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Multiple Personality Day

Taking part in National Multiple Personality Day on March 5th takes two different approaches.

The first is to look inward at ourselves. As part of this approach, the day is used to explore personality traits and examine their roots. In different situations and at different times, we all show different sides of ourselves. People sometimes seem to have different personalities depending on what they're doing and who they're with. As such, we spend the day focusing on our own personalities.

It's also a way to raise awareness about the disorder. Multiple personality disorder is also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Persons with this condition have at least two distinct and enduring identities that control their behavior alternately. With DID, you'll have trouble remembering important information that's not explained by normal forgetfulness. Though it affects less than .1 percent of the population, it's devastating for families and communities. This means there's still a need for treatment, support, and research.

History of Multiple Personality Day

Multiple Personality Disorder (DID), originally called Dissociative Identity Disorder, is a condition where people suffer memory loss, out-of-body experiences, detachment from emotions, and a lack of self-identity. Only 2% of Americans experiencing these symptoms are properly diagnosed, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

In the past, psychologists diagnosed people as having two distinct personalities. A common misdiagnosis was sleepwalking caused by emotional trauma or even epilepsy back in the 19th century. Multiple personalities were first correctly diagnosed in 1885 by Louis Vivet, whose case brought the medical world's attention to the condition. In 1898, Clara Norton Fowler was the first diagnosed patient to see a neurologist. After schizophrenia was discovered in 1906, most psychological cases, including DID, were diagnosed as schizophrenia until the 80s. Unresolved trauma can cause dissociative episodes, depression, anxiety, and multiple personalities with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Though the disorder exists, few people know how to diagnose or treat it. APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published in 1952. It helps keep mental disorders uniformly diagnosed.

When it comes to observing Multiple Personality Day, there are two goals. The first is to empower people with disordered thinking to share their stories and find ways to love and accept themselves in a world where disorders are unheard of. Another goal is to raise awareness about the disorder, helping people understand what it means to have Dissociative Identity Disorder and how to manage it. In order to change common misconceptions and make this a valid condition that everyone should understand, the day aims to change common misconceptions.

What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

An individual with dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously called multiple personality disorder, has a disturbed sense of identity in which two or more different personalities (or identities) control their behavior at different times. People are usually unable to recall some events that happened while other personalities were in control when they are under one identity. The different personalities, called alters, may have different speech, mannerisms, attitudes, thoughts, and gender orientations. Sometimes alters even have physical differences, like allergies, right- or left-handedness, or needing eyeglasses. It's not uncommon for alters to differ a lot.

The number of alters a person has with DID can range from two to 100. However, it's usually about 10. People often keep their alters for years, and they play specific roles in their lives. Depending on the alter, some may harbor aggressive tendencies toward other alters or toward individuals in the person's surroundings.

Typically, when someone with DID first seeks professional help, they don't know what it is. It's not uncommon for people with DID to experience episodes of amnesia, or forgetting things. They might not be able to remember everything from the past. Sometimes they'll run into people who claim to know them, end up somewhere without knowing where they are, or find stuff they don't remember buying.

What Are The Symptoms Of DID?

It's common for people who suffer from DID to be depressed or even suicidal and to self-mutilate. Hallucinations are common in about a third of people.

Although the causes aren't known, DID affects 0.01 to 2 percent of the general population. Regardless of ethnicity or income, DID affects everyone. But the number of women affected is nine times higher than the number of men.

Aside from separate identities, people with DID might also have lots of other symptoms. The following are some of the symptoms:

  • Confusion

  • Memory problems

  • Anxiety, panic attacks

  • Personality changes

  • Alcohol and drug abuse

  • Delusions

  • Headaches

  • Flashbacks

  • Eating disorders

What Does Treatment For DID Look Like?

DID is mostly treated with psychotherapy and hypnosis. During therapy, the therapist tries to make contact with as many alters as possible and understand their roles and functions. An effective therapist tries to curb violent or self-destructive behavior by forming an effective relationship with these personalities. In therapy, the therapist tries to establish communication between the personality states and find ones that recall traumatic events in the past. A therapist's job is to help the patient break down their separate identities and unify them into one.

It's important for people with DID to deal with memories of trauma because it's believed that physical or sexual abuse in childhood triggers the disorder. The ability to dissociate in young children is pronounced, and abusers may use dissociation to defend themselves. As a result, the child thinks the abuse isn't happening to him or her, but to someone else. It's possible for such a child to split into alternate identities over time. According to research, alters start developing at an average age of 5.9 years old.

It's crucial to treat the primary cause of dissociation when it's a symptom of another mental illness, like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It can cause depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, amnesia, trouble paying attention in school, and hallucinations in kids. These kids are often misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia. As a child reaches adolescence, recognizing the symptoms and diagnosing DID becomes easier.

Is There Anything A Friend Or Family Member Can Do To Help Someone Who Has DID?

  • Keep yourself informed. Find out everything you can about DID.

  • Even if a friend or family member helps and supports a person with DID, they need professional help to recover. Encourage them to go to regular therapy appointments with a therapist who's trained and experienced in treating the condition.

  • Whenever your loved one is willing, go to a therapy appointment with them. Besides giving you more info about DID, the therapist can give you some ideas on how to help.

  • Someone living with DID might sound and act differently if they "switch" to another alter. It's possible they don't know who you are. If they don't know you, introduce yourself and reassure them if they're scared.

  • It's vital for people living with mental illness to have peer support. To help your loved one, you can invite them to join a support group for people with DID or a peer support group, such as NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups.

  • Those with DID are more likely to be at risk of suicide, so be aware of the signs. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1(800) 273-TALK or take them to an emergency room if you think they're at risk for harming themselves.

  • Whenever your loved one wants to talk, just listen. You can be extremely helpful to your friend or loved one by listening without interrupting. Listen to their problems, don't try to solve them.

How to observe Multiple Personality Day

There are several ways that you can observe Multiple Personality Day.

  • Get to know yourself by exploring your personality traits. Learn more about your personality by taking a personality test. If you want, you can take the test with a friend or family member and compare your scores.

  • Find out more about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Specifically, learn how it affects people and how it's treated. For example, you can read up on the disorder or attend a seminar. By sharing your newfound understanding, you'll be able to support those with the disorder.

  • Use #NationalDIDDay or #NationalMultiplePersonalitiesDay on your social media posts to spread the word about this holiday.

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