Symptoms of Multiple Personalities: When Your Partner Might Need Residential Treatment for DID

Successfully maintaining a relationship with someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder) requires, first and foremost, an understanding of the many symptoms of their disorder. Through this understanding, you can better cope with and address their illness and help them seek out the treatment that they need, lighting the path to resolution and forging a healthy bond that values your partner’s mental health as well as your own.

“During the day, I was a puzzle with innumerable pieces,” said author Suzie Burke, who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), which is now defined as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). “One piece made my family a nourishing breakfast. Another piece ferried the kids to school and to soccer practice. A third piece managed to trip to the grocery store. There was also a piece that wanted to sleep for eighteen hours a day and the piece that woke up shaking from yet another nightmare. And there was the piece that attended business functions and actually fooled people into thinking I might have something constructive to offer.”

We can never truly know what’s going on in the mind of another person. Even in the closest of relationships, we trust our loved ones to be open with us, to let us in on what they’re feeling, and we do our best to reciprocate. But when you’re in a relationship with someone struggling with DID, this reciprocation can sometimes feel impossible. Over the course of seconds or minutes, their personalities may shift, making it difficult to establish a bond that feels real and tangible.

If you think that your partner might be suffering from DID, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the symptoms of this disorder, its causes, and the necessity of treatment. By guiding them toward the path of recovery, you can help them gain control over their mental illness (and also increase your own awareness of it) to ensure that it doesn’t cause undue stress on your relationship or your own mental health.

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Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder


The diagnosis of DID requires the presence of at least two distinct identities, each with its own psyche that perceives itself and its connections to the environment in unique ways. Symptoms that accompany this presence of multiple psyches include:

  • Inability to recall important personal information
  • Memories unique to specific identities
  • Distinct ways of talking and acting for each psyche

People with DID also often experience other co-occurring mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, mood swings, and suicidal tendencies. It can be stressful, even downright frightening to constantly be pulled back and forth between different realities, and when combined with other mental health issues, this struggle is amplified.

“I was a circus performer traversing the tightwire, and I could fall off into a vortex devoid of reality at any moment,” said Suzie. “There was, and had been for a very long time, an intense sense of despair. A self-deprecating voice inside told me I had no chance of getting better. I lived in an emotional black hole.”

If you recognize symptoms of DID in your partner, it’s important to understand that you can help them find their way out of this “emotional black hole” by guiding them toward seeking proper treatment. However, in order to do so successfully, you must also understand the nature of their illness and how it is affecting the both of you.

Coping with and Addressing Your Partner’s DID


Being in a relationship with someone whose personality can change swiftly and without warning is a difficult experience, one that can easily cause friction and turmoil within the relationship. But it’s important to remember that DID typically stems from childhood trauma, as well as other traumatic events such as natural disasters and military combat. In order to deal with this trauma, people with this illness create alternate psyches as a coping mechanism to dissociate themselves from the pain of the trauma.

Over time, this defense mechanism becomes a natural reaction to stress, so when you partner’s alternate psyches manifest, it is likely a reaction to a situation causing them discomfort. Understanding this can help you better empathize with why they are feeling the way they are, anticipate when symptoms of their illness are most likely to manifest, and provide them with the support that they need during the moments when they feel lost.

When you notice that your partner’s life is becoming fractured to the extent that it’s significantly affecting their life—they forget conversations they’ve had with you, their work performance is declining, they begin to experience other mental health challenges like depression and anxiety—it’s important for you to approach them about treatment. If and when you do approach them, be sure to do so in the most gentle, non-confrontational way possible. Since dissociation is a coping mechanism which has developed to help them deal with stress, an aggressive encounter could trigger a dissociative episode. Calmly and compassionately emphasize your reasons for wanting them to get treatment—your love for them, your concern for their health, and your desire to protect and maintain the bond you share with them—and remind them that treatment will, in the long run, be beneficial both for each of you as individuals and for your relationship.

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Lighting the Path to Resolution


At the end of the day, being able to understand and support your partner with DID will make it easier for you to gently usher them into the direction of comprehensive residential treatment. When looking for the right facility, be sure to focus on those with treatment modalities which studies have shown to be most effective for treating DID, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).

Through professional, compassionate care, your partner can address the trauma at the root of their DID and begin to live their life without feeling lost amongst their various psyches. Residential treatment will also provide you with the opportunity to get the support you need to cope with the repercussions of their disorder, as well as participate in your partner’s treatment and better understand what they are feeling and going through—which, in turn, will help strengthen your bond and help you build a better future for each other, together.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Contact us to learn more about how your loved one can harness the benefits of treatment in order to come to terms with their conflicting psyches.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Bruno Sousa