Similar to many other disorders, dissociative identity disorder can take a huge toll on one’s life. For this reason, it is important to get the condition treated. With that being said, there are several ways to manage or treat this disorder. For the sake of this paper, we will be breaking the forms of treatment into two main categories including psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. The purpose of this paper is to explore the different treatments of dissociative identity disorder while comparing and contrasting the effectiveness of each.
Before exploring treatment options, it is important to fully understand dissociative identity disorder. Firstly, this disorder is also known as multiple personality disorder. What are Dissociative Disorders claims that this disorder “…is associated with overwhelming experiences, traumatic events, and/or abuse that occurred in childhood” (n.d.). To explain in a more simple manner, one is not born with multiple personality disorder, it is simply the result of a severely distressed childhood. They also share that the most significant symptom is “the existence of two or more distinct identities… accompanied by changes in behavior, memory, and thinking” (n.d.). The presence of two or more identities can easily result in having the sense of lost time, identity confusion, social problems, as well as other mental health issues. It is important to understand that the presence of these alternate identities are involuntarily and that people struggling with this disorder are often “observers of their own speech and actions, or their bodies may feel different” (What Are Dissociative Disorders, n.d.). The treatments for multiple personality disorder are not to “cure” the condition but to “relieve symptoms… and ‘reconnect’ the different personalities into one integrated, well-functioning identity” as well as to help establish coping mechanisms (Dissociative Identity Disorder, n.d.). As you can imagine, this condition could be quite troubling and it would prove beneficial to seek treatment.
One of the preferred treatment methods would include psychotherapy otherwise known as “talk therapy”. In general, psychotherapy can be described as the opportunity to gain knowledge about one’s disorder and discuss one’s difficulties, struggles, and feelings with a mental health professional (Personality Disorders, 2016). All people are different, therefore different subunits of psychotherapy work for different people. First, there is cognitive-behavioral therapy which focuses on altering one’s way of thinking (Dissociative, n.d.). To further explain, the therapist would aid the patient in creating a habit out of healthy thinking patterns. Dissociative Identity Disorder also lists eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as a useful type of therapy (n.d.). As mentioned previously, DID is the result of a dysfunctional childhood. With that being said, EMDR focuses on treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as triggers or flashbacks (Dissociative Identity Disorder, n.d.). The Cleveland Clinic states that more forms of therapy include dialectic-behavior therapy (DBT) (n.d.). The purpose of DBT is to treat mood and personality troubles. Another version of psychotherapy is family therapy which focuses on making those around the patient aware and knowledgeable about their relatives’ condition (Dissociative Identity Disorder, n.d.). If those methods don’t work, some professionals may try more relaxed approaches. Dissociative Identity Disorder describes creative therapy as another form of psychotherapy, this focuses on allowing the patient to express themselves and everything they are feeling through different art forms (n.d.). The final two therapies Dissociative Identity Disorder states are clinical hypnosis and meditation which both allow the patient to dig deeper within themselves to explore what they feel and become more familiar with their true selves (n.d.). Like mentioned previously, different therapies work for different people so it is hard to say which form of psychotherapy is most effective. Overall, psychotherapy plays a very important role in the treatment of those struggling with multiple personality disorder.
The other method of treatment for those struggling with dissociative identity disorder is pharmacotherapy. Pharmacotherapy can be described as treatment using medication. This form of treatment most often consists of daily pills (Mental Health Medications, n.d.). Common medications used are antidepressants which boost one’s mood, mood stabilizers which reduce mood swings, antipsychotic which keep one in touch with reality, or even anti-anxiety medications which reduce anxiety (Personality Disorders, 2016). Medications can further help one stay in control of themselves and their thoughts. Medications are used to treat conditions such as DID because they can “influence the brain chemicals that regulate emotions and thought patterns” (Mental Health Medications, n.d.). Basically, these medications keep the patient in a better mind state. What Role Does Medication Play in Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder describes medication as a secondary form of treatment by saying “medications for dissociative identity disorder are usually best conceptualised as ‘shock absorbers’ rather than as curative interventions” (2012). Similarly, Mental Health Medications states that typically medication is given prior to psychotherapy with the intent to improve the results of the treatment (n.d.). In fact, Mental Health Medications expresses that the psychiatric medications result in a better outcome when combined with psychotherapy treatments (n.d.). Though pharmacotherapy is a form of treatment for dissociative identity disorder and can play a big role in the treatment of those struggling with this condition, it is intended to be used along with psychotherapy.
Multiple personality disorder is a life-altering condition that can result in poor quality of life. With such harsh effects, those struggling with this condition are often desperate for finding a treatment that works best for them. During this paper, we discussed different subunits of psychotherapy as well as pharmacotherapy. Though these are both treatments for DID, it is important to understand the intent of these treatments is not to cure but to help manage the condition. Specifically, psychotherapy focuses on developing coping mechanisms and healthy thinking patterns while pharmacotherapy focuses on relieving other mental health issues such as anxiety or depression that often accompany this disorder. Different treatments work for different people so there is no “better” treatment but psychotherapy is used most often and is the preferred method of treatment. Psychotherapy overall helps one gain control over their personalities and symptoms while pharmacotherapy simply relieves some symptoms. During this paper, I explored the different possible treatments of DID and compared their effectiveness.