Dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder, is a psychological state that is characterized by a disconnect between a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Dissociative identity disorder is a complicated condition that develops from numerous factors, namely early and severe childhood trauma, abuse and neglect. The dissociative features of the disorder are believed to be used as a complex coping strategy, allowing individuals to separate themselves from past traumatic experiences. These experiences are thought to be too upsetting for people to integrate into their conscious thoughts.
Dissociative identity disorder occurs when two or more separate identities are present, each playing a distinctive role and having control over a person’s actions, memories and feelings. Life experiences and situational factors seemingly trigger shifts between identities.
Conclusive dissociative identity disorder facts and statistics are not readily available due to lack of research and controversy linked to the disorder. However, available dissociative identity disorder documentation conveys that the disorder was initially believed to be quite rare, with less than 100 diagnosed cases by 1944. Current dissociative identity disorder facts now show that the prevalence of the disorder is beginning to rise, perhaps due to greater understanding and more accurate diagnosis processes.
Statistics on Alternate Personalities
Dissociative identity disorders are not overly common, but aren’t entirely rare, either. Statistics on alternate personalities have risen over time, which may come from better knowledge and understanding of the condition along with fewer cases of misdiagnosis.
The average number of personalities in dissociative identity disorder is two to four upon initial diagnosis. The average number of personalities in someone with multiple personality disorder is 13 to 15 over the entire course of treatment. It is unusual, but there have been cases in which more than 100 personalities have been reported.
Who Is Affected by Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociative identity disorder statistics vary but show that the condition occurs in anywhere from one-half percent to two percent of the population. Other dissociative identity disorder facts suggest that about seven percent of the general population may have the disorder, but remain undiagnosed.
Dissociative identity disorder is a relatively rare and controversial condition, making it complicated to study and research. Researchers continue to assess how common dissociative identity disorder is in the population. Available research indicates that approximately two percent of people in the world experience dissociative disorders and they are more commonly diagnosed in women.
Research has sought to investigate why dissociative identity disorder is more common in females. Studies have found that women have symptoms more regularly than males, as males are more apt to hide symptoms and traumatic histories. Men also display more aggressive behavior and less memory loss than females do, resulting in less diagnosis. Females face childhood abuse more frequently than males, also making dissociative identity disorder more likely to occur in the female population.
Individuals who are victims of past violence and mistreatment are at elevated risk of developing dissociative identity disorder. Dissociative symptoms originate to help a person to deal with distressing and traumatic memories. Risk factors for dissociative identity disorder include severe abuse, recurrent neglect, natural disasters and past trauma in childhood. In reported cases in the United States, Canada and Europe, approximately 90 percent of people with this condition had experienced abuse and neglect in childhood.
Prevalence of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder prevalence varies widely in different studies. Dissociative identity disorder has been identified in 4 percent to 7.5 percent of patients in psychiatric residences, 2-6 percent of patients in outpatient settings and 0.4 percent to three and one-tenth percent of individuals not linked with mental health services. Dissociative identity disorder is also believed to be widely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, making it difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected by dissociative identity disorder.
Rates of DID and Substance Abuse
There is a direct relationship between substance abuse and dissociative identity disorder, as people may use drugs or alcohol to numb symptoms and separate from reality. People may use substances as a way to cope with their victimization and past trauma. Individuals with dissociative identity disorder and co-occurring addictions contend with added difficulties on top of original issues that led to the dissociation. Dissociation and addiction are both chronic, recurring conditions that are complex to treat. In one study of people in an inpatient substance abuse treatment program, 17.2 percent of people had a dissociative disorder.
Misdiagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder misdiagnosis is common, as symptoms are similar to symptoms of other mental health disorders. Many psychological conditions share symptoms of anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Some individuals with dissociative identity disorder may receive several diagnoses before being given a correct dissociative identity disorder diagnosis. To further complicate matters, one personality may present symptoms of a mental health condition that is not shared by the primary “host” personality.
Some common dissociative identity disorder misdiagnosis cases include borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is unclear whether these misdiagnoses arise from actual misdiagnosis or whether these diagnoses are present in conjunction with dissociative identity disorder. Misdiagnosis can result in incorrect treatments, worsening of symptoms or no improvement.
Statistics on Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
Dissociative identity disorder treatment concentrates on integrating “alter” personalities into one functional personality structure. Dissociative identity disorder recovery is long-term, multi-staged and consists mainly of talk therapy, hypnotherapy and other psychotherapeutic treatment interventions. Medications are not used to treat the disorder itself but may be prescribed to treat specific symptoms.
Psychotherapy can span from five to seven years. Individuals who do not receive treatment tend to get worse, as alternate personalities cannot integrate on their own. Untreated dissociative identity disorder makes an individual susceptible to further exploitation and mistreatment by others. Typical treatment approaches attempt to stabilize an individual, process trauma and integrate personalities. Although statistics depict that dissociative identity disorder is rare, it is also a commonly misdiagnosed or undiagnosed condition.
If you or a loved one has a drug or alcohol use disorder and is experiencing symptoms of a co-occurring dissociative identity disorder, please contact The Recovery Village. Trained mental health professionals and clinicians can help you become physically and mentally stable so that you can begin recovery.
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American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” AAMFT, 2019. Accessed February 18, 2019.
Johnson, Karen. “The Problem of Prevalence-How Common Is DID?” PODS, May 1, 2011 Accessed January 13, 2019.
Matulewicz, Crystalie. “Why Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Is Often Misdiagnosed.” Healthy Place, November 4, 2015. Accessed January 13, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Dissociative Disorders.” (n.d.) Accessed February 2019.
Swartz, A. “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” All Psych, December 10, 2001. Accessed January 13, 2019.
Tracy, Natasha. “Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Statistics and Facts.” Healthy Place, October 16, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2019.
Wang, P. (2018, August). “Dissociative Disorders.” Psychiatry.Org, August 2018. Accessed January 13, 2019.
WebMD. “Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder).” (n.d.) Accessed January 13, 2019.