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Dissociative Identity Personality Alters & Counseling Treatments

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The area of interest I chose to base my research project on is dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder. It is recognized as a complex psychological disorder, characterized by possessing two or more distinct and separate personalities, which are termed alter types or states that appear outside ones conscious control. Each “state” has its specific knowledge of the way it perceives and identifies with the self and acquires varied roles to serve the purpose of assisting the individual with daily struggles. In many cases the individual has no knowledge or regard of the split personalities. Although DID is rare, the mental health state of the individual can prove to be alarming, in that the individual has no recollection or memory of the behaviors or actions carried out within the various identities. The mental process, including thoughts and feelings becomes dissociated and a lack of connection becomes apparent. The intent of this paper is to discuss the psyche of the individual diagnosed with this disorder as well as examining the alter types and personalities. Counseling and treatment intervention options will also be explained.

Description of the Problem

The root of the disorder is said to be triggered by overwhelming traumatic, stressed, interpersonal events experienced early in life. Other factors in developing the disorder include extreme, emotional and/or sexual abuse, and negligence also occurring during childhood. The household environment, including the way mom and dad parent are also underlying elements. These repetitive encounters with emotional and physical pain disrupt the development of personality and produce mental suffering that allows for the individual to create alter personalities also viewed as defense mechanisms to help cope with the grief of situations that prove to be too severe to carry out with his/her conscious being. Dissociation is portrayed in this instance as support and reinforcement to maintain a wholesome level of operating. The illness affects the awareness of memory (amnesia), creates identity confusion/alteration, and skews the perception of an individual (derealization). The individual’s mental psyche becomes flawed causing damage and impairments such as mistaken sense of time or failure to recall personal information, which potentially could lead to more critical and severe psychiatric complications such as compulsions, sleep disorders, depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, etc. Substance use disorders and addiction has been depicted to coincide with DID; often times the individual becomes desperate to numb the agony and resorts to stimulants that provide that comfort in dissociation and disconnect from the real world. The demeanor and behaviors detected during the “alter” states have complete control of an individual and the effect the actions have causes anxiety and panic to the life of an individual. The alter personality usually is cognizant of the prime or “host/core” personality, however the host personality is often times unfamiliar with the alternative personality. The alter personality is its OWN unique person (real or imaginary), meaning they carry their own identity including age, race, and ethnicity. “Switching” is the process used to describe the “alter” exposing itself and taking power of all thoughts and behaviors, many times these shifts happen involuntarily and become provoked by a negative occurrence. Anxiety, depression, and, personality/traumatic disorders are major conditions that become clear when diagnosing an individual with DID. Other indications may include headaches, depersonalization or “out of body experiences”, blackouts, etc. Treatment options vary and finding an effective fix may be challenging. There is no set “cure” for the disorder, however psychotherapy or talk therapy is noted as being the key mechanism. Other forms of cure include, cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, and supportive therapy, medications (anti-depressants), and hypnosis. The end goal is to unite the differentiating personality’s behavior, memory, and thinking to become one, a concept known as integration.

Significance of the Problem

It becomes vitally important to understand how an individual’s identity becomes disrupted and their sense of self obstructed. Functioning in life becomes a challenge (socially/occupationally) and their way of living productively is fractured. Unfortunately prevention from the disorder is not so clear cut since the core of it usually stems from traumatic exposure, however minimizing ones risk is possible by reducing our liability to such events and situations. It’s also imperative to know that “dissociation” is a process encountered by all, for example, day dreaming or getting “lost” while reading a novel or watching a film, however the severity of the experience is what deems it a psychological disorder.

Not only does DID impair our mental state it also affects our quality of life in the real world. Aside from mental illnesses, maintaining healthy relationships and employment prove challenging. Everyday roles and objectives that should operate without hassle become disrupted. Memory and identity become distorted within the conscious self.

Impairments and difficulty in psychological function associated with DID?

The mental illness DID is defined by its unique and distinct presence of altering personalities, consisting of various states of function, associated with emotions, behaviors, and reactions. These differentiating identities have their own outlook and view of the world. In many instances the “sub” alter initiates troublesome risks in an individual’s living, however findings have indicated that on rare occasions the “sub” alter can have a positive effect. For example, a quiet individual who is afraid to speak up to her unjust boss may suddenly possess assertive and confident qualities to stand up and defend herself.

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Alter types/states behaviors and actions?

The objective is unifying the various identities into a single functioning, normal identity. Providing a safe environment is beneficial to the individual who may experience difficulty processing repressed memories, reinforcing that sense of security allows for optimal progress. Medical professionals often time’s debate over which treatment plans prove most appropriate and successful, however obtaining extensive treatment makes for an ideal hope at life.

Effective and efficient treatment options and counseling techniques?

Of the many mental disorders defined and researched in the DSM-5, DID is the most controversial, however the least explored. Many clinicians argue over the legitimacy of the disorder, nevertheless the DSM-5 recognizes the mental condition as a valid disorder despite skepticism. The history of DID dates back to 1791, where the term “exchanged personalities” began to surface. The theory was introduced by a 20 year old German woman, who spoke and acted as if she was of French decent, she knew her identity as a “French Woman” however when asked if she any recollection of this “French woman” under her “German Woman” identity she denied all claims. DID has had a long run with history and the concept has been altered and changed throughout time with developing evidence and material.

Dissociative disorders allow for an individual to break free from the real world and lose touch with reality, creating an unstable personality. Complications arise when the natural flow of thoughts, memories, and behavior become disconnected. No one particular ethnic, race, or age group is more susceptible then another, anyone can become diagnosed with the disorder with the exception of females more likely than males. Many studies have been conducted and much research has concluded that real and significant trauma induced exposure, especially during childhood, opens the gateway to the disorder. Such experiences may include military battles, natural disasters (flood, hurricane, earthquake) any form of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.), major life threatening accidents, etc. Other determinants to consider is loss of a loved one or long term isolation.

Individuals “dissociate” or develop a means to escape troublesome or disturbing visions that may be preventing them from a normal consciousness. This coping strategy allows individuals to sustain a normal functioning balanced life by alienating themselves from experiences that cause stress or anxiety. The mental disorder is described as an emergence of at least two or more “alters” that retains a dominant way of connecting and perceiving the world. Extensive research has confirmed conditions such as body functioning, for example blood pressure and pulse as well as personality traits/characteristics, are distinctively different from the “core” or prime identity. Amnesia is one way the altering states exert control and force over the core identity; behaviors and memories are forgotten when the alter personality is dominant.

Counseling intervention varies depending on the individual, however psychotherapy and medication are treatment methods proven useful regardless of the type of disorder. Psychotherapy also referred to as talk therapy is exactly how it sounds; expressing suppressed issues and establishing coping skills to

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Dissociative Identity Personality Alters & Counseling Treatments. (2021, October 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from
“Dissociative Identity Personality Alters & Counseling Treatments.” Edubirdie, 01 Oct. 2021,
Dissociative Identity Personality Alters & Counseling Treatments. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2022].
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