Is multiple personality disorder real? Know its surprising causes and symptoms

By, New Delhi
Mar 05, 2023 08:01 PM IST

Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, is the one where a person has two or more separate personalities. This can cause gaps in memory. All you want to know about this complex personality disorder.

From Split, Sybil to Voices Within to Bhool Bhulaiya, silver screen has explored the concept of Multiple Personality Disorder many a time, and in psychiatry it has always been considered a controversial diagnosis. How one's identity can split into two or more or several, even with different names, gender, ages and past can baffle anyone who's not aware of this disorder which is now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. People suffering from this disorder are controlled by multiple personalities at different points of time and seem to be unaware of each of their personality. (Also read: 9 tips on how to fight anxiety or panic attacks)

Is multiple personality disorder real? Know its surprising causes and symptoms(Pixabay)
Is multiple personality disorder real? Know its surprising causes and symptoms(Pixabay)

"Dissociation is a disconnection between a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or a sense of who they are. Dissociative identity disorder is characterised by the presence of two or more personality states or an experience of possession along with recurrent episodes of amnesia i.e. ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events," says Dr Trideep Choudhury, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

One body, many identities

When under the control of one identity, a person is usually unable to remember some of the events that occurred while other personalities were in control.

"The fragmentation of identity may vary according to culture and circumstances. The different identities may exhibit differences in speech, mannerisms, attitudes and thoughts. It should be noted that the disturbance must not be a normal part of a broadly accepted cultural or religious practice. In many cultures around the world, experiences of being possessed are a normal part of spiritual practice and are not dissociative disorders," says Dr Choudhury.

Causes of dissociative identity disorder

The roots of the dissociative identity disorder often stems from childhood issues, trauma or abuse.

"Dissociative personality disorder is typically associated with severe childhood trauma and abuse which may be physical, emotional or sexual in nature. During a traumatic experience, dissociation helps a person tolerate what might otherwise be too difficult to bear like dissociating from the memory and feeling of a traumatic and overwhelming event. The shift in identities happen involuntarily, are unwanted and cause distress," says Dr Choudhury.

Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder

"People with dissociative identity disorder may feel that they have suddenly become observers of their own speech and actions, or their bodies may feel different (e.g., like a small child, like the opposite gender, huge and muscular). People with dissociative identity disorder may have other psychological issues like post traumatic stress disorder, depressive and anxiety disorder, substance abuse issues," says Dr Choudhury.


"Treatment involves psychotherapy which can help people gain control over their dissociative symptoms and processes. It assists the person to integrate the elements of identity. There are no medications to directly treat the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. However, medication may be helpful in treating related conditions or symptoms," says the expert.

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