The signs and symptom of dissociative identity disorder (DID) vary depending on the individual. What drives them, however, is severe episodes of dissociation that manifest as multiple personalities brought about by severe, persistent periods of childhood trauma or neglect.
Even though there are many DID symptoms and signs, it is still very difficult to diagnose DID. It is estimated that people with dissociative disorders spend, on average, seven years in the mental health system before receiving an accurate diagnosis. This is because many of the DID symptoms people seek help for are similar to those seen in other mental health disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. In fact, some of these disorders may co-occur with dissociative identity disorder.
Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
The official symptoms of dissociative identity disorder have been most recently defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. The following are the diagnostic symptoms of DID:
- Two or more distinct personalities exist in one individual; one personality is always present (Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters)
- Dissociative amnesia including gaps in the recall of important personal information and everyday events
- Severe distress and impairment in functioning because of the disorder
- The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices
- The disturbance can't be explained but substance use or another medical condition
You can read these real dissociative identity disorder stories and watch videos to understand the effect of DID symptoms.
Signs of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
While the official DID symptom list is short, the signs of DID are numerous. Dissociative behavior is 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" while compartmentalization is "solation" or splitting off of part of the personality or mind with lack of communication and consistency between the parts."
People with DID often also suffer from borderline personality disorder characteristics, somatization disorder (physical symptoms without cause), major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts.
The signs of dissociative identity disorder include a number of characteristics regarding the multiple personalities including:
- Personalities are discrepant (disagreeing) and often opposite.
- Each personality is well-ingrained with its own memories, behavioral patterns and social relationships that govern its behavior.
- Transition from one personality to another is often sudden and brought on by stress.
Other signs of DID include:
- Amnesia or blackouts (in the absence of substance use)
- The person referring to him or herself as "we"
- The person being told that they did certain things to don't recall. The person may find unfamiliar objects or samples of strange handwriting.
- Sleepwalking and automatic writing (such as those in fugue states)
- Auditory hallucinations
- Phobias; fear, often undifferentiated
- Difficulty in parenting and responding to own children
- Problems trusting others
- Hostility and anger
- A sense of betrayal
- Problems with sexual adjustment
- Increased levels of sexual behavior
- Substance abuse
Signs of DID in Children
Children are rarely diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, but signs of DID in children include some of the above as well as:
- Appearing withdrawn, frightened or uninvolved
- Being considered "different" with an unclear reason as to why
- Erratic access to knowledge, information and skills that manifest as fluctuating abilities, moods, fears, preferences and anxieties
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- School difficulties
- Running away from home