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The MPD / DID controversy

Points of view & implications

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


bullet"...it has been proven that different personalities manifest different physiological symptoms. Some alters are allergic to penicillin or certain foods, whereas the host personality is not." Lisa Scott 1
bullet"There was no credible scientific evidence for any of this: no evidence that people who had experienced years of abuse ever repressed it; no evidence that forgotten memories caused the symptoms experienced; no evidence that 'recovering' memories relieved symptoms." Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, commenting on DID. 2
bullet"...if you go to a therapist with an open mind to asking for help in resolving problems and he or she tells you something that seems ridiculous, it probably is: therapists, despite their training and potential gift for insight, have no special intellectual powers--merely more degrees." "Melanchthon" -- book reviewer on the Amazon.com web site, reviewing Reinder Van Til's book: "Lost Daughters." 3
bullet"Sybil said: 'Well, do you want me to be Helen?' And I said, 'What do you mean?' And she said, 'Well, when I'm with Dr. Wilbur she wants me to be Helen.' I said, 'Who's Helen?' 'Well, that's a name Dr. Wilbur gave me for this feeling." 4 Reinder Van Til, describing a conversation with Sybil.

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Points of view and implications of MPD / DID:

MPD/DID is extremely controversial. As in the case of Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT) Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), beliefs about destructive and mind control cults, abuse during UFO abductions, etc., almost all experts in the field are deeply polarized into two groups, which we call:

bullet"Skeptics: - those who believe that MPD is a psychological fad. It is either non-existent or phenomenally rare in nature. It is a disorder that has an iatrogenic cause; it is unknowingly created by the therapist-patient interaction. Thousands of victims have been generated by bad therapy.
bullet"Believers" - those who see MPD as a very serious public mental health problem affecting perhaps 1% of the population. These are further divided into:
bullet"Secular believers
bulletMost are humanistic therapists and feminist counselors who believe that MPD is quite common, is caused by severe abuse during childhood, and can be resolved by re-integrating the alters into the dominant personality through therapy.
bulletSome believe that MPD occurs naturally, without any therapist involvement, and is unrelated to childhood abuse.
bullet"Religious believers" - typically some Roman Catholics, Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians who view MPD as a byproduct of demon possession that can only be cured through exorcism.

As in so many other therapeutic controversies, it is imperative that we reach a consensus on MPD quickly in order to minimize continuing harm to the public:

bulletIf MPD is an iatrogenic (therapist caused) disorder which does not naturally appear in society, then it is important that exorcisms and MPD therapy be discontinued, to avoid creating additional victims.
bulletIf MPD is real, if alters exist, and if the disorder is caused by severe child abuse, then attempted exorcisms by religious believers could exacerbate the victims' suffering. Activities by skeptics could prevent victims from receiving proper therapy.
bulletIf MPD is real, occurs naturally, is not a disorder, and is unrelated to childhood abuse, then it should be appreciated and studied; persons with MPD should be valued, not treated.
bulletIf MPD is real and is caused by indwelling demonic spirits, then psychotherapy to integrate the alters could cause great harm. Attacks by skeptics could prevent victims from seeking release through exorcisms.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Lisa Scott, Member, International Society for the Study of Dissociation, letter to the editor of Psychology Today, 2001-FEB issue.
  2. Elizabeth Loftus, "The Most Dangerous Book You May Already Be Reading," Psychology Today, 2000-DEC.
  3. Joan Acocella, "Creating Hysteria: Women and the Myth of Multiple Personality Disorder." Jossey-Bass, (1999). Read reviews or order this book.
  4. Reinder Van Til, "Lost Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy and the people it hurts," Eerdmand (1997), P. 178 to 182. This book deals mainly with the recovered memory therapy hoax which damaged hundreds of thousands of lives during the 1980s and 1990s. The author briefly discusses the case of Sybil.

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

Last updated on 2009-JUL-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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