Dissociative Identity Disorder in Teens and Young Adults

It’s extremely common for teens to have multiple personality disorder as a co-occurring disorder, along conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, and eating disorders.

Called “multiple personality disorder” up until 1994, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a condition where someone has two different personality states, or distinct identities, which control the person’s behavior at different times. These alternate identities are referred to as “alters” and may exhibit differences in thought, manners, speech, and gender identity. Here at Paradigm Treatment, we can help teens who are living with DID personality disorder.

Individuals with dissociative disorders can’t always control the behavior of their alters. This combination of symptoms often causes teens to feel detached from their own lives, experiences, and the world around them

This is more than ordinary forgetfulness. Those who suffer from DID may lose the memory of personal information such as their name, phone number, and address. This memory loss can create a sense of time loss, as large gaps of time seem unaccounted for.

It’s extremely common for teens to have this dissociative disorder in addition to conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, and eating disorders. Self-harm is also somewhat common among those with dissociative disorders.

Feelings of detachment from one’s emotions, thoughts, and feelings typically occur in the lives of people living with dissociative disorders.

People who have DID may suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and more. (If suicide attempts occur, it is imperative to seek professional intervention immediately.)

Individuals with DID may struggle to deal with stress at work, school, or home. Everyday events may cause significant distress for those who suffer from this mental illness.

Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder

When children first learn to interact with the world and become sociable and tactile creatures, absorbing knowledge and processing information, they do not have a unified concept of self or identity. This causes traumatic experiences to fragment their development, sometimes leading to multiple personalities.

Trauma – Past trauma and traumatic events usually trigger fragmented personalities and can be the cause of a dissociative disorder. Trauma can occur as a result of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, or physical abuse. Also, experiencing a natural disaster, witnessing violent behavior, or other traumatic events can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Family history – As with other personality disorders, a family history of dissociative identity disorder can make it more likely for one to develop dissociative disorders.

Early childhood abuse – A collection of very negative experiences early on in a child’s formative years can lead to symptoms of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder). Some children develop imaginary friends to explore and deal with their environment, and while most grow out of it, some get stuck.

Family mother and teenage daughter in meeting with psychologist

How Can I Help My Teen with Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Encourage therapy – Psychotherapy is at the core of treating a multiple personality disorder, yet other therapies are available as well. It’s important to discuss with your teen and a mental healthcare provider what your options are, and what would work best. Art therapy, music therapy, and meditation can be practiced regularly to help ease feelings of anxiety and to supplement talk therapy, while alternative therapies such as EMDR and hypnosis are also worth a shot.

Learn more about the disorder – Dissociative Identity Disorder is undoubtedly a complex disorder and much progress has been made to better understand how and why it occurs. By knowing where your child’s symptoms began, you can better understand why they act the way they do, and you can discuss with therapists how best to provide a supportive home for them to return to.

What Types of Teen Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment Are Available?

When it comes to seeking treatment for teen dissociative identity disorder, it’s important to know that effective treatment often involves several different approaches. The goal of teen dissociative identity disorder treatment is for the mental health professional to discover and address as many of the different personalities as possible, to then help unite them all into a single identity.

The therapist may use various techniques to work with different personalities and will try to focus on those that may have dangerous or self-destructive behaviors. In a sense, therapists treat those personalities just as they would individual people, working to help empower them toward recovery.

Special attention is given to alters who may have experienced some sort of trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse. It’s important to remember that these alters are separate fragments of a whole personality, and to unite them, a therapist’s goal is to help each unique individual treat their issues.

Traumatic memories can have a major impact on a person’s life and the effects can be exacerbated by dissociative disorders. This is why it is necessary to get help from a mental health professional who understands mental disorders such as DID. Treatment for this mental health condition must be compassionate and comprehensive.

While there is no medication specifically designed for dissociative identity disorder treatment, sometimes medication will be given for certain symptoms of depression and anxiety. Since depression especially can be so intense in those with the disorder, medication may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms of this issue.

Talk therapy is the primary form of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. A person with DID often struggles with severe trauma and a fragmented sense of self. Helping each fragment find its way into a cohesive whole is very challenging and requires a lot of time spent in therapy

A strong support system can also be beneficial for those who are living with DID. With the support of others, people can develop healthy coping skills, manage symptoms of their disorder, and develop lasting friendships. Support groups can also help people deal with past trauma, addressing the issues that may have occurred as a result of childhood trauma.


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Teen Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Treatment

A good place to start when treating a mental health condition is having a location dedicated to healing, and the right staff capable of addressing DID. Psychotherapy for DID is the crux of the treatment but giving teens a place to stay among other teens, surrounded by nature, in a safe place, can help speed up the process.

At Paradigm Treatment, we help young people who are dealing with mental health conditions. In our program, teens battling mental illness are given a place to live and enjoy life, while working on their issues.

But the treatment program only lasts so long, which is why we place emphasis on equipping teens and parents with the resources and help necessary to continue treatment long after the program is done, through supportive care, medication for specific conditions or symptoms, and resources to continue therapy and engage in other therapeutic treatments.

A review from a satisfied parent:

After identifying a few options on the internet, I started calling programs to find one that could help us. Then we visited our top three options and decided upon Paradigm Treatment. We, including our son, are truly satisfied with our experience and the support and learning that we received. The people here are compassionate, professional, and transparent. The facility is comfortable and you get what you see on their website. The location, a stroll to the beach, allowed our son to experience surfing and hiking, things he really wasn’t interested in, but now we see him being more physically active. Overall, he is more social, more confident, and happier. He has had a couple of tough days, being back home, around old friends, but it is a reassurance to know that he and we can call Paradigm anytime and they are there for continued support. They helped us find a therapist in our area, who has been great, and they offered support in working with our family doctor. Their aftercare has been outstanding. Thank you for all you have done for us.

– Victor

If you are looking for treatment for your teen with DID, reach out to us today. We’re here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Dissociative Identity Disorder

The cause of teen dissociative identity disorder is often debated among mental health care professionals. The most commonly understood cause is trauma, especially the very severe kind. It’s thought that this trauma leads children to dissociate as a means of coping, or in other words, to identify themselves as being in a different, and healthier situation, rather than the one they’re experiencing. This behavior, over time, leads to the “splitting off” of separate identities and personalities.

Not in the sense as it is commonly understood. The proper terminology for it is “disruption of identity”, wherein a person can experience a significant loss of self and loss of agency. Instead, they develop a discontinuity, wherein their personality shifts drastically between states, or “alters”. Instead of thinking of one person having multiple fully-fledged individuals, think of one person’s self, fragmented, yet still whole. Understandably, this condition comes with memory issues and severe impairment in social settings and at work – but it can be treated.[1]

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