‘Many Sides of Jane’: What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Many Sides of Jane

Emily Berl / A&E Network Recently diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, 28-year-old mom Jane Hart will have her life chronicled on A&E’s “Many Sides of Jane” premiering January 22.

A&E’s new series Many Sides of Jane follows a 28-year-old mother of two named Jane Hart who was recently diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Hart agreed to let cameras document her life and follow her journey with DID, which many people often misunderstand and confuse.

According to the network, “Diagnosed only three years ago, [Hart] is on a journey to understand what caused her DID as well as figure out how she can best co-exist with her many ‘parts.’ Throughout the series, Jane will be coming to terms with past abuses that occurred during her childhood and her relationship with her family under the watchful care of her clinical psychologist. This is a raw, unfiltered look at an extraordinary young woman who is learning how to live her life again with a rare, commonly misunderstood, disorder known as Dissociative Identity Disorder.”

Jane’s more than nine identities range from 6-28 years old and can appear at any time, disrupting her life and making it hard to live normally. But what actually is DID?

What is DID?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka the DSM-5), DID, previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and “relatively enduring personality states.” Symptoms and criteria for diagnosis include the existence of two or more distinct identities and accompanying changes in behavior, memory and thinking as a result; gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events; and a disruption in functioning caused by significant distress or problems in social or occupational areas of functioning. Associated conditions often include borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance misuse disorder, self-harm, or anxiety.

DID is a complex psychological condition that is likely caused by many factors, including severe childhood trauma and/or repetitive physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

The different identities, commonly referred to as “alters,” can have their own age, sex, or race. Different postures, gestures, and ways of talking are also possible. The alters can even take the form of imaginary people or animals. When a personality takes control over an individual’s behavior and thoughts, it’s known as “switching.” Switching can take seconds or it can take days; when under hypnosis, the person’s different alters may even respond to a therapist’s requests.

How is the Disorder Treated?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), treatment typically involves psychotherapy. The APA writes, “The goal of therapy is to help integrate the different elements of identity. Therapy may be intense and difficult as it involves remembering and coping with past traumatic experiences. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are two commonly used types of therapy. Hypnosis has also been found to be helpful in treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder.”

While there are no medications to directly treat Dissociative Identity Disorder, medication may be helpful in treating related conditions or symptoms (i.e., taking antidepressants to help treat symptoms of depression).

The premiere of Many Sides of Jane airs tonight, Tuesday, January 22nd at 10/9c.

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