Box Office Thriller 'Split' Tells Harrowing Tale Of Multiple Personalities: But What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?


Renowned director M. Night Shyamalan's latest project Split is a harrowing psychological thriller that has captured the attention of many lovers of the movie genre.

The concept is edgy, intriguing, and provocative as the main character (played by James McAvoy), a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), abducts three teenage girls, triggering the birth of a 24th personality.

Split gives moviegoers a thrilling ride though it has been criticized for vilifying mental illnesses. Here is an overview of the reality behind DID.

What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dissociative Identity Disorder has long been known by the moniker "multiple personality disorder" and involves major problems with memory, emotion, identity, sense of self and behavior. It is a serious psychological disorder that can disrupt an individual's general well-being and course of life. In most cases, patients have two or more distinct personalities, each with his or her own ways of dealing with the surrounding environment.

Common Criteria For Diagnosing DID

There are five main criteria that need to be fulfilled before diagnosing a patient with DID, especially since some of the more basic symptoms are much too similar to those of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

• Two Or More Separate Individuals?

The disorder's most prominent characteristic is in supposedly having two or more personalities contained in one individual entity. The changes in personality are accompanied by alterations in affect, behavior, sense of self, mood, consciousness, perception, cognition, and sensory-motor functions. Often, the subsequent personalities have opposite personalities and behavior. These changes may be reported either by other people or the affected individual.

• Fugue States

Fugue states or amnesia is a significant characteristic of DID. When the other "personality" of a person emerges, the original individual suffers from amnesia, leaving them unaware of any of the events that occurred while the other personality/personalities are dominant. Many find the experience of fugue states as the first and perhaps most significant symptom that may lead to the DID diagnosis. Such events can occur at any time of day and anywhere, but are more likely under stressful situations.

• Trouble Functioning

Perhaps a symptom common in most psychological disorders is the difficulty in functioning in everyday tasks. DID is taxing on the individual, so major areas of the individual's life, such as social responsibilities, suffer considerably. Since the emergence of different personalities can happen at any moment, sufferers of DID experience major difficulties in functioning in society.

• Not Connected To Culture

Situations where multiplicity is appropriate are not counted as a characteristic of DID. The deliberate creation of multiple personalities or age appropriate activities, such as a child conversing with an imaginary friend, does not classify as DID.

• Unrelated To Substance Abuse

While excessive use of alcohol or drugs may lead to blackouts or hallucinations, symptoms similar to those of DID that may have been brought about by alcohol or drug use cannot be classified as DID.

What Causes DID?

Though the specific causes of dissociative disorder are still a mystery, individuals who may have suffered major traumatic experiences, such as physical and sexual abuse in childhood, are at an increased risk for DID.

In the U.S., Canada, and Europe, 90 percent of DID patients were victims of child abuse and neglect. Among them, 70 percent have attempted suicide.

Treatment Of DID

There is no medicine that can cure Dissociative Identity Disorder, but an intensive psychotherapy may improve a patient's way of life and productivity. The goal of integrating the different aspects of the patient's personality may involve digging into past trauma and adopting more positive ways of coping with them. With the appropriate treatment, a patient with DID may still eventually lead a healthy, functioning life.

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