Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are well-known, yet split personality is still a little-known disease. In fact, 25 to 50% of people suffering from dissociative personality disorder are indeed often diagnosed with schizophrenia. It must be said that the symptoms are almost identical, except that schizophrenics never adopt another personality.
Finally, although auditory hallucinations are present in both conditions, people suffering from dissociative personality disorder hear voices that come from within, whereas these voices come from outside for schizophrenics. So how is this dissociative personality disorder characterized?
Split personality: What is it really?
People who suffer from dissociative identity disorder (DID) have a “real self” and construct an “other self” that allows this real self to withstand a dramatic, traumatic situation or an important event. The other self takes the place of the real self, and the person assumes a completely new identity. Often much more extraverted, stronger and more confident. For example, a young woman may suddenly become a little girl, expressing herself and behaving like one, before becoming an older man, etc.
Split personality is a disorder that results from a trauma. Usually, a prolonged trauma during childhood (sexual abuse, physical violence, repeated dramas). In order to cope with this painful situation and forget their suffering, these people (90% women) have detached themselves from their own selves, even going as far as creating one or several parallel identities. Soldiers who have experienced unbearable and traumatic events or scenes may also experience this disorder, this dissociation, in order to mentally survive.
The split personality becomes an illness when this dissociation continues even when the abuse has ended. Pathological dissociation comes in two forms, complete or partial. Either each personality acts separately with separate identities, or each personality is aware of the others.
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The symptoms of personality disorder
One of the most important and representative symptoms is memory lapses, either about the past or the present. During these memory lapses, the individual experiences a state of dissociation and is not in touch with their thoughts. To a lesser extent, we all experience this state from time to time. For example, when we are driving on a well-known route, and we’re not aware of what we’re doing until we get to where we want to go.
Finally, this personality disorder is often associated with other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression, sleep disorders, psychoactive substance abuse, alcohol, tobacco or cannabis.
A treatment based on acceptance
A split personality is treated by psychotherapy, which is often lengthy. The key to success lies above all in acceptance. The patient must make the choice to receive therapy, which is not always easy due to the internal struggles. One personality may take control over the others and refuse to be helped. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for patients to drop out of therapy before full completion.
EMDR therapy, which is very effective for remembering and working through a traumatic past, can also be considered.
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