Dissociative Identity Disorder: How It (Really) Works

Description: dissociative identity disorder makes people develop distinctive personalities, in order to escape trauma. Here is everything you need to know.

In movies and novels, people with “multiple personalities” are often painted as psychopaths or serial killers. In the real world, dissociative identity disorder is a serious psychological affliction, making the sufferer’s life difficult. It mostly roots in traumatic experiences, where people try to distance themselves from the atrocities that happen, resulting in the disconnection between memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is more than just having “multiple personalities.” This guide will elaborate on the details about this condition, including the symptoms and common treatments.

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is a condition where an individual develops two or more distinct personalities. When one personality comes up, memory gap appears, making it difficult for the individual to remember what he or she did as the “other personality.”

According to DSM-5, people with dissociative identity disorder are unable to recall personal information distinctive to a certain personality. Other conditions may accompany DID, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder

When a person develops DID, he or she may create a new name and behavioral sets that match the “other personality.” However, DID symptoms are more than just a quirky identity switch. Common dissociative identity disorder symptoms include:

  • Memory loss

When switching between one extreme personality to other, a person may experience memory loss. He or she may be unable to recall personal details or experiences between the switch.

  • Anxiety and mood swings

Inability to recall personal memories can lead to anxiety and mood swings, especially when this condition is confronted by other people.

  • Flashback and altered consciousness

Memory gaps and mood swings may create flashback, which does not give full information to the brain, leading to frustrations. This constant switch and memory gap can also alter consciousness, making it difficult for the person to get a strong sense of stability.

  • Destructive behavior and self-harm

Depending on the personality type, a person may develop destructive behavior, something that is usually repressed. Frustration from the memory gap, anxiety, and mood swings can also lead to self-harm. Many also develop suicidal thoughts.

In many cases, people with DID often abuse drugs and alcohol. They may also act aggressively, withdraw themselves from social life, or perform poorly at school and workplace.

Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Researchers are still debating the true causes of dissociative identity disorder. However, it is strongly related to trauma. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 90 percent of recorded DID cases rooted in childhood trauma, abuses, and large-scale traumatic events such as war. The multiple personalities occur as an effort to detach self from the trauma, as a form of defense mechanism when facing a stressful situation.

Researchers found that post-traumatic stress disorder often develops into DID in children. This is because children have more active imaginations than most adults, which allow them to develop multiple personalities with clear, distinctive features. When the traumatic situation passes, children can still revert back to their most comfortable personalities or refuse to get out of them.

In abuse cases, such as neglect and sexual abuse, weak social support can lead to DID. Abused people who cannot get away often develop detachment, which can lead to DID.

Therapies for Dissociative Identity Disorder

Diagnosing DID is difficult because there is no exact agreement for diagnosis standard among psychiatrists and psychologists. DID symptoms often overlap with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and autism, which can make diagnosing difficult. Individuals who experience symptoms must undergo complete screening, including testing, interview, and history checking.

Because there are no exact therapies for DID, psychologists and psychiatrists rely on several methods at once, depending on the individual. Popular therapies for dissociative identity disorder include:

  • Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy is a short-term, practical program, focusing on fixing the client’s distorted way of thinking. The goal is to help him/her to think and behave in ways that are more relevant today, not based on their past trauma.

  • Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy is popular to treat depression, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. It teaches the client important therapeutic skills in emotional regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal relationship, and distress tolerance (the ability to handle distressing situations).

  • Phase-oriented therapy

Created by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, phase-oriented therapy teaches clients to confront their root problems. Clients will learn how to feel safe, dealing with problems in healthy ways, forming personal relationships, and experiencing a better daily life. The therapy also addresses problems like self-harm and substance abuse.

A client may get medication to treat specific symptoms. For example, if the DID occurs with depression bouts, a psychiatrist may prescribe an antidepressant. The client’s support system, such as parents and family members, will also get guidance to support the client and make him/her feel safe to live a normal life.

Conclusion

Dissociative identity disorder is unlike what pop culture portrays. It is harmful, crippling, and more dangerous for the sufferer than other people. While the cause is still unclear, it mostly roots in trauma. Holistic approach in therapy is the best way to help DID sufferers to live a normal life.

Antisocial Personality Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatments

Description: antisocial personality disorder makes someone loses remorse and commits negative behaviors. Here is everything you need to know.

