What are the symptoms of multiple personality disorder?

Multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative personality disorder, is a serious but high-profile mental illness. The main symptom of multiple personality disorder includes the development of more than one distinct personality in a person. Personality or personalities can have significant control over the behavior of a person living with this condition. Secondary symptoms may include depression, psychosis, and hallucinations. Sleep disturbances and mood swings may also accompany the disorder.

Mental health experts aren't entirely sure what causes multiple personality disorder, but many believe the condition stems from childhood trauma. A child who experiences particularly traumatic or prolonged abuse, or who witnesses extreme violence, may try to forget or compartmentalize the experience as a defense mechanism. While many survivors of childhood abuse or trauma never develop multiple personalities, some dissociate so thoroughly that this disorder can develop.

It is important to note that personalities, also known as alterations, can have significant depth. An alternate personality is not just a change in mood or attitude. For example, some people with multiple personality disorder cannot remember major life events in one or more of the changes, and this does not appear to be intentional or untrue. Alters can have different handwritings, different tastes and preferences, and more seriously, they can engage in risky, dangerous, or even criminal behavior that the other primary personality would not approve of. These symptoms can make it very difficult for people with the disorder to have a job or maintain healthy relationships.

For many people, the symptoms of multiple personality disorder can be the cause of significant stress. Someone with the condition may not recognize themselves in a mirror or wonder why others call them by a name they don't recognize as their own. In some cases, patients may experience blackouts after their personalities switch from one to another and may suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar environment with no idea how they got there.

Treatment for multiple personality disorder varies depending on the needs of the patient and the severity of the condition. Patients generally participate in psychotherapy and may be treated with electroshock therapy or psychiatric medications. Some therapists also use hypnosis, in part to help discover and work with alternate personalities and, in some cases, to uncover repressed trauma.

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