Multiple personality disorder is a condition in which two or more distinct identities or personalities alternately take control in the same person. Each personality is unaware of any others.
The symptoms of multiple personality disorder can be sudden, gradual, fleeting, or chronic. Each personality has full range of mental functions. Certain identities may emerge in certain circumstances. The personalities often have different names and characteristics. The personalities may be quite different from the primary one.
The cause of multiple personality disorder is thought to be psychological trauma, such as chronic physical abuse or sexual abuse, in childhood. The disorder is more common in females than males.
The following symptoms may indicate multiple personality disorder:
The symptoms of multiple personality disorder usually begin in childhood. However, they may not become noticeable to others until many years later. The diagnosis should be made only after complete medical, psychological, and psychiatric assessments are done. Usually, psychological testing is done to confirm the presence of two or more distinct personalities.
If trauma occurs, especially in childhood, the healthcare provider should be consulted. Psychotherapy may be helpful to the child, to minimize risk of future problems such as multiple personality disorder.
A multiple personality disorder is usually chronic, and the person's ability to function can be severely impaired.
Aggressive or hostile identities in a person with multiple personality disorder may place others at risk for violence.
Treatment of a multiple personality diorder usually involves long-term therapy or counseling. Individual psychotherapy is most often the treatment of choice. Therapy focuses on helping the person to:
Antidepressant medications may be used to control moods or symptoms.
Side effects depend on the medications used, but may include drowsiness or allergic reactions.
The rate of relapse for a person with multiple personality disorder is fairly high. It is more likely when the person is under stress, or when an incident triggers childhood memories.
Multiple personality disorder is monitored by the person and the family. If the episodes become more frequent or more intense, the healthcare provider should be consulted.
Author:Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
Editor:Duff, Ellen, BA
Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, Stuart and Sundeen, 1991
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1994