Dissociative identity disorder is a condition in which your identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personalities. This condition used to be called ‘multiple personality disorder.’ Dissociative identity disorder is most likely to occur as a response to trauma. This disorder can be dangerous and life-altering.  

If you have dissociative identity disorder, one or more fully formed personalities will take over your consciousness. You may know about the other personalities. Or, you may be unaware that they exist. Your other personalities may dislike or be in conflict with each other. Typically, you will have a “primary” identity that identifies as you, with your name and life memories attached. You will also have two or more secondary identities, or ‘alters’ that may emerge when you undergo stress or other triggers. ‘Alters’ will also have their own identities, names, and memories. 


There are several common symptoms that indicate dissociative identity disorder. If you notice yourself or a loved one experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor right away. Symptoms of dissociative identity disorder can include:

  • Frequent gaps in memory
  • Engaging in strange or risky behavior that you don't remember afterward
  • Out-of-body experiences; feeling as though you are watching a TV show of your life
  • Experiencing at least two individual and distinct personalities
  • Significant problems in work, school, or social relationships
  • A feeling of detachment from your emotions and thoughts
  • An inability to cope with stress
  • Feeling suicidal or making a suicide plan - Call 911 immediately
  • Hallucinations, both visual and auditory
  • Disconnection from reality and trouble understanding if the things, people, events, and locations around you are real


Dissociative identity disorder is generally caused by exposure to trauma and stress. 90% of patients who experience this disorder experienced abuse as children. Other factors that put you at risk for developing dissociative identity disorder can include:

  • Experiencing or being exposed to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or domestic violence 
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • The stress of war or a natural disaster
  • Traumatic early-life medical procedures or severe childhood illness
  • A family history of schizotypal disorders, anxiety, or depression


Dissociative identity disorder is treatable. You and your doctor can develop a care plan that includes therapy, medication and support elements to help you regain control over your future. 

Medication: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may help alleviate some of your symptoms. Talk to a doctor about medication.

Therapy: Therapy is the primary form of treatment for this disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and reprocessing therapy can all be useful techniques to help treat dissociative identity disorder. Find therapy at Sheppard Pratt. 

Education: Family therapy and learning more about your condition can help others understand more about your triggers and your condition. See our list of resources. 

Support: Support is important to your treatment and can help improve your condition. Find a support group at Sheppard Pratt.