How to Treat Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health condition that causes a person to have multiple personality states. This condition, formerly known as multiple personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder, causes discontinuities (distinct disruptions) in a person’s memory, perception, thoughts, and behavior.

These symptoms can cause severe distress and can interfere with daily life. Treatment varies from person to person and may include one or more therapies.

This article discusses psychotherapeutic techniques, medications, and coping strategies used to treat DID.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Statistics

Dissociative identity disorder is very rare. It only affects 0.01%–1% of the population.

Psychotherapy for DID

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most effective treatment for dissociative identity disorder. This condition often develops from childhood abuse or other traumatic events. Dissociation events, or “transitions” from one personality to another, can be triggered by stress or other factors in the environment (sounds, sights, smells) that remind people of their trauma.

For this reason, goals of psychotherapy may include dealing with painful memories, managing sudden changes in behavior, learning new coping skills, and bringing multiple identities back to a functional person.

Several different types of therapy can be used in this form of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and schema therapy.

cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the belief that dysfunctional thoughts lead to dysfunctional behaviors or emotions. For example, an abused DID patient may always expect negative outcomes in their relationship. CBT challenges these negative thinking patterns and replaces them with ideas based on current reality.

CBT also helps individuals deal with past trauma and learn how to cope with the depression that DID often presents.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that focuses on change and acceptance. DBT focuses on these four main skills:

  • Stress Resilience: Learning to Manage Overwhelming Emotions
  • Mindfulness: Paying attention to your surroundings and what is going on in the moment
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: The ability to effectively communicate and maintain your needs and boundaries in interpersonal relationships
  • Emotion Regulation: Know Your Emotions and Learn How to Get Rid of Strong Emotions Without Taking Action

How to practice mindfulness the right way

psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on helping people better understand the unconscious aspects of their distress. This type of therapy uses a variety of techniques to help people understand how the past plays a role in their current behavior.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

The goal of EMDR treatment is to reduce the distress associated with traumatic memories. During EMDR, a person thinks about past trauma while also performing a physical task that stimulates both sides of the brain—most commonly eye movements. This therapy sometimes involves tapping, listening to sounds, or walking/pacing.

schema therapy

Schemas are mental frameworks that a person develops to help explain their experiences. Often, people with dissociative identity disorder have experienced childhood trauma and/or abuse, resulting in negative schemas and a lack of positive coping skills.

Schema therapy integrates aspects of several different types of psychotherapy (talk therapy). The goals of schema therapy include:

  • Helping a person identify their schemas and heal negative schemas
  • Increase awareness of childhood memories and the emotions, physical feelings and beliefs that follow
  • Helping a person control how they respond to triggers in their environment
  • Find healthy ways to meet core emotional needs
  • Remove power from past traumatic memories

DID drugs

There are no specific medications for dissociative identity disorder. However, medication can be effective in treating the depression and anxiety that often occurs in this condition.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants help manage depressive symptoms by changing the levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. There are several types of antidepressants, including:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): such as Lexapro (escitalopram) and Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): such as Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants: such as Asendin (amoxapine) and Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): such as Marplan (isocarboxzaid) and Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Atypical antidepressants: such as Desyrel (trazodone) and Wellbutrin (bupropion)

Similarities and differences between SSRIs and SNRIs

anti-anxiety medication

A group of medications commonly used to treat anxiety disorders are benzodiazepines, such as clonopine (clonazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), diazepam (diazepam), and ativan (Laura diazepam). The effects of these drugs are short-lived and can be taken when a person is experiencing anxiety symptoms to reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.

SSRIs are also used to treat anxiety disorders.

antipsychotic drugs

Antipsychotic drugs are often used to treat “psychopathy,” a condition in which a person loses touch with reality. However, these drugs can also be used to treat severe depression, bipolar disorder, and possibly symptoms associated with dissociative identity disorder. Examples include Abilify (aripiprazole) and Risperdal (risperidone).

DID coping strategies

Various coping strategies can help manage life with dissociative identity disorder. These include:

  • Using Mindfulness: Bringing the mind and attention to the present moment can help people with DID be more receptive to uncontrollable events.
  • Exercise: Physical activity can reduce the anxiety and depression symptoms that are often seen in DID.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Removing processed foods and added sugars from your diet can reduce inflammation in the body, which can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep can reduce the symptoms of DID.
  • Identifying Triggers: With the help of a therapist, a person’s dissociative event triggers can be identified and possibly avoided.

Types of mental health treatment

generalize

Dissociative identity disorder is a mental health condition that is commonly treated with psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and schema therapy. In some cases, medications can be used to treat the anxiety and/or depression that often occurs with DID. Positive coping strategies can also improve daily life.

VigorTip words

Dissociative identity disorder can affect every area of ​​your life. In some cases, it can prevent a person from working or building meaningful relationships. However, seeking treatment through therapy and other support networks can reduce dissociative events, or possibly eliminate them entirely. you’re not alone. There are some resources to help you live a fulfilling life with DID.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can dissociative disorder be cured?

    While there is no specific “cure” for DID, a person can learn to integrate multiple identities with consistent treatment.

  • What is the best treatment for dissociative disorder?

    Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most effective way to treat dissociative disorder.

  • What are the main goals of DID treatment?

    Treatment for DID focuses on overcoming past trauma, managing emotions, and ultimately integrating multiple identities into one functioning person.