Ever heard about people who like manipulating, deceiving, and hurting others without feeling remorse? They may show classic cases of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Each person can show variations in his or her antisocial behaviors, but we often lump them together under the name “sociopaths.”

This chronic personality disorder often becomes a convenient background for pop cultures, such as in movies about serial killers. However, movies don’t give complete explanations about how this disorder affects real-life sufferers. Here is everything you need to know about ASPD.

Definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder

The newest version of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) describes antisocial personality disorder as habitual disregards of other people’s rights and considerations, without regrets. They tend to act in violent, aggressive, or nonmoral behaviors, without thinking about how they will affect others.

You cannot confuse the words “antisocial personality disorder” with “antisocial behavior,” because they have different characteristics. People with antisocial behavior tends to be against societal rules and norms and often isolate themselves. Meanwhile, people with ASPD may follow society’s expectations. They can be friendly, cordial, and highly-functioning, but the goal is to manipulate others and gain personal benefits.

The popular term for people with ASPD is “sociopath,” but it usually refers to the most extreme form of dangerous and aggressive behaviors. According to DSM-V, people with ASPD can only get an official diagnosis at the age of 18. The onset may appear years before that, but if the person breaks the law, his or her behaviors will be grouped under the term “Conduct Disorder” in the report.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder symptoms can appear during adolescent years, usually around 13 to 15 years old. Psychiatrists and psychologists can suspect ASPD when a person displays seven behaviors, which are:

  • Manipulating, deceiving, and lying for amusements or personal profits
  • Repeatedly engaging in destructive behaviors and/or lead to arrests
  • Constant aggression and irritability
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Absence of responsibility
  • Lack of remorse and empathy
  • Engaging in acts that are dangerous for self and others

The person diagnosed with ASPD must have had Conduct Disorder reports since the age of 15. If the behaviors are the results of other disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, they cannot be diagnosed as ASPD.

Causes and Risk Factors

Unfortunately, researchers still cannot pinpoint the exact causes of antisocial personality disorder. However, there are possibilities of internal and external risk factors.

Internal factors may include:

  • Genetic

Studies have shown that people with genetic defects in their brain (the parietal and frontal lobes) often show impulsive and reckless behaviors. They also tend to be more callous and impassive.

  • Birth orders

According to reports by MSD Manuals, antisocial personality disorder often happens to the first-degree relatives of people with sociopathy. For example, if a person developed this disorder, his or her first child may develop the same thing.

  • Sex

In the US, about three percent of the male population developed ASPD, compared to only one percent of the female population.

External factors may include:

  • Bad education

Children who received poor education in things such as manner, empathy, and discipline tend to develop ASDP easier.

  • Negative role models

Children are known as strong imitators. Negative role models can affect how they behave during their formative years.

  • Trauma

Traumatic situations, such as abuses or crimes, can develop twisted views toward normal social relationships. If not treated, it can lead to people developing ASPD.

Even without a diagnosis, parents or guardians should notice the early signs of ASPD. They may only receive a formal diagnosis at 18, but kids with ASDP tendency may show the symptoms since the age of 11.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Many people who develop ASPD tend to receive a late diagnosis. Consequently, they may seek help at a later age, such as during their early 20s, which makes the treatment more difficult. Otherwise, younger individuals depend on parents or guardians to notice the symptoms and take them to psychiatrists.

DSM-V does not describe specific treatment methods for ASPD, because each person requires unique, personalized treatment. Depending on the client’s history, therapists or psychiatrists may combine several treatments for antisocial personality disorder.

For example, if a person commits behaviors that land him or her prison terms, he or she will get a psychiatric evaluation and special monitoring. Teenagers who show these traits may be included in special youth educational programs. Parents, guardians, therapists, and public officials must partner to keep people with ASDP from harming others.

Depending on the symptoms, medications may be necessary. Antipsychotic medication, such as clozapine, is a popular, prescribed drug for controlling extreme ASPD behaviors.

Conclusion

While antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed when someone is 18, the signs may appear earlier in life. An antisocial personality disorder is a difficult condition to treat because people who have it think of themselves as “above” everyone else. Parents, guardians, teachers, or loved ones must be aware of these signs. Awareness is the key to find the best solutions for possible risky behaviors.

Guide to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (and How to Fix It)

Description: what is narcissistic personality disorder? This guide describes details behind a disorder that reduces self-worth and inflates self-importance.

