation. Because of that, I was a very spaced out kid and in a way kind of dumb as a lot of things didn’t “occur to me”. Luckily I became self-aware and alert as an adult, it was like I suddenly woke up from a hazy dream. 😅

    I realise it’s not the same as having DID; mine feels really mild compared to it, so I hope that I’ll recognise the signs if I do encounter someone with DID. Thanks for sharing this, Eric, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing mine too. 😀

    Liked by 7 people

  2. It Probably Gets Better says:

    I’m not sure if my actions are related to this specific illness, but I am curious as to if this is a healthy practice: As a writer, I have many characters, many of which were created specifically to escape behind. It seems that nearly 70% of my daily life consists of actions and thoughts perceived through the eyes of those who do not exist. If I am anxious, I tend to disappear behind the eyes of a character who is confident and sure-footed. This kind of behavior follows me into other situations and other personalities. It’s become almost habit to become these imaginary people, even when doing something as trivial as eating lunch or washing dishes.

    Another thing I find myself constantly doing is speaking or being in the company of people who aren’t there. It’s often automatic, and I can lose hours to this vivid “daydreaming,” we’ll call it. I suppose I use it as a coping mechanism in times of need. For example, if I am walking through a crowded place, I am often accompanied by an imaginary person who keeps me from giving in to anxiety.

    Is this healthy or normal? I’m not sure if this is something I need to prevent or continue allowing to appear in my daily life. Thank you in advance for any advice. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi, thank you so much for your comment and question. In my opinion this sounds like it could be maladaptive daydreaming. Interestingly, I am posting a blog on this tomorrow. Please read and let me know if this helps. If you would like to consult about this directly please feel free to email me✨

      Liked by 4 people

  3. themonochromereaper says:

    This was extremely helpful. Thank you for posting this. This really shows the keypoints on detecting this specific disorder which was normally left undetected for years.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Autumn says:

    My mother had DID from years of severe abuse beginning in childhood. It took many years for her providers to finally reach her diagnosis. Very complex for sure!

    Liked by 7 people

  5. I was diagnosed a year ago and it made things so much more understandable in my life and it made me understand my mother a lot more. The hurt is still there but at least I understand that she probably didn’t always know what she was doing. I will be following you though. I’m just getting started in my profession and helping others.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. arsenios says:

    I was diagnosed a year ago and it made things so much more empathizeable in my aliveness and it made me empathize with my female parent a lot more. thank you!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. tashdango says:

    Thank you for this post. My fiance and best friend–has DID and ended our engagement two months ago after a the trauma of a custody dispute with her ex-husband triggered an…I apologize if I don’t know the proper term…split/episode.

    She went from being my best friend to cutting me out of her life entirely and has refused to speak to me or see me in more than two months. Your post helps me to understand somewhat…but the ruin of what she’s done (whether or not she’s responsible) has been more painful than I can express. Again, thanks for your post.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Thank you for sharing this info. Sometimes I think I have a pinch of every disorder. (Doesn’t everyone?) Seriously, though, I often wonder if the gaps in childhood memories I have contribute to some of my present-day struggles. Growing up as a “new kid” all the time was not easy, but I don’t recall any major incidents. Still, I couldn’t name one teacher or classmate from grades 1-5.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. floatinggold says:

    DID is such a terrible disorder. Like you mentioned – experts do not have united opinions on that topic. Often times, patients are misdiagnosed and/ or mistreated. And once correctly diagnosed, the treatment is not as straightforward or easy as it may seem.

    When I first heard of this, I thought it was a joke. I could not imagine that our brain could be so messed up in an attempt to protect us from ourselves.

    I have never encountered anyone struggling with this in real life, but I was always curious to know more, so I read books and watched movies. There is still not enough information.


    Liked by 4 people

    • helgaleena says:

      One of my fellow romance writers admits to having DID and mines it for her writing quite successfully I think. It may bleed into her personal life, but she seems at peace with that. Sometimes one of her fictional characters will begin a whole new Facebook account and speak about her in the 3rd person. Sometimes i get envious of her ability to live her work.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. Really informative post. Thanks for sharing. I recently experienced this with my mom while she was recovering from a fall. Apparently the medication she was taking really impacted her personality and even her memory. Fortunately, this was only temporary.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. suavetrans says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have only begun writing about having this diagnosis. But it is real and this post is succinctly put. I appreciate your talking about it.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. AllyNikk says:

    DID is such an interesting disorder to me; I have many books relating to the disorder, mainly biographies. One of my favorites is When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase. I’m studying Neuroscience and really want to focus in on mental illnesses and this grabs my curiosity! I couldn’t imagine having this disorder or even knowing someone who does. Just the thought of childhood traumas in others makes me sad 😦 I always say this in your comments, but I love your blog! xoxo

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Kris says:

    Thanks for this post. It took three years for someone to catch my husband’s correct diagnosis finally, after three years of being unsuccessfully medicated for bipolar disorder. No wonder it didn’t help. He wasn’t having manic episodes, he was dissociating in direct response to trauma. I am so grateful to the therapist who administered a questionnaire about dissociation and passed it on to his prescribing med practitioner. The disorder may be rare, but without any attention or awareness at all, my husband could still be engaged in ongoing incorrect treatments.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Susie says:

    Hello Dr. Perry. This is a very interesting article. The human brains ability to protect itself is awe inspiring. Thank you. I love your blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Thank you for sharing this. I have known/worked with two people that have/had MPD, other than myself (for most of my life, I had issues where I was acting like another person – but still could “see” what I was doing – it was like watching someone else acting in ways I never would – but I still held most – but not all – of the memories – so for me the DID doesn’t require full memory loss, but MPD does). The first person refused to even acknowledge a potential problem (he refused to acknowledge the possibility that he tried to kill me!), the second is now healed, and the split seems to be merged.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Hopyrane says:

    Thank you for sharing such an interesting post. But I have a question: Are there any differences between this Dissociative Identity Disorder and schizophrenia?

    Liked by 2 people

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