How is dissociative identity disorder (DID) treated?

The goals of treatment for DID are to relieve symptoms, ensure the safety of the individual and those around him or her, and “reconnect” the different personalities into one integrated, well-functioning identity.

Treatment also aims to help the person safely express and process painful memories, develop new coping skills and life skills, restore optimal functioning, and improve relationships. The best treatment approach depends on the individual, the nature of any identifiable triggers, and the severity of the symptoms. Most likely treatment will include some combination of the following methods:

  • Psychotherapy: Sometimes called “talk therapy,” psychotherapy is the main treatment for dissociative disorders. This is a broad term that includes several forms of therapy.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This form of psychotherapy focuses on changing dysfunctional thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This technique was designed to treat people with persistent nightmares, flashbacks, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Dialectic-behavior therapy (DBT): A form of psychotherapy for people with severe personality disturbances, which can include dissociative symptoms that often occur after an experience of abuse or trauma.
  • Family therapy: This helps teach the family about the disorder as well as helping family members recognize symptoms of a recurrence.
  • Creative therapies (for example art therapy, music therapy): These therapies allow patients to explore and express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and creative environment.
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques: These help people to better tolerate their dissociative symptoms and become more aware of their internal states.
  • Clinical hypnosis: A treatment method that uses intense relaxation, concentration, and focused attention to achieve an altered state of consciousness, allowing people to explore thoughts, feelings, and memories they may have hidden from their conscious minds.
  • Medication: There is no medication to treat dissociative disorders themselves. However, people with dissociative disorders, especially those with associated depression and/or anxiety, may benefit from treatment with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

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