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What is dissociative identity Disorder (DID)?Fragmented personality is when there is the presence of two or more distinct identities (alters) that recurrently take control of behaviour. Each alter has its own distinct preferences and identity, which results in the interaction a completely different “person” when interacting with a separate alter. It is categorized as a mental health condition and considered to be very rare.
Why does it develop?
Repeated trauma during early childhood, before age 10 that is too overwhelming for the individual to manage. To block out unpleasant memories, the brain creates amnesia walls as an extreme form of defense mechanism.
It is created for the purpose of survival and coping with trauma. It also holds different memories, roles and meanings within the system. Besides that, different names, ages, genders, and preferences for clothing and people. Physiological responses can differ between alters (heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity). And not all alters are aware of the others.
Common types of alters
One of the common types of alters is the host. It controls the body most of the time and it does not hold memories of the trauma they experienced.
Secondly, child. This alter has a child-like presentation and it may or may not hold memories of trauma.
Besides that, there is also the gatekeeper. This may present as emotionless to cope with the memories, but has access to all traumatic memories.
Lastly, the protector. It manages unpleasant emotions such as anger, fear, and shame. It also deals with perceived threats, or abuse.
Common challenges of DID
Hard to keep track of time and things that they are doing when alter changes as they usually do not have shared memories.
Control of body
Alters have varying access to the body. Typically, they do not get to choose when to front resulting in the loss of their own bodily controls.
Some triggers would encourage certain alter to front, resulting in certain alters surfacing more often.
Comorbid mental health conditions
This includes post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and even eating disorders.
Recovery - What it entails?
Recovery help alters be aware of each other. It also establishes clear communication and boundaries between alters. This allows alters to work together to function as a whole. They will also receive support and work to resolve past trauma.
By : Dr Shawn Ee
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist