Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
Last Updated: November 20, 2023
Dissociative identity disorder is a mental health condition in which a person maintains at least two distinct personalities or identities. These distinct personalities involve differences in thinking, memory, and behavior. A person with dissociative identity disorder may also have gaps in memory, and their symptoms cause them significant distress or difficulty with daily functioning.
Dissociative identity disorder typically arises after overwhelming experiences or some sort of trauma or abuse occurring during childhood. Dissociation can help a person cope with an overwhelmingly painful or traumatic event.
What this means is that dissociative identity disorder treatment requires specialized services to help a person process trauma and overcome symptoms related to dissociation. Behavioral services like counseling and therapy can help people to develop healthy coping skills and manage symptoms. Therapy can also be beneficial for processing trauma or other childhood experiences that have contributed to symptoms.
Additionally, some people take medication to help with symptom management. This and other features of dissociative identity disorder treatment are discussed in more detail below.
Medications Used for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder
In some cases, people with dissociative identity disorder may take medication to help with symptom management. It is essential to understand that there are currently no medications used specifically for the treatment of dissociative symptoms. Instead, medications may be utilized to treat a co-occurring condition, like depression.
The major classes of medication used to treat dissociative identity disorder are antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotic medications. While not directly designed for treating dissociation, they can improve overall psychological functioning.
Dissociative identity disorder can co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as depression. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to treat co-occurring depression, but they do not specifically treat symptoms related to dissociative identity disorder. Antidepressants may help with mood stabilization, and there are reports of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors being beneficial for patients with dissociative identity disorder.
If anxiety occurs alongside dissociative identity disorder, medication may be helpful. While anti-anxiety medications can stabilize mood, it’s essential to be careful with these medications. One class of anti-anxiety medications, called benzodiazepines, can make dissociation worse.
Antipsychotic medications can also be beneficial for mood stabilization, and they can treat severe anxiety in patients with dissociative identity disorder. Atypical or second-generation antipsychotics are generally preferred to older first-generation antipsychotics, because they have fewer side effects. Second-generation antipsychotics can be particularly effective for treating trauma-related intrusion symptoms, such as unwanted thoughts and memories.
Therapy Options for Dissociative Identity Disorder
Therapy is an essential component of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. While there are several different therapy options, what is most important is that underlying trauma is addressed.
Some specific modalities that may be used in dissociative identity disorder treatment include:
- Psychodynamic therapy: This approach helps patients to explore relationship patterns and healthy coping mechanisms. The therapist forms a strong working relationship with the patient, to help the patient overcome resistance to change. The therapy process helps to uncover unconscious drives and thoughts that are contributing to symptoms.
- Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Trauma-focused CBT is often used in treatment of dissociative identity disorder, given that many individuals with the mental health condition have a trauma history. CBT interventions help patients to overcome distorted or irrational thoughts related to the trauma.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Originally developed for alleviating suicidal ideation in patients with borderline personality disorder, DBT is also helpful for treating symptoms of dissociation. DBT teaches skills including distress tolerance and emotional regulation, which can be helpful for managing dissociative symptoms.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Finally, EMDR may be useful for some patients. This trauma treatment helps people to process traumatic memories so they are less painful. An individual in EMDR treatment focuses on triggering trauma-related memories while moving their eyes back and forth, often following the therapist’s finger moving from left to right. This process is thought to reintegrate trauma memories in the brain, so they are less distressing.
Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder
Some patients with dissociative identity disorder may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate symptoms related to trauma or dissociation. When a person has both dissociative identity disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder, it is important that both conditions are treated simultaneously. When mental health disorders and addictions are treated together rather than separately, patients experience better outcomes.
Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder in Kansas City
For those in the Missouri area, The Recovery Village Kansas City offers a full continuum of mental health services. Our professional staff is trained to treat dissociative conditions whether they occur on their own or alongside a substance use disorder. We accept private insurances to offset the cost of your treatment. Contact one of our recovery advocates today to begin the admissions process.
American Psychiatric Association. “What Are Dissociative Disorders?” October 2022. Accessed November 9, 2023.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Dissociative Disorders.” Accessed November 9, 2023.
Gentile, Julie; Dillon, Kristy; Gillig, Paulette. “Psychotherapy and Pharmacotherapy for Patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, February 2013. Accessed November 9, 2023.
Mitra, Paroma; Jain, Ankit. “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” National Library of Medicine, May 16, 2023. Accessed November 9, 2023.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Comorbidity: Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders.” April 15, 2018. Accessed November 9, 2023.