Dissociative identity disorder is a type of mental disorder in which a person's identity consists of many parts that do not make up a whole. The person seems to have several personalities living in him or her, which are shifting and are not always aware of each other. These states are also called ego states or alters. They may well be of different ages, genders, temperaments, nationalities, bearing various attitudes and values. When switching, memories are not necessarily transferred from one personality to another, i.e., a person may partially remember or not remember events that happened in another ego state at all.

The disease occurs in 1-3% of the world's population. Until the 2000s, the existence of this disorder was doubted. But studies have proven that the activity occurring in the patient's brain, switching between personalities is impossible to replicate. There are various factors influencing the development of this disorder: childhood trauma, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as other psychiatric disorders.

The personalities living in the patient may occupy a position of "passive influence." They do not act as executors of actions, but may reveal themselves as voices in the head. In this case, the person does not perceive it as his or her own thoughts and may vocalize what he or she did not intend to or did not even remember. Each personality may have its own voices, manners, and even names. But the central personality may not be aware of all of them.

Some of the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include the presence of two or more personality states, which are manifested by changes in behavior, memory, and thinking, as well as gaps in memory, when a person cannot remember events that happened to him or her at certain moments in life. Symptoms can be found at different ages, including children and adolescents.

Common signs of split personality:

  • a person has no recollection of conflicts;
  • difficulty walking;
  • weakness in arms due to conflicts;
  • a person sways to relieve anxiety;
  • a person feels separation from the body;
  • no control over one's desires;
  • no clear awareness of one's sexual identity;
  • emotional instability;
  • pathological fantasizing;
  • boredom and frustration.

The diagnosis of split personality can only be made by a doctor.

Dissociation is a method of psychological defense, when a person disassociates from what is happening, thinking that it is not related to him or her. At this moment, thoughts, feelings, and memories become disconnected and lose contact with reality. This mechanism helps to avoid intolerable emotional shocks, for example, after a catastrophe or an accident. However, in case of excessive manifestation, it develops dissociative disorders.

There is a theory that the first instances of multiple personality appeared as early as Paleolithic times, which is evidenced by cave paintings. They depict shamans who could turn into animals or let spirits enter them. Later, such cases were perceived as being possessed by demons. The Swiss Renaissance physician Paracelsus described a woman who had two personalities and stole money from herself.

In 1784, Marquis Armand-Marie-Jacques de Puységur put his employee Victor into a somnambulist state by means of magnetic techniques. Victor was awake in his sleep, but in the morning, he remembered nothing. Puységur called this phenomenon "magnetic somnambulism" and opened the period of the study of dissociative identity disorder in terms of the theory of magnetic sleep. One of the cases described a German girl who had a second personality speaking French and claiming her French aristocratic origins.

The period of dissociation theory began in 1880. Cases of dissociation were seen as the presence of several centers of the psyche, which appear when struggling with a traumatic experience. There is a description of Louis Vivet case, who had six personalities with separate memories and patterns of behavior. Some books and publications with the stories of patients with dissociative disorder appeared at that time.

In 1973, the book "Sivilla" was published; it tells the true story of Shirley Ardell Mason, who had 16 personalities. Over the course of 10 years, she managed to recover from her disorder. Another famous book on dissociative disorder is written by Daniel Keyes, "The Minds of Billy Milligan." It is based on the interviews of Billy Milligan, who had 24 personalities, with his doctor.

A contemporary example is the London-based artist Kim Noble. At the age of 61, she has 20 personalities, including women, men, and children. Most often her consciousness is led by Patricia, who is the only person who knows about the bank card with all her money. Kim’s 14 personalities paint pictures, each with a different style, color, approach. Kim has a daughter, but not all of the personalities know about her, so sometimes the woman thinks that her friends asked her to babysit. Social workers check on Kim's condition daily and make sure she has everything she needs in the house. There have been many occasions in Kim Noble's life when a sudden change in personality could have led to death. As a teenager, she suffered from anorexia, bulimia, and could resort to suicide. One day Kim was driving a truck and suddenly her mind switched to a personality who didn't know how to drive. Kim crashed into a number of vehicles and was arrested. She was then diagnosed with schizophrenia. The switch between personalities happens three or four times a day, the woman says. She wrote an autobiographical book about her disorder, "All of Me."

People with dissociative identity disorder need support and care. Even if they resist, it is important to be patient and help them understand the need for treatment, so that they can make the decision on their own. It is possible to cope with the disease and improve one's life by following the recommendations of specialists.

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