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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Addiction

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dissociative disorders affect a person’s sense of identity, feelings, and memories, which all make up a huge part of who a person is. Because of this, people who suffer from dissociative disorders may experience a huge disruption to their sense of being and their daily life. Oftentimes, dissociative disorders are linked to prior traumatic experiences, especially ones that occur in childhood.

People who struggle with dissociative disorders often deal with substance abuse issues, as they attempt to cope with their symptoms through self-medication. One of the most common dissociative disorders to co-occur with substance use disorders is known as dissociative identity disorder (DID).

If you or a loved one are struggling with dissociative identity disorder and addiction, please reach out to the specialists at our dual diagnosis treatment program in North Carolina.

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health condition that used to be referred to as multiple personality disorder or split personality disorder. People with this condition have two or more personalities that co-exist within their minds. To explain, each personality can control a person’s behavior at certain times.

Each personality that exists can have its own personal history, traits, likes, and dislikes. Additionally, individuals with DID may experience symptoms such as gaps in memory and hallucinations. Because this condition stems from childhood trauma, multiple personalities and dissociation are coping mechanisms for the painful memories and experiences the individual endured.

DID is one of the several dissociative disorders, which also include depersonalization or derealization disorder and dissociative amnesia. According to the National Library of Medicine, “approximately 1.5% of the population internationally has been diagnosed with a dissociative identity disorder.”[1]

The Symptoms of DID

People with dissociative identity disorder have a “core” personality which serves as their main personality. The additional personalities that are present in the individual’s mind are called “alters”. Some people with this condition have up to 100 alters.

Each alternate personality tends to be very different from one another. In fact, alters can be of different ages, genders, and ethnicities, and have different interests while interacting with their environments in various ways. When someone is behaving as an alter personality, they may forget key memories that were formed under another alter personality or during the core personality.

The main symptoms of DID include:

  • Depersonalization- a sense of being detached from one’s body
  • Derealization- a feeling that the world is foggy or far away
  • Amnesia- an inability to recall significant personal information and memories that are so severe that it cannot be chalked up to forgetfulness
  • Identity confusion or alteration- a sense of confusion about who a person is as well as distortions in time, places, and situations

In addition to the symptoms, people with dissociative identity disorder may experience headaches, amnesia, loss of time, trances, and out-of-body experiences. The symptoms of DID can lead an individual to behave in a self-persecuting or self-harming manner. Sometimes, this leads to self-violence and outwardly directed violence (violence towards other people).

How are Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Substance Abuse Related?

Dissociative identity disorder can be a debilitating condition that leaves individuals confused, irritable, and unable to control their thoughts and actions. These symptoms can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily lives. Because of the frustration this disorder can cause, many people with DID end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, DID is seen as a disorder that is developed as a complex coping mechanism for trauma. Drug addiction and alcoholism are both commonly used as coping mechanisms for trauma, mental health, and uncomfortable feelings as well. Because of this, it is unclear whether dissociative identity disorder or drug addiction comes first.

What is clear, is that both DID and addiction feed into one another. Treatment for dissociative identity disorder can be complicated or completely disrupted by substance abuse. This is most likely because using substances alters an individual’s state of mind, and someone with DID is already experiencing a significantly impacted state of mind, causing them to struggle even more with their identity.

Individuals with DID who struggle with addiction are often abusing substances to numb or block some of the symptoms of their condition. While their anxiety and fear may be soothed at the moment, it often leads to a worsening of symptoms over time. This makes it more difficult for the person to recover from their dissociative identity disorder.

Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Addiction

When someone struggles with both DID and a substance use disorder, it is important that they receive treatment for both conditions at the same time. Thankfully, dual diagnosis treatment programs can provide people with the combination treatment they need to recover from both dissociative identity disorder and addiction.

During treatment, patients will engage in evidence-based addiction treatment tactics like detox, behavioral therapy, relapse prevention planning, and peer support. However, they will also undergo mental health treatment for dissociative identity disorder.

The treatment for DID includes the following:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Hypnotherapy (helps to uncover the alternate personalities and learn about them)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Exposure therapy (reliving traumatic memories in a safe, therapeutic environment)
  • Some medications
  • Inpatient dual diagnosis treatment

Find a Top-Rated Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program in North Carolina

If you or a loved one suffer from a mental health condition like dissociative identity disorder and addiction, it is important to receive professional help for both illnesses. Thankfully, dual diagnosis treatment centers can help provide you with the tools you need to learn to manage your mental health condition and maintain long-term sobriety from drugs and alcohol.

Contact us today to start your recovery journey.