Living with dissociative identity disorder (DID) can be challenging, learning how to manage symptoms and maintain a routine may be overwhelming for someone diagnosed with DID but when you enter treatment for DID, it can help someone learn to manage their symptoms and develop coping mechanisms.
Treatment for dissociative identity disorder should only be conducted by a specially trained professional. Treatment for DID will likely consist of therapy and in some cases, medication management. While there are several approaches to treat DID, most treatment methods have the goal of reconnecting the patient’s multiple personalities into one identity. Some additional goals of treatment may include processing trauma and developing ways to cope with painful memories and new stressors.
Medications Used for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder
Medications for dissociative identity disorder are usually prescribed to treat co-occurring mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. In some cases, antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of DID.
Antidepressant medication has little effect on dissociative identity disorder. However, these medications are commonly used to treat depression, a mental health condition that commonly co-occurs with DID. Whether depression reaches a level requiring clinical diagnosis, treatment with antidepressants may help elevate mood. Some antidepressants that may be prescribed to someone with DID include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants like Doxepin
Treatment providers typically avoid prescribing benzodiazepines because of the high risk of addiction. People living with mental health conditions are more likely to develop addictions because of neurotransmitters in the brain. If someone has less serotonin or dopamine in their brain, they may turn to abuse substances and develop a mental health disorder like DID or both.
People living with dissociative identity disorder can also develop anxiety. Once someone is diagnosed and becomes aware of their alternate personalities and dissociations, further anxiety may be experienced about behaviors that can occur when they are not in conscious control. In some cases, this anxiety can be treated successfully using anti-anxiety medications. Some antidepressants that may be prescribed for DID include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Doxepin (Silenor)
Antipsychotic medications have been shown to reduce the frequency of transitions between alternate personalities. These medications may reduce dissociations and other symptoms caused by the transition between realities. Levels of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin are regulated with antipsychotic medications which can help alleviate some symptoms of DID. Some antipsychotic medications that may be prescribed to someone with DID include:
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Risperidone (Risperdal)
Therapy Options for Dissociative Identity Disorder
Therapy for dissociative identity disorder focuses on processing trauma so that all the personalities can be reintegrated. Psychotherapy is most likely to be conducted on an individual basis. In some cases, a clinician may use an approach like group therapy, in which they allow all of the personalities to engage in therapy together.
Types of therapy for dissociative identity disorder therapy may include:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This type of therapy was initially developed to alleviate the stress associated with traumatic events and memories. The focus of EDMR is to relieve distress, reformulate negative thoughts and reduce physiological arousal. During and EDMR session, the patient is exposed to emotionally disturbing content in brief, sequential doses while also being instructed to focus on external stimuli.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This kind of therapy is the most common type of therapy used by treatment providers. Developed originally to treat depression, CBT is used to treat several types of mental health disorders. During therapy, patients will learn healthy ways to manage stressful situations and difficult emotions by changing the way they think and correcting their behaviors.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Dialectical behavioral therapy is used to help patients examine their thoughts, opinions and reactions. During therapy, patients can learn how to change the way they respond to their internal signals.
It is believed that psychotherapy can speed the process of healing but can also be dangerous if used too early in treatment. Delving in too deep too soon may be considered a threat to one or more of the personalities, causing protective personalities to take over and discontinue therapy.
Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
Substance use is common in people with a dissociative identity disorder. The difficulties caused by living with DID can be challenging and some people may turn to substance misuse to numb their symptoms.
When seeking treatment for a co-occurring disorder, it’s important to find a facility that can treat both disorders at the same time. If someone with co-occurring disorders only treats one disorder, they are more likely to experience setbacks with the other disorder or the untreated condition could worsen.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use and co-occurring disorder like dissociative identity disorder, help is available. At The Recovery Village, a team of professionals can individualize a treatment plan for you. Call and speak with a representative to learn about which treatment program could work for you.