Is Multiple Personality Disorder Real? – Dissociative Identity Disorder

Since Sybil was published in 1974 I think people have been fascinated by multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder or DID. We see dissociative identity disorder on TV and in movies fairly frequently. I didn’t kill her, my alternate personality did.

And yet many people, doctors included, feel that the mental illness doesn’t really exist. I’m fascinated by someone having a disorder that the medical community can’t even agree exists (although keep in mind, dissociative identity disorder is in the DSM-IV).

I admit to having no idea either way and being terribly uneducated on the subject. Luckily for me, there is a new Blogger Holly Gray at HealthPlace that writes on just such issues in her blog Dissociative Living.

I’m honored to announce that Holly will be writing a guest post here on the Burble blog. I’ve never had a guest author before but I think it would be a good change for everyone and I welcome a chance to learn something new.

Facts About Dissociative Identity Disorder

In preparation for Holly’s appearance, here are some bits from Wikipedia on dissociative identity disorder (DID):

  • Dissociative identity disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities orpersonalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment.
  • Diagnosis requires at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness
  • DID is theoretically linked with the interaction of overwhelming stress, traumatic antecedents, insufficient childhood nurturing, and an innate ability to dissociate memories or experiences from consciousness
  • Others believe that the symptoms of DID are created iatrogenically by therapists using certain treatment techniques with suggestible patients
  • Individuals with the condition commonly attempt suicide
  • Psychiatrist Colin A. Ross has stated that based on documents obtained through freedom of information legislation, psychiatrists linked to Project MKULTRA claimed to be able to to deliberately induce dissociative identity disorder using a variety of aversive techniques (creepiest thing ever)

In short, no one knows what the heck is going on, but then, that’s the state of mental illness in general.

[And as a side note, rapid-cycling versions of bipolar disorder are not actually in the DSM and so technically, I have a mental illness that people don’t agree on too.]

Dissociative Identity Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

One thing I will say though is that I find it completely reasonable to think that in cases of severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe cases of dissociation would result, particularly if the trauma was in childhood (and dissociation is a big part of DID). Many doctors do feel that childhood trauma is a key factor in DID. We all dissociate to some degree (myself more than most) and it’s reasonable to think that an amplification of that would result in a disordered life.

All Mental Illness is an Amplification of Normal Behavior

And really, all mental illness is an amplification of normal behavior, which is why it’s so hard for some people to accept. Depression is just sadness squared. Mania is just energetic cubed. And so on. But it does seem that the term multiple personality disorder probably didn’t do anyone any favors.

So, look for an upcoming post next week that explores some of the issues around dissociative identity disorder and mental illness. I’m looking forward to hearing from Holly and learning something new.

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