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Religious Tolerance logo

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) &
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID):

MPD/DID considered as a serious
psychological disorder. #1 of 5 views

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Please read the overview to MPD / DID before tackling this essay.


As the name implies, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) -- since 1994 called Dissociative Identity Disorder -- is a mental condition in which two or more personalities appear to inhabit a single body. 

There have been five main conflicting views about MPD. This essay will describe MPD as a serious psychological disorder, generally caused by extreme abuse during childhood. This belief has been largely abandoned by mental health professionals, in favor of perceiving MPD/DID as an iatrogenic (physician induced) disorder that does not appear in nature.

MPD/DID seen as a serious psychological disorder:

Those therapists who accept MPD/DID as a valid, common diagnosis believe that it is induced by extreme, repeated, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse during early childhood. They believe that the child's mind cannot handle the high level of abuse and so fragment their identity into one or more additional personality states, each of which can handle a portion of the abuse.

Originally, therapists specializing in dissociation, viewed the alternative personalities (a.k.a. alters) exhibited by the patient to be actual complete personalities. They are now viewed as not being "fully-formed personalities, but rather represent a fragmented sense of identity." 4

Treatment for MPD takes many years of painful, intensive therapy as childhood memories of vicious abuse are slowly recovered. The condition of the patient typically degenerates during therapy. But therapists believe that their clients can be restored to health after all of the abusive memories are uncovered and the many alters are reintegrated into a single personality.

One source quotes an unspecified article in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, which found that "Persons with [the diagnosis of] MPD are highly suicidal with 72% attempting and 2.1% successful." 2

By interacting with their clients, leading MPD/DID therapists developed the concept of a hierarchy of alters, in which each has a different degree of power and different function within the whole system.

Dr. Bennett Braun of the Rush Presbyterian Hospital, in Chicago, IL, was one of the former leaders in the MPD/DID field. (He has since been reported expelled from the Illinois Psychiatric Society and the American Psychiatric Association, apparently for ethics violations.) He recommended that the therapist study each alter in depth in order to learn:

bulletIts name, so that it can be directly addressed in the future.
bulletWhen and where the patient was at the time that it was created.
bulletWhat events caused the creation of the alter.
bulletHow often does it become dominant and have control of the client, and for how long does it remain in charge.
bulletHow it fits into the hierarchy of alters.
bulletIts function; how it contributes to the system of alters.

One alter who is frequently reported has the specific responsibility of harming the patient by slashing, engaging in other forms of mutilation and committing suicide. Those proponents of MPD who believe in Satanic or government conspiracy theories generally feel that this alter is programmed to trigger in the event that the patient is about to reveal secrets about the cult or agency responsible.

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Dissociation test:

E.B. Carlson and F. W. Putnam, developed a simple screening test to detect dissociation levels in people. It is called the Dissociative Experiences Scale. 3 Two of the 28 questions are:

bullet"Some people have the experience of finding new things among their belongings that they do not remember buying. Mark the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you."
bullet"Some people find evidence that they have done things that they do not remember doing. Mark the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you."

We must admit that we are at a total loss to know how to answer these questions. If they had asked how many times a year each experience happens, we could answer immediately with a number. But we don't have the foggiest idea how to convert that number into a percentage. Percentage of what, we would ask.

Incidence and treatment:

Various researchers have used such tests to estimate that perhaps 1% of the general population and 5 to 20% of patients in psychiatric hospitals suffer from this disorder. 3 This would make MPD/DID as common as schizophrenia.

Many MPD specialists consider MPD is the same class as "schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, as one of the four major mental health problems today." 1 Although it is diagnosed almost entirely among women, therapists speculate that it may be equally common among men. However, men tend to be less likely to seek treatment. They often end up in jail because of behaviors induced by MPD. Research shows that the average person who is just diagnosed with MPD has spent seven years in the mental health system, and has usually been previously misdiagnosed with other many disorders.

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation reports that:

"An average of 2 to 4 personalities/alters are present at diagnosis, with an average of 13 to 15 personalities emerging over the course of treatment." 4

Treatment of MPD/DID patients generally involves long term recovered memory therapy in which suggestive techniques are used to coax the patient into remembering what they feel are repressed memories of sexual and physical abuse during childhood. The general consensus -- except among MPD/DID therapists -- is that these are mostly false recollections of events that never happened.

During therapy, the therapist attempts to contact the client's alternative personalities. In rare cases, this amounts to a single alter in addition to the main or host personality. In some cases dozens or even hundreds are contacted and coaxed into participating in therapy. The goal of the therapist and client is to reintegrate all of the alters into the host personality.

The decline of MPD/DID therapy:

MPD/DID was considered as a common and very serious psychological disorder by many psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health specialists during the 1980s and 1990s. However, it went into decline, as did recovered memory therapy, during the 1990s for a number of reasons:

bulletHealth insurance and malpractice insurance companies took a dim view of the immense costs involved in MPD/DID therapy.
bulletBasic research into human memory revealed no mechanism for repression and recovery of traumatic memories during childhood.
bulletThere was a growing consensus that Recovered Memory Therapy upon which MPD/DID therapy relied, was ineffective and unsafe.
bulletBelief that Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) of children was responsible for causing much of the MPD/DID during their adulthood collapsed after over a decade of police investigations produced no evidence that SRA actually occurred.
bulletSome skeptics attacked the therapy because most patients' mental health was observed to degenerate during treatment. It often improved once the patient left therapy.

Current status of MPD/DID therapy:

As of mid 2009:

bulletAll of the 28 specialty MPD/DID clinics in North America have been closed.
bulletIn 2006, the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD) broadened the scope of their group. They added "trauma" to their name and became the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD).
bulletThis therapy continues to be practiced by a small number of professionals, in spite of it having been rejected, ridiculed, and criticized by most therapists.
bulletThe American Psychiatric Association's current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) has a section dealing with dissociative identity disorder. The manual is being reviewed. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMS) reported:

"At least one group of psychiatrists has signed a letter asking the editors of the DSM to reconsider the inclusion of DID. There is nothing left to hide behind. [The book and movie] Sybil was a fraud. The branch of psychiatry inspired by Sybil is without factual foundation; it is cut from the proverbial 'whole cloth'." 5


  1. Bennett G. Braun, Ed., "Treatment Of Multiple Personality Disorder" American Psychiatric Press, (1986) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  2. Linda Humphrey, "Multiple Personality, Disorder?," essay at: http://www.umm.maine.edu/
  3. "The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES)." essay at: http://www.rossinst.com/
  4. "Dissociative Identity Disorder," ISSTD, at: http://www.isst-d.org/
  5. FMS Foundation Newsletter, 2009-Summer, Vol. 18, #3. This is temporarily online at: http://www.FMSFonline.org/

Related essays on this Website:

bulletMind control / programming by Satanic cults
bulletDemon possession and exorcism
bulletRecovered memory therapy
bulletSatanic ritual abuse

Copyright © 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JAN-11
Last updated on 2009-SEP-13

Author: B.A. Robinson

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