Multiple Personality Disorder

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which rarely looks at the brain, Amen Clinics uses brain imaging technology to identify brain patterns associated with narcissistic personality disorder and related conditions.

What is Multiple Personality Disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder)?

Multiple personality disorder is the former name for what is now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID). It is characterized by a disruption in memory, self-awareness, identity, or perception. People with this disorder develop one or more alternate and distinct identities, known as “alters.” Individuals with the disorder are often referred to as having multiple personalities or a split personality. People with multiple personality disorder, or DID, will experience gaps in autobiographical memory, including personal details, daily activities, and traumatic events. These symptoms can disrupt cognitive function and psychological wellbeing and can cause problems in every aspect of a person’s life.

Who Has It?

Dissociative identity disorder is considered to be very rare, and it is diagnosed more commonly in women than in men. However, the number of men with the disorder may be higher than reported because they are more likely to display aggressive behavior rather than the gaps in memory typically seen with DID.

Research shows that diagnosis is typically made around age 30, but signs of the disorder may begin in childhood as early as age 5. Multiple personalities, or alters, may surface at about age 6. By the time a person has reached adulthood, they typically report 16 alternate personalities. Adolescents with the disorder generally indicate about 24 alters.

What are the Core Symptoms?

People with dissociative identity disorder have two or more alternate personalities known as alters. These alters have distinct names, behaviors, memories, voices, and ways of viewing the world. In some cases, an alter may also have a different gender, ethnicity, or age. Some alters may be animals. As an individual goes from one personality to another, it’s called switching. Alters may emerge for just brief moments or may be present for days at a time. Signs of DID include memory loss, depersonalization, derealization, distortions, hallucinations, and engaging in behaviors that are out of character. (See more about symptoms below.)

What Causes It?

Researchers have found a profound link between trauma and the development of dissociative identity disorder. In fact, it is believed that trauma is the root cause of the condition in over 90% of people who develop the disorder.

Long-term emotional, sexual, or physical abuse in childhood is commonly associated with the condition. Exposure to natural disasters, military combat, or violence may also trigger the development of the disorder. It is believed that alternate personalities may initially develop as a sort of coping mechanism to disconnect from ongoing trauma or a stressful situation. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will experience dissociative symptoms.

People with DID often have co-occurring mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts and self-harm

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder?

At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive assessment to diagnose and treat our patients. We also assess other factors—biological, psychological, social, and spiritual—that can contribute to symptoms of DID. Based on all of this information, we are able to personalize treatment using the least toxic, most effective solutions for a better outcome so you can lead the kind of life you want. There is hope for people with multiple personalities, and people generally respond well to treatment. The goal of treatment is to integrate the multiple personalities into a well-functioning singular identity.

DID Brains Work Differently

A growing body of neuroimaging research suggests that dissociative identity disorder is associated with changes in a number of brain regions involved in attention, memory, and emotions. For example, studies on people with multiple personalities have found decreased blood flow in parts of the prefrontal cortex, similar to what is seen in people with attention-deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD). Other brain imaging studies involving people with DID show smaller brain volume in the hippocampus (an area involved in memory and learning), as well as in the amygdala (an area involved in emotional and fear response).

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Consequences of Untreated Dissociative Identity Disorder

People with untreated DID typically have significant problems in everyday life, including at work, at school, and in relationships. Suicidal behavior and other types of self-harm are especially common in people who suffer from this disorder. In fact, over 70% of people with DID have attempted suicide.

 

Diagnosing Dissociative Identity Disorder

Before making a diagnosis of DID, it’s critical to investigate any biological factors that may be contributing to symptoms of memory loss or derealization. For example, concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), substance abuse, and chronic insomnia may cause similar symptoms. This is why it is so important to get a functional brain scan to detect signs of brain-related issues.

Brain SPECT imaging, a state-of-the-art brain mapping tool, can be very helpful to people with dissociative identity disorder. It can:

  • Detect signs of past head trauma that may contribute to memory problems and other symptoms
  • See evidence of toxicity from drugs or alcohol, or other toxins that may cause similar symptoms
  • See signs of other brain-related issues that may mimic symptoms of the disorder
  • Determine which medications will be most effective for patients
  • Increase compliance with a treatment plan
  • Show progress or show if treatment needs to be adjusted

 

Symptoms & Signs

General symptoms and signs of DID include:

  • Memory loss—often involving people, places, time periods, or events
  • Depersonalization—out-of-body experiences in which you feel detached from your body and feel as if you are watching events happening to you
  • Derealization—feeling as though the people and things in the world around you are not real.
  • Distortions—primarily in time, situation, and place
  • Engaging in behaviors that are out of character
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Life challenges—relationship troubles, difficulties at work or school

 

“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

 

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