Unlike what common people believe, posting too many selfies is not enough reason to call someone “a narcissist.” A narcissistic personality disorder is a real psychological condition, with specific diagnostic criteria and serious impacts. People with this personality disorder not only bring harms to themselves but also others.

Definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are those you will describe as “thinking that the world revolves around them.” DSM-5 provides an official definition of narcissistic personality disorder as a long-term abnormal behavior that roots from extreme needs for admiration and excessive self-importance. DSM-5 also emphasizes a lack of empathy as a common trait.

Well-adjusted individuals usually have a sense of empathy and considerations when interacting with others. However, people with NDP frequently think about themselves and choose their actions based on how they can benefit from the situations. They may be manipulative, deceptive, arrogant, and unable to receive criticism or competition.

Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Experts like Theodore Millon and Will Titshaw have concluded variations of NPD, which are not available in DSM-5 or other formal definitions. Some of the types include:

  • Hedonistic narcissist

These people are overly proud of themselves, unable to acknowledge others’ achievements. They may exaggerate their achievements, avoid responsibilities, shift blames to others, and lie to boost self-esteem.

  • Amorous narcissist

They show excessive attention-seeking behaviors and believe that sexual seduction and manipulation are vital parts of relationships. They may have multiple partners and cannot stay in loyal, meaningful relationships.

  • Elitist narcissist

These people lean on privilege and high status to seek a good life. They don’t hesitate to boast fake achievements to lift their statuses.

  • Unprincipled narcissist

They show contempt toward social rules and moral codes, behaving like they are above “the rules.” They pride themselves as being con artists and don’t hesitate to exploit people for their own benefits.

  • Malignant narcissist

People with malignant NPD show mixtures of sadistic, paranoid, and antisocial features. They always seek reasons to take revenge, blame and attack others, and to be cruel. They may think that other people always plan something bad toward them, which causes suspicion and aggressive behaviors.

  • Compensatory narcissist

People with compensatory NPD love creating illusions of self-worth, grandeur, and noteworthy. This act is to cover very low self-esteem and self-worth. They may also show extreme avoidance and negativity.

  • Fanatic narcissist

Fanatic narcissists love showing illusions of self-worth by belittling other people. They may act contemptuous, arrogant, and belittling toward others. They often show signs of paranoid personality disorder, such as mistrusting and suspecting others.

These narcissistic personality disorder types are not formal descriptions. However, psychiatrists may specify the reports for each client using specific characteristics they show.

Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Determining the exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder is hard. Each person develops this disorder in different ways. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and researchers usually rely on “biopsychosocial causes,” which root from genetic, psychological, and social factors.

A 2000 study in Comprehensive Psychiatry journal (volume 41) explained that a person might develop NPD if he or she has this personality disorder in family history. However, researchers have not found the exact genes responsible for this tendency.

NPD can also develop from the lack of positive role models, abusive family life or relationships, overprotective or neglectful parenting style, and negative environments that crush self-worth and self-confidence. Adolescent males have higher risks of developing NPD than females.

Effects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The effects of narcissistic personality disorder are widespread, not only for the affected person but also his or her surroundings. Hidden lack of self-worth, deception, aggressive and manipulative behaviors, and grandeur illusion can lead to things such as:

  • Difficulties in forming meaningful relationships (romantic, platonic, or familial)
  • Inability to act professionals at the workplace
  • Difficulties at school
  • Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
  • Problems with the law (such as from threatening or destructive behaviors toward people)

NPD can also lead to substance abuse risks, such as nicotine, alcohol, and drugs.

Interventions for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Intervention is a difficult step for people with NPD because they don’t see themselves as “wrong.” It is also difficult for them to admit that their behaviors and views bring negative impacts. However, some people may recognize that they have a problem, especially if it affects work, school, relationship, and daily life.

Since signs of NPD can appear during adolescent years, parents or guardians have important roles in guiding children to adopt positive behaviors. They must also recognize behavioral signs and consider going to therapists. Local social workers and therapists can also recommend classes or training sessions to reduce negative traits and behaviors in children.

For adults, it is best to visit a therapist or psychiatrist. They can provide psychotherapy and guide to reduce aspects of NPD in daily life. Having good social supports, such as friends and families, can help people with NPD to slowly change their behaviors, without fear of judgment.

Conclusion

A narcissistic personality disorder is a serious condition that roots from psychological, social, and genetic factors. Negative behaviors, such as lying, being manipulative or aggressive and belittling others often root from low self-worth. Therapy, social supports, and positive parenting are key factors in reducing NPD prevalence.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Positive Psychology

Description: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains things that motivate humans. It is also an important part of positive psychology development.

