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Dual Personality Disorder - Multiple Personality Disorder


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

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.

What is going on in the body?

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.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

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.


Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

The following symptoms may indicate multiple personality disorder:

  • Two or more distinct personalities exist within one person.
  • Each personality has its own way of thinking about things and relating to others.
  • At least two of the identities take control of the person's behavior.
  • The person is unable to recall important personal information.

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    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.


    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    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.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    A multiple personality disorder is usually chronic, and the person's ability to function can be severely impaired.

    What are the risks to others?

    Aggressive or hostile identities in a person with multiple personality disorder may place others at risk for violence.


    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    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:

  • learn how to organize the day to avoid long periods of unstructured activity
  • understand the illness
  • learn how to manage the symptoms
  • increase social skills
  • improve communication skills
  • Antidepressant medications may be used to control moods or symptoms.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects depend on the medications used, but may include drowsiness or allergic reactions.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    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.

    How is the condition monitored?

    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.


    Attribution

    Author:Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Date Written:
    Editor:Duff, Ellen, BA
    Edit Date:09/21/00
    Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed:07/02/01

    Sources

    Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, Stuart and Sundeen, 1991

    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1994


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