What are the Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder?

Lainie Petersen

Multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative personality disorder, is a serious but high-profile mental illness. The primary symptom of multiple personality disorder include the development in one person of more than one distinct personality. The personality or personalities can have significant control over the behavior of a person who is living with this condition. Secondary symptoms can include depression, psychosis, and hallucinations. Sleep disorders and mood swings may also accompany the disorder.

A traumatic event, such as a kidnapping, may cause multiple personality disorder.
A traumatic event, such as a kidnapping, may cause multiple personality disorder.

Mental health experts are not entirely sure what causes multiple personality disorder, but many believe that the condition has its origins in childhood trauma. A child who experiences particularly traumatic or long-term abuse, or who witnesses extreme violence, may attempt to forget or compartmentalize the experience as a defense mechanism. While many survivors of childhood abuse or trauma never develop multiple personalities, some disassociate so thoroughly that this disorder may develop.

Multiple personality disorder's primary symptom is the development of more than one distinct personality.
Multiple personality disorder's primary symptom is the development of more than one distinct personality.

It is important to note that the personalities, also known as alters, can have significant depth. An alternate personality isn't just a change in mood or attitude. For example, some people with multiple personality disorder cannot remember important life events in one or more of the alters, and this does not appear to be intentional or faked. The alters may have different handwriting, different tastes and preferences, and more seriously, may engage in risky, dangerous, or even criminal behaviors of which the other, primary personality would not approve. These symptoms can make it very difficult for those with the disorder to hold a job or maintain healthy relationships.

Psychiatric professionals disagree as to whether multiple personality disorder represents a true mental illness.
Psychiatric professionals disagree as to whether multiple personality disorder represents a true mental illness.

For many people, the symptoms of multiple personality disorder can be the cause of significant stress. Someone with the condition may not recognize herself in a mirror or may wonder why others are calling her by a name that she does not recognize as her own. In some cases, sufferers may experience blackouts after their personalities switch from one to another and may suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings with no idea of how they got there.

Sleep disorders may accompany multiple personality disorder.
Sleep disorders may accompany multiple personality disorder.

Treatment for multiple personality disorder varies depending on the needs of the patient and the severity of the condition. Patients usually participate in psychotherapy and may be treated with electroshock therapy or psychiatric medications. Some therapists also use hypnosis, in part to help uncover and work with the alternate personalities and, in some cases, to uncover repressed trauma.

Individuals with multiple personality disorder tend to "lose" time.
Individuals with multiple personality disorder tend to "lose" time.

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Discussion Comments


Please help me if you can. My family and I have been facing a problems for a long time since my father behaves like two different men in different times. Normally he behaves like a good, moral and decent human, but in intervals of one year or six months, his behavior starts to change. He behaves completely different. He does not not sleep in the night and tries to create a unhealthy situation. Is this a multiple personality disorder case? Please help us. We are in big trouble.


I am writing to you because I have been looking up multiple personality disorders, and I came across this website.

I am writing because I am worried about my father. He is now 62 and is not doing well at all. He has not left his house in about two months nor has even taken a shower and he seems to be getting worse. He has no desire for anything anymore. All he does is lie on the couch with a blanket over his head with no heat on, and it is extremely cold in his house.

The other day I went to try to get him to go and get him help and he refused. He can barely breathe half the time and I fear that he is slowly dying. When I was talking to him, he was acting very strange.

First when I walked in, he looked as though he was a 90 year old man, his face looked grey and his hair even looked more gray. I told him, let's get up and go to the hospital, and he said in a very faint older voice, "I can't," almost whispering. Then when I said, "Let's go" again, almost in a more firm voice, suddenly his face changed and became very angry, the color came back in his face and he yelled, "No!"

I then confronted him about some things I had witnessed when I was a child, such as his addiction, which he denied, still in an angry tone, staring at me as though he wanted to hurt me. I then started to cry, asking him why he would watch it in front of me all the time, even though he didn't know I was standing right in front of him. He then looked away, with his head down and spoke almost as if he were a young boy, shrugging his shoulders.

I said, "Look at me when I'm talking!" So then he did, with a face of disgust, just staring me down. Anyway, this went on for hours watching him almost change into different people, with different voices, and each time the personality changed, I would notice that he would look down, and every time he would look up, he was almost a different person. A few times I felt like I was actually talking to my father, but most of the time it was as if he were a different person.

I am writing because I do not know what to do. I do not know if this is even multiple personality disorder that he suffers from, but I need advice. I have been reading up on it and it seems as though he has most of if not all of the symptoms related to MPD. If you could please help me and get back to me on this, I would greatly appreciate it.


GreenWeaver - They say that people with dissociative disorder symptoms also developed mood swings, panic attacks, night terrors, amnesia, and suicidal tendencies.

They are also more prone to drug or alcohol addiction which is why many psychiatrist are careful when they prescribe certain antipsychotic drugs because they tend to have a higher tendency to develop a dependency to the drug.

Some multiple personality treatment involves various forms of therapy which include art therapy and movement therapy.


I recently read that dissociative disorder symptoms develop in people that had severe or traumatic childhood experiences. They use the alters or the other personalities in order to mask the real pain that they endured.

The first time I had heard of this disorder was when I saw the movie Sybil and then I understood the condition.

It can take a period of five to seven years in order to treat this condition. It can be difficult to treat because therapists often have to hypnotize their patients in order to understand why they developed the condition in the first place.

People with dissociative disorder symptoms usually develop some amnesia regarding their past which is why the therapist has to use hypnosis.

They also have to understand the alter personalities and then blend the newly developed personality. Many psychiatrist also offer these patients drug therapy in order to control the frequencies of delusions.

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