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.
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."
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
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
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:
Its name, so that it can be directly addressed in the future.
When and where the patient was at the time that it was created.
What events caused the creation of the alter.
How often does it become dominant and have control of the client, and for
how long does it remain in charge.
How it fits into the hierarchy of alters.
Its 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.
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:
"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."
"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
The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
"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
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:
Health insurance and malpractice insurance companies took a dim view of
the immense costs involved in MPD/DID therapy.
Basic research into human memory revealed no mechanism for repression and
recovery of traumatic memories during childhood.
There was a growing consensus that Recovered Memory Therapy upon which MPD/DID
therapy relied, was ineffective and unsafe.
Belief 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.
Some 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:
All of the 28 specialty MPD/DID clinics in North America have been
In 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
This therapy continues to be practiced by a small number of professionals,
in spite of it having been rejected, ridiculed, and criticized by most
The 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