Multiple reasons to better diagnose personality disorders

January 15, 2014, Queensland University of Technology

Multiple reasons to better diagnose personality disorders
Psychology PhD researcher Amy Wong.
(Medical Xpress)—It's a mental condition that has inspired movies, television series and books but still baffles psychologists. Now a QUT researcher is looking at ways to better diagnose dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Previously known as , DID affects about one per cent of the population but Amy Wong, a psychologist and QUT Faculty of Health PhD researcher, said the number of people suffering from the disorder was likely to be much higher.

Ms Wong said DID, a condition highlighted in the popular television show United States of Tara, bears striking similarities to , and, on a lesser scale, and .

"There are a lot of overlapping symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions and there isn't much research exploring the cognitive differences and similarities between DID and schizophrenia," she said.

"One of the main differences between these two conditions is memory loss. We've seen patients who can't remember significant events in their lives because they were being experienced by another personality."

Though some sectors of the psychological fraternity remain skeptical about the validity of the condition, Ms Wong said it was not uncommon for people to have distinct physiological changes with each personality. In some cases MRI scans and EEG have been significantly different between dominant personalities, as have blood and cholesterol tests. Changes in handwriting are also common.

While each case is individual, Ms Wong said it wasn't unusual for patients with DID to present with about 100 different personalities, but usually only a few are dominant - some with distinctly different names, ages and characteristics.

"Part of the therapy is to raise the awareness of the other personalities and help these personalities to 'speak to each other'," she said.

"We have seen cases on the extreme end of the spectrum where people have studied in a field but can't carry on in that line of work because they have no memory of their training, or have forgotten big events such as graduations, weddings or children because another personality has lived that event.

"The stories we see on TV are obviously more dramatic. In real life some of the switches are so subtle that you wouldn't even pick it up and are often put down to mood swings, but the nature of the illness makes it very hard to be able to lead a normal life."

Ms Wong said the condition was not genetic but was usually linked to deep trauma, particularly experienced in the very early stages of life and was likely formed as a way of escape.

"There is no medication to treat DID. There are high rates of other symptoms such as depression or anxiety among people with DID so we can medicate those conditions," she said.

"The major goal for treatment is to help people take responsibility of behavior of all personalities, understand why they're going through what they're going through, as well as mapping the shared knowledge of the personalities so they have better awareness of their own condition."

Ms Wong is looking for participants who have been diagnosed with DID to complete a one-off cognitive test and questionnaire. The results will be compared with cognitive testing undertaken by people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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4.5 / 5 (4) Jan 15, 2014
Oh for the love of Pete. Unbelievable.

This is a good article, about very legitimate research. That DID and schiz. share some symptoms has long been noted, and this fact, like many things concerning DID, could surely use more research.

BUT - DID IS ***NOT*** A PERSONALITY DISORDER! Never has been, never will be.

Your headline writer needs more coffee, or something (access to DSM-IV and DSM-5 would surely help, if used).

This error is as bad as using the term "split-personality" and then linking it with schizophrenia - another long-standing error in the mass media. The headline/article mercifully does NOT do that.

This site I would not tend to classify as mass media, so this mistake is even more puzzling/aggravating.


(Aside: I'm a psychotherapist who treats DID, so this issue is very much in my domain of knowledge.)
5 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2014
Hi Amy Wong
I am willing to participate.

Hi tomcloyd
Is 'Identity Disorder' rather than 'Personality Disorder' a better way to classify it?
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
This article is full of errors.

1. DID is not a personality disorder
2. "Previously known as multiple personality disorder" It still is in the ICD-10
3. "beares striking similarities to schizophrenia, and, on a lesser scale, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder." Only to those therapists who are not trained to recognize dissociative disorders, but this is due to a lack of education and nothing else. A trained therapist can tell the difference with few problems.
4. "overlapping symptoms such as hallucinations" Those with DID have symptoms that can be called auditory or visual, but they are not psychotic. They see and hear these things inside their head, unlike the person with Schizophrenia. They are very different.
5. "Though some sectors of the psychological fraternity remain skeptical about the validity of the condition." This would be the few fringe old time folks that hang to what they originally thought, or the uneducated.
6. "but was usually linked to deep trauma, particularly experienced in the very early stages of life and was likely formed as a way of escape." This is true, but let me go out on a limb and say mostly likely always, not usually.
7. "The stories we see on TV are obviously more dramatic." This is an interesting point. Of course the media makes it look dramatic, they do this with everything, but at the same time the etiology/cause is often very subdued. The abuse these children went through to cause this is horrifying! That is what the media ignores.

Excellent: There was another article out that did not allow comments and did not have this information:

Ms Wong is looking for participants who have been diagnosed with DID to complete a one-off cognitive test and questionnaire. The results will be compared with cognitive testing undertaken by people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

People interested in taking part can email A $20 gift card will be given to each participant.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
In response to Hooa - DID - Dissociative Identity Disorder is a Dissociative Disorder, so the way to address it would be: Dissociative Disorder

Personality Disorders in the DSM-5 include:

Cluster A Personality Disorders:
1. Paranoid Personality Disorder
2. Schizoid Personality Disorder
3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Cluster B Personality Disorders
1. Antisocial Personality Disorder (often called sociopath or psychopath)
2. Borderline Personality Disorder
3. Histrionic Personality Disorder
4. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C Personality Disorders
1. Dependent Personality Disorder
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
DID is NOT classified as a personality disorder!!!

This is from the DSM 5 June 2011 Revision.
"The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in
personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of
pathological personality traits."
In contrast, DID is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (among other traits) emphasizing more on the effect the "splitting" causes on the individual's life and awareness. It has nothing to do with the inherent QUALITY exhibited by the personalities, just the PRESENCE of them.
I absolutely support research and education on DID, it is sorely needed, but I would like to see the need for it conveyed with accurate information to avoid perpetuating false assumptions. Thank you.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
quentin gaige - Thanks for the contact details.

I call it a 'personality disorder' I think out of habit. I'll make sure I change that habit.

Living with DID feels like a personality disorder because mostly I don't feel the switch and then my self talk would be something like - "whats wrong my personality'. It's great to be able to talk about these things openly now because for me - getting the vocabulary right helps with Integration....
5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2014
Hooa - There are a lot of places on the net to talk with others and good information about DID.

Here is a good one.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2014
Thank you very much for the link quentin gaige.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2014
Eight days since my comment. Still no change in the erroneous headline. Impressive. Have you no concern for accuracy? This simply discredits your site.

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