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Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder, is the result of chronic and severe childhood trauma. What are the symptoms of DID, how is it diagnosed, and what are the treatment options?

How Is DID Diagnosed?

DID is diagnosed through one or a series of mental health interviews, during which practioners assess whether the client meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. The first part of this assessment is likely to involve fact-gathering through questions about the person's childhood, experiences, memories, and symptoms. Mental health professionals will want to make sure that symptoms, even if they closely match those of DID, cannot be attributed to other mental health disorders, including other dissociative disorders, or to the use of medications or substances. 

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Treatment

Psychotherapy is the go-to treatment of choice for people with DID, and this is understood to be a long and multifaceted process that will unfold over the course of many years. While the ultimate goal of psychotherapy for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder may be to integrate the alters, enabling the person to become one again, the treatment itself will be broken down into more manageable parts with more immediate goals. 
 
 
These immediate goals include providing a safe space in which the person feels able to talk about trauma that they had repressed for a long time, and helping them improve their relationships with other people. They will also include developing strategies to cope with dissociation and memory gaps, and ways to cope with anxiety, stress and crises. 
 
Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder has to be both very gradual and pressure-free — therapy can, in itself, be traumatic, as previously repressed memories come to the forefront again and experiences are relived. 
 
It's important to note that, though many therapists would see reintegration of the different alters into a whole as the preferred outcome of treatment, people with DID may disagree. Having lived with different identities for a long period of time, some people with DID respect each of them as individuals, and may see treatment that encourages reintegration as harming their alters, or even as trying to kill them. As such, peaceful and functional coexistence of different alters may be a goal instead. Working on gaining more complete memories and awareness for each alter can be productive in therapy in these cases.
 
Both hypnosis and EDMR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, are sometimes used as part of DID treatment as well. In addition, people with DID may benefit from using medications to manage other issues they have, such as depression. 
 
Therapy is going to have the best outcome for people with DID if they work together with professionals who have extensive experience in dealing with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and therapist and client can come to an agreement on a treatment plan and goals by consensus. Therapy is supposed to help improve a person's life, not to retraumatize them or make things harder. Not every therapist is suitable for every person, and it is perfectly normal to want to try out a few different therapists before deciding on a therapist where one can feel safe.

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