The Unsolved Mystery of Split Personality Disorder

The Unsolved Mystery of Split Personality Disorder
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Do you know someone who is considered by most as “two-faced” or deceitful because of their ever-changing views and behavior? Have you ever known someone who loses track of time and doesn’t remember anything? Well, if you do, you should stop being judgmental and see these people from a different perspective, in order to understand them. It’s possible that the problem isn’t a poor memory, but rather “split personality disorder,” also known as dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder. This disease, which belongs to the group of personality mental disorders in DSM-5, is seen as one of the most interesting and potentially confusing phenomena today. It has been the topic of many works of fiction. Movies such as The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Psycho (1960) and Primal Fear (1996), and novels written by such popular writers as Stephen King and Sidney Sheldon have featured protagonists who suffer from this attention-grabbing disorder.

Multiple Identities

The reason this personality disorder gets so much attention is because of the distinctive symptoms. Split personality disorder is a serious psychological disorder in which a person has at least two distinct and relatively persistent identities that tend to control their behavior without his knowledge. Behind this mysterious behavior is the unconscious part of a person’s mind. He suffers from memory loss when his alternate personality dominates. Because it is a psychological condition, symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include contrasting and potentially confusing thoughts or conduct. For example: a person may give the impression that he likes to dance and enjoys socializing sometimes, while other times, he might claim that he doesn’t like to spend time with people at all. In some cases, when the host (alternate) personality is dominant, the person may also speak with different accent, or speak a different language, or even change the tone of his voice or behave like the opposite gender. There is no limit to the number of host personalities one may develop. In at least one case, the condition was so severe that the person had to live with 100 or more personalities.

Causes of Split Personality Disorder

The causes of split personality disorder can differ for different people, but most case studies have concluded that the most common causes are psychological factors, such as a traumatic childhood experience like the loss of parents, a natural catastrophe, child abuse, severe humiliation or difficulty in adjustment.  When a person can’t face the traumatic situation with his real identity, his unconscious mind tries to help, causing a host identity to emerge as a defense mechanism, to help him cope with the situation. Sometimes, the host personality controls the original person’s mind, which gives the original personality a chance to repress the memories of the disturbing event.

For instance, if a child is very shy and sensitive, his mind may split into another personality that is brave and able to face a terrifying situation. Sometimes, if someone is so impressed or influenced by someone else, the desire to be like that person leads to the creation of another personality, so that the person can enjoy a different life through the new personality.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of split personality disorder is usually performed by professionals, who will try to peek into the psychological history of the client by interviewing him and applying standardized psychological tests. A psychotherapist will then try to resolve the problem by attempting to merge the multiple personalities into one original personality without conflict.  They attempt this by trying to familiarize all personalities with one another and by making the patient remember and experience the feeling of the traumatic experience again. Treatment for this disorder requires a lot of knowledge and skill and should be performed only by a certified professional. Family members and friends should be caring and try to empathize and support the patient.

There is disagreement among professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of this disorder, and some even question its very existence, because much of the evidence is circumstantial and subjective, and includes little or no empirical-research. Some reject its existence completely saying that some people only pretend to be the victim of this disorder, because it gives them an excuse as to why their life is not functioning well. They claim it allows the patient to avoid responsibility, by blaming another personality for something he does wrong. Generally, the assumed host personalities do what the patient would never think of doing.

This is an uncommon disorder, with women suffering from it more than men. While there are disagreements about its existence, it should not be taken for granted, because all human beings are different and unique. As Charles Dickens once said “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other”.


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