Dissociative Identity Disorder
But it might. We used to call it Multiple Personality Disorder. Some people think this label applies to Schizophrenia, but because you read this blog, you know the difference.
People who suffer from Schizophrenia may hear voices, but they don't usually have multiple personalities. These are both Axis I disorders, by the way, not personality disorders (Axis II).
And this is not Depersonalization Disorder, either, which is getting some press because Adam Duritz of Counting Crows (a popular rock band) is said to have it. (Read Dr. Deb). Depersonalization Disorder features persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from one's mind or body, as if watching the self as an outside observer.
I first came upon Dissociative Identity Disorder when I met a client who had been a victim of incest, we're talking about 1984. (If you're faint-hearted you may not want to read on. I'm changing all the details for you, so this is total fiction, and it's a quick read, but nevertheless. . .upsetting).
The patient, age 40 at the time, recalled being a child of about six years old laying helpless on a sofa while her father molested her in every way imaginable. She grabbed onto a lace tablecloth that covered an end table and twirled it in her hand while he did this, all the while imagining that she was someone else, another child, complete with alternative personality, looks, parents, name, toys, friends, etc.
She played her fantasy so well in her head that she didn't feel (as much as she might have otherwise) what was happening to her. You can see why she did it, tranced out like that. She came to like this other self, so much in fact, that she often referred to herself as the other girl, used the other's name.
The patient became the other girl, too, had multiple selves. After all, the other girl didn't exist except in her head. And as confusing as this sounds, she could switch off all the time, unconsciously or at will. She experienced reality at different times as two different people.
Since that time I've treated only two others with this disorder who described similar circumstances, one sexual abuse, the other physical abuse. This ability to dissociate, to separate the self or ego, from what is happening in "real" time, is obviously the ego's defense system operating in a most sophisticated fashion.
Sometimes a person develops several personalities, in which case they are called, multiples. One identity suffers, so it helps to have a few who do not. Understudies.
Anyway, I thought you'd like to be able to diagnose this for real, just in case you sometimes wonder,
Am I? Is she? Is he?Here you go. 300.14 Dissociative Identity Disorder
A. The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).
B. At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior.
C. Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
D. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., blackouts or chaotic behavior during Alcohol Intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g., complex partial seizures). Note: In children, the symptoms are not attributable to imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.
*You can read more about it in the Merck manual.