Dissociative identity disorder is one of the rarer mental health disorders; it is also one of the most misunderstood, despite featuring in many films and books over the years, most notably “The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil”. But what exactly is dissociative identity disorder and what are the causes of dissociative identity disorder?
Dissociative identity disorder is also known as multiple personality disorder and is characterized by several different and very distinct personalities residing within the same person. The patient will typically experience blackouts of time and memory when other personalities (referred to as “alters”) come to the fore. Such episodes might include ending up in a strange place with no recollection of having got there, or hearing voices and suffering from a sense of disconnection from reality.
It is thought that there is a genetic element to cases of dissociative personality disorder and many experts believe that some personality types are more susceptible to the disorder than others: two children can suffer exactly the same experiences of abuse, but only one might eventually develop dissociative personality disorder.
What are the causes of dissociative personality disorder?
The mental health fraternity is somewhat divided as to whether dissociative identity disorder exists, but for those who believe that the disorder should be considered a recognizable mental health illness, the causes of dissociative identity disorder are thought to be related to abuse in early childhood or a highly traumatic event.
In the majority of documented cases of dissociative personality disorder, the primary cause is severe sexual or physical abuse in the early childhood years. Such a traumatic event in a young child’s life, particularly if the abuse continues over a long period of time, can often lead to memory suppression as a way of coping with the abuse, which in a few cases will ultimately cause dissociative personally disorder.
The painful and traumatic memories of the abuse are sealed away inside a small box in the patients mind. Eventually this causes all kinds of psychological problems. The patient begins to dissociate and the main personality fractures, leading to the symptoms of multiple personality disorder.
Are there any other causes of dissociative personality disorder?
The symptoms of dissociative personality disorder can also occur as a result of physical problems. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy can trigger the same symptoms as multiple personality disorder. Other possible physical causes of the disorder include Alzheimer’s, strokes, encephalitis, and sleep or sensory deprivation.
Brain injuries in the corpus callosum can also cause the symptoms of dissociative personality disorder. This corpus callosum connects the right and left cerebral cortex, so if this is severed as a result of an injury, a “Jekyll and Hyde” complex can develop whereby two separate, but dominant personalities can arise.
What treatments are available for dissociative personality disorder?
Drug treatment for patients with dissociative personality disorder is largely considered to be ineffective, but mental health professionals have had some success with techniques designed to integrate the separate personalities back into one personality and one of the most common treatments for the disorder is intensive psychotherapy.