Many people are familiar with dissociative disorders as a multiple personality disorder. It occurs when a person has a literal disturbance in their identity. It is easy to notice this disorder because someone suffering from it will have a minimum of two distinct and separate personalities that are displayed at different times, yet still under personal control. These different personalities, which are called alters, may cause someone to have different mannerisms, styles of speech, and some may even be right-handed when the person is naturally left-handed.
Statistics on Dissociative Disorder
1. People living with DID are depressed or even suicidal and self-mutilation is common in this group.
2. About 1 in 3 people with dissociative disorder suffer from visual or auditory hallucinations.
3. DID occurs in up to 1% of the general population. It’s a serious mental illness that affects people across all income levels and all ethnic groups.
4. Some limited studies have shown that as many as 1 in 10 people in the general population may suffer at least from a short term episode of DID at least once in their life.
5. Women are 9x more likely to develop a dissociative disorder compared to men. There is an approximate prevalence of 3-6 per 1000 in women.
6. A diagnosis of DID can be had as long as there are 2 distinct alters on display. Some people have been known to develop up to 100 different alters.
7. 10. That’s the average amount of different personalities that someone with DID will have.
8. Research has shown that the average age for the initial development of alters is 5.9 years old.
9. DID can develop as a side effect of another mental illness, such as PTSD or Borderline Personality Disorder.
10. There are 5 main ways in which the dissociation of psychological processes changes the way a person experiences life: depersonalization, derealization, amnesia, identity confusion, and identity alteration.
11. The likelihood that a tendency to dissociate is inherited genetically is estimated to be 0.
12. Approximately 73% of individuals exposed to a traumatic incident will experience dissociative states during the incident or in the hours, days and weeks following the incident.
13. Most cases begin before the age of 35. Dissociation is unusual in the elderly.
14. Dissociative amnesia and fugue will usually resolve on its own without any treatment.
15. Dissociative Fugue has a prevalence rate of 0.2% in the general population, but this figure is higher when there are periods of extreme stress.
16. Some researchers have suggested that Depersonalization Disorder is the third most common psychological disorder following depression and anxiety.
17. A history of severe abuse is thought to be associated with DID.
18. People who may benefit either emotionally or legally from having DID sometimes pretend to have it.
19. Psychotherapy is the mainstay of treatment of DID and usually involves helping individuals with DID improve their relationship with others.
Dissociative Disorder Concurrences
There are even incidents of dissociative disorders where a person will require eyeglasses for one personality, but be able to see clearly with other personalities. It is very much a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of situation. The personalities rarely interact with each other and a person may not even remember what happened when a different personality is on display. Most people aren’t even aware that they have this disorder when they seek out help. They just know that something is wrong because they have missing time.
The causes of dissociative identity disorder are not known. It can be an extremely distressing condition because people may keep running into others that know who they are, but they have no memory of them. Sometimes they may not even remember purchasing something in the past because it happened under another personality. New personalities can even surface and take over previous personalities that were once dominant.
As the statistics show, a dissociative disorder is an extremely complex medical condition that requires an individualistic approach. It is a unique condition of the human mind and one that can be incredibly stable, sometimes being present for years before someone finally decides to seek out help.
Prevention and Treatment
Although is may not be possible to prevent the development of dissociative disorders, it is helpful to seek out treatment as soon as possible should one make its presence known.
The complications of a dissociative disorder can be as complex as the disorder itself. It is not uncommon for self-injury to occur, but substance abuse can easily be substituted in for the desire to harm oneself. Some people with a dissociative disorder will repeatedly victimize others, which is why there are some people who may try to fake this disorder in order to get away with their crimes. Violence, attempted suicides, and other mental illnesses can all be a chronic problem.
Treatment is usually positive and responsive, but it can be difficult for some folks with a dissociative disorder to cope with the combining of their alters or the integration of their memories. Many of these splits tend to occur when abuse occurs so that the painful memory can be blocked out. Recovering the lost time or memories can then become a trigger for other mental illness breaks and that may even cause temporary setbacks on the way to recovery.
It is not uncommon for anxiety and panic disorders to be associated with dissociative disorders as well. The best thing to do is encourage someone to seek out proactive treatment if they’ve suffered a highly traumatic event in their life just recently, such as a death, a divorce, or a highly stressful incident like an armed robbery. The proactive therapy may just be enough to prevent dissociative disorders from forming.
The idea that these disorders are rare is a myth. They can be common, profound, and devastating. By knowing the facts about dissociative disorders, the myths can finally be dispelled so people will be able to seek out the treatment they need.