Do I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)?

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is one of several types of dissociative disorders. DID is diagnosed based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5). To qualify for the diagnosis, the person must have disruption of identity characterized by two distinct personality traits, which influence behavior, memory, consciousness, cognition, and sense of self, and recurrent gaps in remembering daily events, important personal information, or traumatic events that extend beyond ordinary forgetfulness.

They should also have symptoms that significantly impair a person’s contributions to social, work, and other environments, and the disturbance is not related to cultural or religious practices nor is it related to substance abuse or other mental disorders.

Dissociative Identity Disorder can vary enormously between one person and the next. Even skilled mental health professionals have difficulty diagnosing DID because it lacks a precise, empirical definition. Still, there are 12 questions a person can ask if they think they or a loved one has DID. Use this dissociative identity disorder test to better understand symptoms and experiences.

distressed man sitting on bed
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Do you have marked gaps in thoughts, actions, or awareness of what you were doing?

People with DID experience something called marked discontinuity of sense of agency. This means that a person’s sense of self is divided into at least two personality states. They may have a discontinuous memory of their everyday life, which may seem split into different experiences.

People with marked discontinuity often experience the sense of two separate identities, neither of which feel whole. This makes it hard to maintain a streamlined understanding of one’s awareness throughout the day.

Have you ever looked into a mirror and felt like you didn’t recognize who you were looking at?

A personality defines a person’s unique way of thinking about and relating to the world. It is important for defining one’s values and understanding who they are. People with DID struggle with a sense of self because they have more than one personality.

They may go back and forth between different personality states, which can vary between extremes. For example, a person may move back and forth between a mellow, kind personality and a serious, menacing personality.

On average, a person with dissociative identity disorder has 10 alternate personalities. However, it’s possible to have up to 100.

Have you had moments when you’ve completely forgotten an important event in your life?

Dissociative amnesia is when a person is unable to remember the details of important events. Often, the memory loss occurs around events are stressful, traumatic, or meaningful. People with personality disorders like DID are more likely to experience dissociative amnesia around such events, such as a serious hospitalization or car accident.

Have you found that, when speaking to others, you suddenly have no idea what the conversation was about?

The DSM-5 outlines three different types of dissociative amnesia a person experiences:

  • Localized amnesia: This type of amnesia makes it difficult for a person to recall specific events in time. It can span months or years. Usually, a person forgets traumatic or stressful experiences, such as the years spent in combat.
  • Selective amnesia: This type of amnesia makes it difficult for a person to recall their life history. As a result, they forget important things about their memory, including who they are, who they are with, when they did something, and so on. This is rarer, and tends to manifest in people with a history of extreme trauma or abuse.
  • Generalized amnesia: This type of amnesia makes it difficult for a person to recall new events. This makes it hard to remember meeting new people, engage in conversation, or carry out new relationships.

Has someone described an event or behavior you either have no memory of or felt was like a dream?

People with dissociative identity disorder have different identities, but they usually aren’t experienced in equal measure.

For example, a person with DID usually has a dominant personality, also known as the host personality. This is often believed to be the person’s true personality. The additional, alternate personalities are referred to as alters. The host is often passive, dependent, or depressed. In contrast, an alter may suddenly appear bubbly, loud, or aggressive.

Like borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, DID is characterized by changes in mental state. However, borderline personality disorder is when a person suddenly overreacts to a conflict or stressful event, and bipolar disorder is when a person has extreme shifts in mood states over long periods of time.

Dissociative identity disorder is different because a person experiences memory loss. Unlike bipolar disorder, DID is a matter of alternate personality states, rather than mood states.

Have you found yourself in clothes you don’t remember putting on or having something new that you don’t remember buying?

The memory gaps between personality states are often asymmetrical and don’t occur for a specific reason. This means that you may forget small things, like purchases you’ve made. There’s no reason for what you remember. The memory gaps can sometimes be viewed by others as deceptions or dishonesty.

Has someone close to you ever remarked that you forgot who they were or didn’t recognize them?

Dissociative identity disorder is often mistaken for other conditions, including substance abuse. This is especially true in teenagers or young adults, given that the average age of onset for DID is 16. This may make it hard for people to accept the fact that you don’t recognize them or remember who they are, and they may seek alternative explanations for your amnesia.

Are there times when experiences seem unreal or too real?

People with DID have difficulty remembering events as they occurred. This means that a past experience may suddenly feel like a dream.

This is called depersonalization, or when a person feels detached from the feelings, thoughts, and memories of their own life. Or a past experience may suddenly feel like you’re reliving it. This is called derealization, in which a person feels detached from reality and experiences past events as if they are current.

Depersonalization and derealization may also include daydreams, fantasies, or even reading a book, in which the experience suddenly feels as if you’re living it.

DID can frequently co-occur with anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, and personality disorders. 

Has someone ever told you that you’ve been staring off into space, totally unresponsive for a period of time?

Derealization makes a person feel detached from their current experiences and the feelings they create. It can make a person disconnect in real time from objects, people, and surroundings.

Some people describe this experience as highway hypnosis, in which a person can respond to external events in a safe manner without being able to remember it later.

This is different from catatonia, where a person experiences psychomotor disturbances that can cause slow or hyper reactions. Catatonia can spur a more extreme response, and is more often associated with schizophrenia.

Do you find yourself suddenly and inexplicably talking to yourself loudly when you are alone?

DID is sometimes mistaken for schizophrenia since both can cause a person to talk out loud to themselves. In schizophrenia, a person experiences delusions and hallucinations that result in disorganized speech. This can cause a person to talk out loud to themselves about something that isn’t real. People with schizophrenia don’t have multiple personality states; rather, they have altered perceptions of reality. 

In DID, loudly talking to oneself is more an externalization of thought within the context of multiple personalities. DID is different from schizophrenia because it doesn’t involve a person thinking and acting upon things that aren’t real.

Are there times when you are unable to ignore pain or appear resistant to pain?

Pain determined dissociative episodes are when a person develops a personality to help cope with the symptoms of discomfort. Researchers believe that people with chronic pain are more likely to develop dissociative states.

Studies suggest that a person with DID has both an “apparently normal part of the personality" (ANP), which allows them to function normally. They also have an "emotional part of the personality" (EP) characterized by survival instincts. The EP is what allows a person to ignore pain. When this alternate coping state isn’t accessible, it’s hard to cope with pain. 

Are there times when you can do certain things with great ease and other times when they are difficult?

The sudden ability to play music or sport with ease is not the result of a different personality learning independently. Rather, it is associated with the loss of memory that occurs with dissociative amnesia. When a skill is approached with ease, it’s because it is remembered. When a skill is difficult, it is because it’s been forgotten.

People with dissociative identity disorder have a high rate of suicide. Research shows that 70% of people with DID express suicidal thoughts.

Are there times when you feel as if you are two different people?

People with DID may have no idea about their split personality states. They only suspect something is wrong when someone else tells them about their atypical behavior, like memory loss, or a strange event. Other times, they are aware of the differences in the personalities and can feel distressed about it, although they may appear nonreactive.

A Word From Verywell

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from dissociative identity disorder, it’s important get seek help from a doctor to discuss symptoms and get an official DID test. Keep in mind that answering yes to some or all of these questions isn’t enough to diagnose you with DID since there could be additional explanations for these behaviors. It’s especially important to seek help if the experiences are causing distress or interfering with your quality of life or relationships.

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