Even the most basic readers of psychology have read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is one of the most enduring theories in modern psychology, perfectly capturing the basis of human behaviors and thinking. Despite criticisms, Maslow’s theory has gone through updates and revisions, which better encapsulate the experiences of modern humans.

What is the Hierarchy of Needs?

Hierarchy of needs is a theory that describes human’s innate needs in five stages, illustrated as a triangle, which determines the motivation and behaviors of an individual. Abraham Maslow first proposed this idea in a 1943 paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, published in Psychological Review journal.

The hierarchy of needs starts from the physiological at the bottom (basic needs) and ends with self-actualization. Maslow stated that he proposed the theory to explore positive psychology in mentally healthy individuals. He published explanations of his theory in a 1954 book titled Motivation and Personality. Later, it became a standard theory in general psychology, sociology, business, and management teaching.

Explanations about the Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s theory described how people put emphasis on certain needs, seeking to achieve them before moving to others. The original hierarchy of needs consists of five stages, which are:

  1. Physiological needs

These basic needs consist of things like foods, clothing, shelter, sex, and warmth. They are the most important in Maslow’s triangle because they are directly connected to one’s health and basic bodily functions.

  1. Safety needs

Once people own basic needs, they need to feel safe. This second need consists of protection from fear, natural elements, crimes, and instability.

  1. Sense of belonging

People who already have basic needs and security start to seek for connection. These needs come in the form of friendship, companionship, and romantic love.

  1. Esteem needs

Esteem needs are related to things like dignity, respect, achievement, independence, and prestige. They can be something that goes inward or outward.

  1. Self-actualization

The highest and latest rank in Maslow’s theory, self-actualization is related to personal growth, fulfillment, and peak experience. Basically, this is the part where you feel that you can “be and do anything” in life.

At first, Maslow said that one must completely fulfill the needs on each stage before moving. He revised his theory in 1987, saying that the fulfillment of this hierarchy is not that strict. People can fulfill each need in overlap, based on personal circumstances and backgrounds.

Expanded Version of Hierarchy of Needs

Around the 1970s, Maslow expanded his theory, adding three more needs into the triangle: cognitive, aesthetic, and transcendence. If listed from bottom to top, the list consists of physiological, safety, sense of belonging, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization, and transcendence.

Here are the explanations of the three newest needs:

  1. Cognitive

Cognitive needs cover curiosity, studying, knowledge-searching, and exploration. If expanded, these needs fulfill humans’ wishes to make sense of their surroundings.

  1. Aesthetic

Aesthetic needs cover humans’ interests over beauty, form, balance, and design. They encourage individuals to enjoy or make songs, movies, books, and artworks.

  1. Transcendence

Many people view transcendence needs as something more important than self-actualization, citing various causes such as religious faith, mystical or spiritual experience, and lifelong commitment to a charity or other positive works (despite the low compensations). Basically, they are things that make a person feels meaningful.

According to Maslow, the stages from physiological to cognitive are “deficiency needs,” which means you will have problems to live if you cannot fulfill them. The half-to-top parts (most of the cognitive part to transcendence) are viewed as “growth needs.”

Why Maslow Created Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s need hierarchy was a part of positive psychology, which only started to appear in studies during his era. Before him, psychology had mostly focused on treating mental illnesses and explaining dysfunctions. Maslow wanted to focus on positive experiences in emotional, social, physical, and intellectual aspects, which are important to boost people’s potentials.

The hierarchy theory helped Maslow to conclude a holistic approach in psychology. He didn’t consider self-actualization as “perfection,” but a form of personal potential achievement. An individual can only reach it if he or she applies positive fulfillments in life. This was considered a unique approach in the middle of the 20th century, focusing on positive aspects in human psychology instead of the abnormal or negative.

Applications of Maslow Theory

So, how Maslow’s theory is applied in the modern world?

Maslow taught that an individual with a problem might not be 100 percent responsible for his or her woes. For example, if a student or employee has poor performances, you must look at things like family or personal relationships, school/workplace conditions, and other possible stress sources. Instead of just focusing on changing the behaviors, Maslow also suggested looking at those other factors to determine solutions.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may have been revised, and the way they are applied are unique between individuals. However, the basic understanding of what motivates humans have helped modern psychology to grow and develop effective therapies.