In a contemporary television miniseries called Moon Knight, the protagonist, Marc Spector, is represented to have two other personalities with opposite characteristics and behavior, within the same physical body. One is calm, and amicable while the other personality is violent and aggressive. The show progresses with his various kinds of alter egos switching in between to handle different circumstances. This situation was a direct repercussion of Marc’s mother’s constant abuse of him during his childhood.
The mental health condition depicted in the show is Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. It is often considered the most intricate type of disorder to study. It commonly arises in humans as a response to a traumatic childhood or past. Individuals of any age group, or gender can develop DID. People with this disorder have multiple personalities that may or may not be aware of each others’ conscience. The alternate personalities resurface to the forefront to get through a particularly difficult situation as an autopilot response to help the individual as a coping mechanism, especially keeping in mind the trauma through which the disorder is forged through. Each personality has its distinct individualism, including, but not limited to, name, features, and history. There is no specific number of how many personalities a person can have; it may be limited to only 2 or 3 or in some cases people have as many as 10-15 alternates.
The various symptoms include an inability to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and the loss of memory for a certain period of time. The cause of DID is an outcome of severe past trauma or abuse suffered during childhood. It’s a relatively common disorder amongst war veterans, as well as in people suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Furthermore, the effect of natural disasters on a person can also trigger DID.
Famed American actor, film director, and producer, Mel Gibson said that he had different alter egos with distinctive characteristics to deal with his stress on a day-to-day basis. American author Truddi Chase talked about how this disorder originated from her prolonged childhood abuse.
The consequences of DID are risky and harmful. People with DID often have sleeping problems, panic attacks, and eating disorders. It becomes difficult for them to have a normal routine in their lives and interferes in their relationships with others. It’s a reality for a lot of the people in the world, one which almost 2% of 7.96 billion have to live through, which to put into perspective, is the same percentage of green eyes in the world.
With the large number of people suffering from DID, it’s important to destigmatize the disorder and inherently the patients with it, and to give representation to its patients in a meaningful way, without villainizing them. The underlying issue is that the media today portrays serious medical issues like these in a demeaning, and harmful way. Movies like M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016, Split, proved to be damaging to the DID community as a whole.
As for the cure for this disorder, there is no actual one for it, people may go forever in their life with this disorder accompanying them. Although, certain kinds of treatment can turn out useful for the patients.
Psychotherapy is considered the most useful treatment for DID. Also known as talk therapy, it is the method of using psychological means to treat the patient. During this, the patient gains insight into the specific problem that they face and get their treatment accordingly. People who suffer from this terrible disorder must get the support and love they want from their family members and friends. As for their loved ones, they must guide and give affection to them to overcome this disorder, or at the very least, create a safe space where the individual doesn’t feel alienated for their trauma response.