Dissociative identity disorder

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Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a dissociative disorder where a person may have multiple personalities that alternate in presentation. Severe sexual, physical, or psychological trauma in childhood cause the initial attempts at coping through dissociation that can become the extreme “splitting” of personality.

Two major phenomena occur with DID:

  1. Repression and later remembering/retrieval of (true) memories
    • True memories can be “forgotten” and then recovered again
  2. Construction of (false) memories through iatrogenic treatment
    • For instance, hypnosis may result in being fed and remembering false memories

The most common symptom of DID is “lost time” where days cannot be recalled.

No objective diagnostic measures exist for DID.


Historical changes in patterns - gender distribution, abuse history, prevalence

  • Presentations of DID spike whenever shown prevalently on media

Iatrogenic effects and hypnosis explain a few DID cases but most are explained by something else.


There is no known treatment for DID. However, hypnosis should NEVER be used on someone with DID. If someone has DID and we hypnotize them, it is iatrogenic because they will split into more personalities. Iatrogenic means harm that’s caused in an effort to help.

Concepts related to DID

Memory wars

Memory wars are where someone has conflicting memories competing to be the one that's remembered.

Abuse happens - some people forget abuse that has happened to them. Forgetting is more likely if earlier and if abuser is caregiver.

Memory accuracy is separate from memory persistence and vividness of memory. In people with memory wars, hypnosis can produce iatrogenic effects. False memories are easy to create. People who weren’t even abused have developed PTSD from falsely created memories constructed through suggestibility and leading. People have been falsely accused (because of false memories) successfully with great resultant harm.


Hypnosis is a state of consciousness (yes, it is conscious) characterized by:

  • Deep relaxation
  • Suggestibility - very dangerous
  • Changes in pain perception - very useful

Memories under hypnosis are not more accurate than during alert wakefulness. The key to its power is the openness to suggestion for people in hypnosis. Anyone can experience hypnosis if they are willing.

What hypnosis does not do:

  • Hypnosis does not increase accuracy of recall of events
  • Hypnosis cannot force people to act against their will

Explanations of hypnosis - both supported:

  • Social influence theory - hypnotic subjects may simply be imaginative actors playing a social role
  • Divided consciousness theory - hypnosis is a special state of dissociated (divided) consciousness