Dissociative Identity Disorder: Identity Transition Triggers

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health condition formerly known as multiple personality disorder or split personality disorder. This situation can lead to a person having multiple different identities. It often stems from significant childhood abuse, traumatic events, or overwhelming experiences.

This article discusses the triggers that may cause a “switch” or change between DID patient identities.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Statistics

Dissociative identity disorder is a rare disorder that affects approximately 2% of people worldwide.

What is handover?

People with dissociative identity disorder have at least two distinct identities, but some believe there may be as many as 100. Transition is the process of transitioning from one identity state to another. This can happen slowly, with obvious signs, or it can happen very quickly.

According to some studies, switches can be voluntary, forced or triggered. Mutually agreed conversions may be planned in advance. For example, an educated changer might plan to take over during exams scheduled by the school.

Some changes agree to force switching, but not all. In certain cases, a stronger change may be crowded before a weaker change.

The trigger switch was not intentional. Rather, they occur when a situation forces a specific change to come forward. There are various triggers that can cause switching.

External signs of conversion

Various signs can indicate that a person with dissociative identity disorder has moved from one change to another. These can include:

  • muscle twitch
  • Puzzled
  • slow and heavy blinking
  • memory loss
  • headache
  • clear throat
  • change the pitch of their voices
  • vocabulary change
  • different atmosphere
  • Different functional abilities or skills
  • lack of eye contact
  • handwriting change
  • “Separate” appears
  • adjust clothes
  • change posture

Reason for triggering the switch

Trigger switches can be caused by many different things. In some cases, the trigger is unknown.


Stress is a big trigger for switching. In fact, periods of stress can lead to rapid cycles between changes, resulting in a person revealing multiple identities in just a few minutes. This type of switching is referred to by some as carousel switching or rollexing.

memories and strong emotions

Memories can cause people with dissociative identity disorder to switch from one change to another. These memories can be good or bad. Changing switches can happen when a person is looking at old photos or other memorabilia.

A sudden change in a person’s mood, whether positive or negative, can also trigger a change switch.


Switches can be triggered by human senses. Smell, sound, taste, texture and sight can all cause specific changes to manifest. For example, a person with a history of abuse may smell or see something that evokes past experiences.

The result is variant switching—whether the variant manifests as a frightened child, or as an aggressive, dominant variant who will stand up for the abused child.

Many movies will portray a character with a DID as a “bad guy” – someone who is insidious or violent. It is important to note that these roles do not represent the vast majority of DID patients.

Other reasons to switch

Alcohol and drug use may be triggers for conversion. Seasonal changes or special events like holidays or birthdays can also be triggers.

Switches can be triggered by specific situations that require specific skills, such as public speaking. It can also happen when a person meets another person who is related to a particular change.

When to talk to your healthcare provider

If you suspect that you or someone you know has dissociative identity disorder or is undergoing a transition, consult a healthcare provider, such as a mental health professional. DID is a serious condition that can seriously affect a person’s daily life, but there are treatments.

Intrinsic Signs of Conversion

A person may not always be aware that they are switching between changes, but in many cases there are some inherent signs. These can include:

  • time-lapse photography
  • memory loss
  • forget how to perform a skill
  • hearing or visual impairment
  • There is an “out of body” experience
  • in a trance
  • out of touch with reality
  • Flashback

Signs and symptoms of dissociative disorder


There are multiple triggers that can cause people with dissociative identity disorder to switch between changes or identities. These may include stress, memories, strong emotions, senses, alcohol and substance use, special events or specific situations. In some cases, the trigger is unknown.

VigorTip words

Dissociative identity disorder is a disorder that affects all areas of life. It can even prevent a person from working, going to school, or having meaningful relationships with others. This condition is usually treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy), and ongoing involvement in therapy can be very helpful.

Medications can also help treat the anxiety and depression that often occurs with DID. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do doctors treat people with dissociative identity disorder?

    Treatment is the most common treatment for DID. In some cases, medications are also prescribed to treat the anxiety and depression that DID often presents.

    understand more:

    Types of mental health treatment

  • What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder?

    There is no single cause of DID, but it usually occurs in people with a history of severe childhood trauma and/or abuse.

    understand more:

    Childhood Trauma: Signs You’re Repressing Traumatic Memories

  • Is there a test for DID?

    There are no specific tests for dissociative identity disorder. After excluding other possible medical and psychiatric disorders, the diagnosis was based on the person’s symptoms.

    understand more:

    Do I have dissociative identity disorder?