5 Things You Should Know About Identity Disorders

Dissociative Identity Disorder was known for a long time as multiple personality disorder. It is characterized by an identity disturbance in which there are two or more distinct and separate identities control a person’s behavior at different times. Here are the basic facts you should know about identity disorders.

Small Population

Only one percent of the population is affected by identity disorders. It is nine times more likely to affect women than men, but affects all ethnicities and races. Doctors aren’t positive what causes the disorder but one theory is that it is caused by prolonged emotional, physical or mental abuse during childhood


People who have experienced childhood trauma can develop identity disorders as a coping mechanism, since it helps them dissociate from the trauma they are experiencing or have experienced in the past. At this stage, it is not considered to be a full blown disorder, however, it can reach that point if the child’s behavior and dissociative tendencies continue into their teen years and adulthood.


Image: Hartwig HKD 


Identity disorders are very serious and can involve other mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and suicide; one third of people with the disorder complain of auditory and visual hallucinations. Of course, a person with DID will experience separate, or multiple personalities, but aside from that, they may also experience,

  • depression
  • suicidal tendencies
  • substance abuse
  • headaches
  • delusions
  • flashbacks
  • memory loss
  • eating disorder
  • disorientation
  • panic attacks
  • and confusion.

Identity Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and identity disorder often get confused, but they are quite different. Unlike identity disorders, schizophrenics do not have multiple personalities—they only experience auditory and visual hallucinations, and believing and thinking about things that aren’t real, or have any basis in reality (delusions). People with identity disorder can experience hallucinations, however, the disorder is still mainly characterized by the multiple personalities.

Treatment and Management

There is no cure for identity disorders, however, long-term treatment plans can be implements and are found to be helpful. Different types of therapy, including talk therapy, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, art and movement therapy are all options for long-term treatment. The person must stay committed to a plan if they want to see improvements. It takes a long time—often several years under medical supervision—before doctors can accurately diagnose DID. There are some symptoms to look for, but it is best to consult a doctor or psychotherapist for individualized care.

Feature Image: Niels Hariot / Shutterstock