Under the Hood

Multiple Personality Day 2015: Dissociative Identity Disorder Is No Joke; Women 9 Times More Likely To Have It

Multiple personalities
National Multiple Personality Day aims to raise awareness about the disorder, especially among women facing increased risk. Bridget Ho (edited for size)/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) may no longer be known as multiple personality disorder — but it still greatly affects women.

This is important to know on National Multiple Personality Day, March 5, as well as every other day. As reported by the Cleveland Clinic, the disorder is often a result of extreme and repeated trauma children sustain during their more formative years (around age 6), including the loss of a parent or sexual abuse. It’s the higher rate of sexual abuse in females, psychologists say, which explains women being nine times more likely to be diagnosed with DID. 

Symptoms of DID include depression, attempts of suicide, self-injury, changing levels of functioning, depersonalization, and substance abuse; one third of those affected will experience auditory or visual hallucinations. And according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the average number of personalities an individual has is 10, though there can be up to 100.

In a 1990 episode of Oprah, viewers met Truddi Chase, a woman who sustained years of “horrific sexual abused that started when she was just 2 years old.” Chase’s mind split into 92 personalities after the fact.

Like Chase, Kim Noble suffered severe trauma from sexual abuse. Oprah welcomed her to the show in 2010, and during at-home interviews, the talk show host met several of Noble’s 20 different personalities: “Dawn,” the personality frozen in 1997; “Patricia,” the primary personality; “Judy,” the personality present during meals; “Salome,” the devoutly religious, erratic personality;” and “Ken,” a 21-year-old depressed gay man, among others.

Noble works with several therapists, and they communicate with each personality through a separate email account. Additionally, Noble’s personalities all have their own clothes, closets, and toothbrushes. "I mean, I suppose I don't blame them," "Patricia" said. "They don't want to use somebody else's toothbrushes."

Psychotherapy with hypnosis is the primary treatment for those diagnosed with DID; cognitive therapy, too; and if individuals are also suffering from depression and anxiety, medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine. During psychotherapy, NAMI cited the therapist attempts to make contact with as many personalities as possible in order to understand their roles and functions in that person’s life. For example, “Patricia” told Oprah she and Noble’s other personalities run her body after it got to be too much for Noble; “she’s disappeared and gone to sleep.”

Women may be more affected, but nearly 9.1 percent of American adults ages 18 and older are diagnosed with a dissociative disorder of some kind, including borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia — though it’s worth noting children are often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

It was the thinking behind the new alternative model for diagnosis personality disorders in 2013. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice combined “the ‘core’ dimensions of personality disorder with various maladaptive personality traits found in individual patients.” The goal of this was to reduce overlap among diagnoses; reduce heterogeneity among patients receiving the same diagnosis; address the widsepread confusion of what’s still considered a vague disorder; and provide diagnostic thresholds that are related to level of impairment in a meaningful way.

Loading...