Can a Person with Dissociative Identity Disorder Live a Normal Life?



  • dissociative memory disorder
  • dissociative identity disorder causes
  • self-destructive borderline personality disorder
  • Dr. Arceo Psychiatric Services

Life is never easy on any one of us but for some, it is way too unfair. This much is true, everyone has a different mechanism to cope with the injustices that life brings in our way. Most people fight back, while some keep on absorbing traumas that result in mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and in severe cases, even multiple personality disorder. 

Today we will discuss Dissociative Personality Disorder also known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

What is Dissociative Personality Disorder (DID)?

DID is a mental health condition in which there are two or more separate identities (states) living in the person. This individual is under the control of all of these states at different times. Dissociative identity disorder is caused by many factors, such as severe childhood trauma including constant physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. It is the result of repetitive unlikely events that affect the brain slowly causing severe damage.

However, DID is rare. Only 2 percent of the population have sufficient symptoms to be identified as suffering this disorder. Others may be suffering from delusional behaviors resulting from adopting or fantasizing about complexed characters displaying these characteristics in Hollywood movies. 

We are not saying that any such person emulating movie or fictional characters hasn’t undergone trauma but suffering from DID is not that common. Moreover, women are more prone to this disease than men.

How do these personalities operate in an individual?

The individual has one main personality, also known as the host identity, it is this main persona that is traumatic, dependent, and depressed. The other personalities behave as the host’s coping mechanism to face the traumas that the main personality is going through. These alternative states may be of different ages, thought processes, genders, and sexual preferences. Each personality may also has a different way of relating to the world. While one is scared of everything, the others may be fierce or even violent. 

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Symptoms of DID change with age and according to the person’s situation. Children do not exhibit a complete change in their personalities. Instead, the common symptoms found in them are:

  • Zoning out
  • Having unsettling dreams
  • Flashbacks of traumatic memories
  • Severe memory loss and loss of time
  • Seizures and self-harm
  • Unexpected, sudden shifts in likes and dislikes
  • Trauma reminders
  • Frequent changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Social withdrawal

In adults, the common symptoms include:

  • De-realization Disorder: The feeling of dissociation from one’s body, actions, and thoughts
  • Dissociative memory disorder (Amnesia): Loss of a large part of childhood and other memories.
  • Confusion: Inexplicable events occurring such as finding oneself somewhere and not knowing how you reached there, or finding cuts on your body and not knowing what caused them.
  • Sense of losing time but not knowing what you were doing during specific periods of time
  • Displaying two or more completely different personalities
  • Visible change in handwriting when in other states (personalities)
  • Recurrent flashbacks of traumatic events.
  • Hallucinations
  • Self-harm and suicidal attempts without the main identity knowing of these attempts
  • Change of body language and sexual preferences. For instance, if the main state is introverted and shy, the alter egos may be extremely outgoing, confident, and bold.
  • Change in the ability to perform tasks
  • Severe pain in body parts, especially the head
  • Depression, anxiety, and mood swings
  • Sleeping and eating problems
  • Sexual dysfunction. Either become addicted to sex, or completely avoiding it.
  • Panic disorders
  • Struggle to maintain professional and personal relationships

Some people with DID may get involved in substance abuse to escape symptoms and pain. These drugs may temporarily help them but in long term, they often get addicted which gives rise to even bigger problems.

Diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder

The diagnostic procedure for both children and adults involves experienced mental health professionals asking questions about the symptoms, behavior, and history of the patient. These mental health counselors may also choose to collect records from parents, teachers, caregivers, and the individuals suffering from the disorder.

Mental health professionals use the methods from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

To be diagnosed with DID a person have to exhibit these behaviors if not all the symptoms:
To be diagnosed with DID a person have to exhibit these behaviors if not all the symptoms:

  • Two or more alters. When a patient's identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personality states these are called 'alters' (alternate identities)
  • Gaps in the memory of childhood traumas, personal information, and even day to day activities
  • Unresponsive behavior, and zoning out
  • Experiencing strange events, e.g., having imaginary friends
  • Gets violent and chaotic if drugs or alcohol are withheld

Living with a Person Suffering from DID

Living with someone who has DID is not just difficult but painful. You may also experience physical and mental abuse at their hands. Where on one hand you are angered by their behavior, at the same time you feel for them, since you recognize they are out of control. Moreover, you may not be able to determine and keep the track of all the alternate personalities they have. Not knowing who you encounter and interact with the next minute makes you fearful confused, and extremely stressed out. 
Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Treatment of DID might take several years but it is necessary and effective. If the patient is left untreated the disorder will continue for a lifetime and even gets worse as the years pass. Sometimes other diseases also get associated with DID, such as Dissociative Amnesia, De-realization Disorder, and Depression, amongst others. Therefore it is essential to consult a psychotherapist while there is still time.

The treatment of DID involves:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Family therapy
  • Clinical Hypnosis

During psychotherapy, the patient is helped to work through past traumas and adjust their behavior by accepting whatever they did under the influence of other personalities. If the individual is not yet ready to face their injuries and abuse, mental health professionals move towards another approach. It involves integrating all the alters (personalities) into one. The psychotherapist reveals all the personalities to the person and unifies them. This treatment takes a period of almost five to seven years but is known to be effective.


Medicines are given to lessen the symptoms like pain, anxiety, sleep impairment, and mood swings but no drug can treat DID as it is not an organic disorder.

Family Therapy

Educating the family of the patient is important because they have to adjust their behavior according to the situation. Otherwise, the patient will not get well. It is not easy to live with sufferers but to improve their life and your relationship with them, patience is a pre-requisite. 

Family members are taught about the changes that will occur during the psychotherapy and integration of personalities. They are also made aware of the symptoms of recurrence of the disease. This information does not just help the patient but also loved ones who live with them or associate with them on a regular basis.

Clinical Hypnosis

There are controversies about this treatment; some state that therapists implant false memories in patients’ minds during hypnosis. However, this is a very effective treatment in conjunction with psychotherapy. If performed safely by an experienced therapist, Hypnosis can help in the management of sleep, eating patterns, sexual dysfunction, and other symptoms related to DID. The main purpose of this treatment is to help patients recall repressed memories and work through them. This requires highly trained professionals and a motivated and willing patient to make hypnosis successful.

Can a Person With DID Live a Normal Life?

Yes, proper treatment can make it possible for a person to live a normal life.

Although there is a possibility that symptoms of DID may return even after treatment, t

he patient has a better understanding this time. They will know how to manage th

eir alters, distress and other symptoms, and in this way they will spend a better life.

If you or your loved ones are experiencing symptoms of Dissociative Identity disorder please get an appointment as soon as possible. Dr. Arceo Psychiatric Service has trained and experienced professional for DID. Here you will receive authentic treatment in friendly and comfortable environment. We understand the importance of provider/patient relationship and with this attitude we have changed the lives of so many of our visitors. Image source