Unraveling the Complexities: A Deep Dive into Multiple Personality Disorder

Multiple personality disorder is a mental health condition where you have two or more separate identities
Multiple personality disorder - Photomontage of different images of the same woman with different expressions (Wikimedia Commons)
Multiple personality disorder - Photomontage of different images of the same woman with different expressions (Wikimedia Commons)


Multiple personality disorder is a mental health condition where you have two or more separate identities. These personalities control your character and behavior at different times. Each identity has its likes, dislikes,  and personal history. This condition is also known as Dissociative identity disorder (DID) or Split personality disorder. DID can also lead to gaps in memories and hallucinations.

This disorder is rare and affects 0.01-1% of the population. Patients with this disorder find it difficult to manage their everyday life.

Signs and symptoms:

  • A sense of being disconnected from yourself and your emotions

  • Thinking that people around you are not real

  • Difficulty in coping with emotional stress

  • Having amnesia of certain periods, events, people, and personal information

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Significant challenges in relationships or other aspects of life.

  • Delusions

  • Disorientation

  • Substance use disorder


Usually, it occurs as a result of any childhood trauma or sexual abuse. The patient finds that the several identities present within will help to overcome the trauma.

The American Psychiatric Association defines three major dissociative disorders:

  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder

  • Dissociative amnesia

  • Dissociative identity disorder

Brain imaging of multiple personality disorder (Wikimedia Commons)
Brain imaging of multiple personality disorder (Wikimedia Commons)

Depersonalization/derealization disorder:

This involves a sense of separation from yourself. You watch yourself as a different person. The thoughts, actions, and feelings will appear very distant. It appears as though you are viewing a film. The world may seem unrealistic to you. The symptoms can last for hours, days, weeks, or months.

Dissociative amnesia:

Here, the main symptom is memory loss where you are not able to recall the events or people in your life. You may experience amnesia after a sudden shock or distress. It can endure for minutes, hours, months, or even years. It can also involve complete memory loss about yourself. It can also involve travel or confused wandering. This condition is called dissociative fugue.

In multiple personality disorder, you can feel two or more people talking to you or living inside your head. You feel like you are possessed by distinct identities. Each identity can have a unique name and features. There will also be differences in voice, gender, and mannerisms. There will be also changes in physical qualities such as using eyeglasses. There will be also differences in how familiar each identity is with others. It also includes bouts of amnesia and confused wandering.

DID also known as multiple personality disorder, characterized by having 2 or more personalities, is a type of stress-induced disorder falling under the category of Dissociative disorder under psychiatric illness. In cases of acute stress/trauma, there is a disruption between bodily and mind states that leads to abnormal/out-of-ordinary behavior which appears in the form of alternate personality for temporary periods.
Dr. Shivangini Singh, MBBS, MD in Psychiatric Medicine, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow

Diagnosis and tests:

A healthcare provider can assess your symptoms and individual health background. They may rule out any underlying physical causes for your symptoms such as brain tumors or head injuries.

Symptoms often show up at the age of 5 to 10. But parents, teachers, or healthcare can confuse it with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Due to these reasons, it is often diagnosed in adulthood.


Certain medications can help with symptoms such as depression or anxiety. The most effective treatment modality is psychotherapy. A psychiatrist or a psychologist can guide you through the right treatment. The therapy mainly focuses on:

  • Recognising and working through past traumas

  • Managing behavioral changes

  • Merging distinct identities into a single identity

Some doctors recommend hypnotherapy along with psychotherapy. Hypnotherapy is a form of guided meditation that helps you to recover suppressed memories.

Psychotherapy (Wikimedia Commons)
Psychotherapy (Wikimedia Commons)


Identifying the signs in early life and providing treatment can help you to manage symptoms. Administering treatment promptly following abuse can halt the progression of the disorder. Treatment also helps to recognize the triggers that cause personality changes. Stress/substance abuse are the common triggers. Managing stress and avoiding drugs help to reduce the frequency of different alters controlling your behavior.


Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a multifaceted and often misunderstood condition with profound implications for those affected. Upon delving into its complexities, it becomes clear that DID is not a product of theatricality or attention-seeking, but rather a genuine psychological response to severe trauma. This exploration emphasizes the crucial need for empathy, compassion, and comprehensive therapeutic strategies in addressing the disorder. By fostering understanding and offering tailored support, we can play a vital role in aiding individuals with DID on their path to healing, empowerment, and enhanced mental wellness.


1.     Lanius, Ruth (June 2015). "Trauma-related dissociation and altered states of consciousness: a call for clinical, treatment, and neuroscience research". Eur J Psychotraumatol6: 27905. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v6.27905. PMC 4439425. PMID 25994026.

2.     Renard, Selwyn (1 January 2017). "Unique and Overlapping Symptoms in Schizophrenia Spectrum and Dissociative Disorders about Models of Psychopathology: A Systematic Review". Schizophrenia Bulletin43 (1): 108–121. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbw063. PMC 5216848

3.     Temple, Melanie (23 November 2018). "Understanding, identifying and managing severe dissociative disorders in general psychiatric settings". BJPsych Advances25: 14–25. doi:10.1192/bja.2018.54. S2CID 81151326.


Multiple personality disorder - Photomontage of different images of the same woman with different expressions (Wikimedia Commons)
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