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Dissociative Identity Disorder and Addiction

Addiction is linked to a number of mental health conditions. When someone suffers from both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, this is known as having co-occurring disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services, “approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.”[1]

When a mental health condition is left untreated, the symptoms can be extremely difficult to cope with. This is why many individuals use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, causing them to develop an addiction. One of the mental illnesses that is known to co-occur with addiction is dissociative identity disorder (DID). 

If you are diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, being aware of how this condition relates to addiction is extremely important. 

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health condition characterized by having two or more separate personalities. If you have this condition, your varied personalities will control your behavior at different times, which can lead to gaps in memory and hallucinations. Each identity has its own personal history, traits, likes, and dislikes.

This condition is relatively rare, affecting about 1.5% of the global population.[2] Dissociative identity disorder usually develops as a coping mechanism for trauma. In other words, if you have this disorder you likely experienced sexual or physical abuse during childhood. 

DID causes you to have two or more distinct personalities. The “core” identity is your usual personality, while your “alters” are your alternate personalities. Some people have up to 100 different alters, with each one being unique and having its own genders, ages, ethnicities, and interests. 

The symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include:

  • Losing time and having lapses in memory
  • Exhibition of two or more personalities (alters)
  • Feelings of detachment from one’s surroundings or body (dissociation)
  • Out-of-character behavior 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

DID must be treated through professional psychotherapy. While some medications may treat symptoms of anxiety or depression, the main symptoms of the condition must be managed through evidence-based therapy. Without professional treatment, individuals with this condition may have a hard time coping with their symptoms, leading to the development of self-medicating behaviors and addiction.  

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Related to Addiction?

Substance abuse is not uncommon among people with a dissociative identity disorder. This condition can be debilitating, causing you to experience feelings of confusion, irritability, suicidal thoughts, and an inability to control your thoughts or actions. If you leave these symptoms untreated, abusing substances may seem like a way to escape. 

Dissociative identity disorder, like addiction, is typically caused by a history of childhood trauma. Similarly, most people who struggle with substance use disorders have faced traumatic experiences in the past. Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to see how you could develop comorbid DID and addiction. 

Recovery from DID can be significantly set back if you suffer from a substance use disorder. Oftentimes, people who have this condition and abuse drugs or alcohol experience an altered state of mind where they temporarily struggle to recognize their true identity. With that being said, while substances can provide short-lived relief from the symptoms of DID, continued drug use can worsen your symptoms. 

How is Dissociative Identity Disorder Treated?

The proper method of treatment for dissociative identity disorder has been a topic of debate for years. However, most people agree that psychotherapy is the primary treatment recommended for people with DID. The goal of psychotherapy is to become educated about your disorder, understand how it was caused, and learn to cope with your symptoms. 

Some specific therapies used to treat DID include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

These therapies are designed to help people process their trauma in a safe manner that prevents them from becoming re-traumatized. Because dissociative identity disorder is thought to be a coping mechanism for trauma, doing this should provide you with some symptom relief. Additionally, long-term treatment for DID focuses on trying to integrate some of your identities into one person. 

Sometimes, medication will be used to manage the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder on a short-term basis. This could include anti-anxiety, antidepressants, and antipsychotic medications. It is important to note that these medications will only relieve certain symptoms of your condition, making it vital that you continue to seek evidence-based therapy.

When you struggle with co-occurring dissociative identity disorder and addiction, the best way to receive treatment is to attend a dual-diagnosis treatment program. These programs integrate mental health treatment with traditional addiction recovery techniques, providing you with relief from both of your conditions in one setting. This prevents you from only receiving treatment for one disorder and experiencing a relapse due to your untreated symptoms. 

Dual diagnosis treatment programs for DID and addiction may include:

  • Psychotherapy 
  • Evidence-based behavioral therapies for substance use disorder 
  • Group counseling for addiction and mental health 
  • Access to medical care and detox if needed
  • Holistic therapies like mindfulness meditation, nutritional therapy, and yoga
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Trauma therapy
  • Referrals to self-help support groups for both addiction and mental health conditions 

Begin Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder and Addiction Today

If you or a loved one suffer from DID and substance abuse issues, know that recovery is possible. Living with these conditions can be extremely difficult, rendering you unable to function in your daily life, but a dual-diagnosis treatment program can help you regain control of your life.

Going beyond the conventional approach of detoxification, patients at the Mandala Healing Center are inspired to fully heal in an environment designed to nourish their entire being. Clients are taken on a journey of healing through complete immersion into evidence-based clinical modalities, multifaceted alternative therapies, and expert medical management, allowing them to fully detox and recover from mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions.

Contact Mandala Healing Center today to learn more about our inclusive and empathetic approach to mental health and addiction treatment.