Dissociative identity disorder
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Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a mental illness in which a person has two or more notably different personalities that may independently control their body; the personalities coming to the fore at different times. Its status as a real, identifiable mental illness is disputed by many psychotherapists, although recent research suggests it is a real disorder, albeit an uncommon one. A number of cases have been recorded in both the US and the UK. Most psychiatrists agree that the condition is not psychosis.
In popular perception, dissociative identity disorder is often confused with schizophrenia. Many analogies to conflicting personalities or styles are often called "schizophrenic" but this is wrong. Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized thought, but not by multiple personalities.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnoses someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder if they exhibit:
- Two or more distinctly separate personalities emerging in one person frequently for more than one month,
- Memory loss between these personalities that goes beyond normal forgetfulness,
- The change in personality is not triggered, affected, or manipulated in any way by external stimuli such as drugs or alcohol.
Sybil and DID epidemic
Controversy over the diagnosis stems from the explosion of DID cases in the wake of the publication of the book Sybil and its subsequent film spin-off in the 1970s. Sybil was the pseudonym of Shirley Mason, a woman claimed to have sixteen personalities. The release of further documentation such as tapes of the therapy sessions demonstrated that Mason's therapist had encouraged her to manufacture multiple personalities and engaged in questionable practices such as hypnosis and barbiturate injection. The DID epidemic later played into the recovered memory therapy craze and Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Since the 1990s, many DID specialists have been sued for malpractice and specialist clinics have been closed down.
From their own perspective
It is notable that some "plurals" do not consider their condition to be a mental disorder so much as a natural state of being, much like the autism rights movement. This subcommunity, known as the endogenic or parogenic community, rejects the idea that DID is the result of either childhood abuse or the induction of false memories, and argues that their condition is considered a mental illness only because society has branded it as one.
- Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder, WebMD
- Entry in The Skeptic's Dictionary
- ABC report on Sybil
- Robert W. Rieber. Hypnosis, false memory and multiple personality: a trinity of affinity. History of Psychiatry March 1999 vol. 10 no. 37 003-11
- Salon.com Book Review
- MPD/DID: Multiple Personality & Dissociative Identity Disorder: Overview, Religious Tolerance