Multiple personalities -- for real?

OK, we’ve all seen the movies and read the books were someone is supposed to have multiple personalities that can take over, commit crimes, etc, etc, etc. I have to think it’s a load of bunk perpetrated by hack writers and lawyers. Is the idea of multiple personality syndrome actually accepted by psychologists/doctors?

Check out [The Minds of Billy Milligan](
/0553263811/qid=1036168277/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-9730656-1895912?v=glance&n=507846), a non-fiction book about somebody who had 24 separate personalities.

Don’t know how true this is, but a buddy told me about medical cases where people would have split personalities. One personality would have high blood pressure, the other wouldn’t. In one extreme case, it appeared that one personnality had diabetes, and the other didn’t. I don’t have time to research and verify this, so take it for what it’s worth.

Do some searches if you can on this forum and in Great Debates. It has come up number of times.

RiverRunner-I believe that they have documented experiments where people would present with it-they ruled out fakers by measuring brainwaves.

Those who were faking had the same brainwaves-those who were not had different brainwaves.

It’s impossible to fake your own brainwaves.

Also, it’s extremely rare.

What about Sybil? I’m speaking from my 12th grade Psych class, and I remember that was the assignment-to research Sybil Dorset. I read the book-has it been verified?

Brother. First of all, there is indeed a DSM-III entry for “Multiple Personality Disorder,” which DSM-IV has renamed “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” It’s a matter of considerable debate: those who actually treat patients hold with the MPD diagnosis, whereas those who teach have prevailed with their DID nomenclature.

I am pretty well aligned with the DID camp, which holds that “one personality to a customer” is the only physical possibility, and that the presence of other personalities is a psychotic delusion that must be treated, rather than genuine “alters” which must be integrated. Some also hold that many of the MPD cases presented are actually caused by inadvertent suggestion by therapists.

Regardless of the nature of the illness, there is no question that some mentally ill people display these symptoms, and are genuinely helpless to prevent some of their behaviors.


Schizophrenia, commonly associated with multiple personality disorder (MPD) runs in thirds. What this means is that one third of the population will never have a schizophrenic episode -> One third of the population will have one isolated schizophrenic episode in their lifetimes -> and One third of the population will have more than one episode, and possibly a diagnosable problem.


I often tell my psych 101 students this when we start in September.

MPD is nothing to fool about, or kid about, it is very real and very destructive to peoples lives if not properly controlled.

Just think, less than 30 years ago the norm for treating the disorder was shock therapy!

Billy Milligan? Please. That case makes me so angry. In the middle of the whole Sybil brohaha, a criminal who served time in a youth facility for rape and prison for gaybashing is arrested again for three rapes, and comes up the defense of “multiple personalities.” Just a new twist on the oldest defense in the book: I did it, but I was crazy, and now I’m sane so I should be released.

I never bought into that story.

Phlosphr, please cite your sources of information.

“Schizophrenia, commonly associated with multiple personality disorder.”

DSM-IV-TR does not note an association, but does state that differential diagnosis may be complicated.

Prevalence rates for schizophrenia:
0.5% to 1.5%
Annual incidence:
0.5-5.0 to 5.0 per 10,000 (DSM-IV-TR)

This is hardly the 1/3-1/3-1/3 pattern you described.

I just wanted to comment on Phlosphr’s post, MPD and Schizophrenia are not the same thing.
Personal anecdote, I dated a girl diagnosed with MPD for a little over 2 years. I’m convinced. She had a least 5 distinct personalities though 2 of them were similar enough to 2 others that they could be hard to tell apart if you weren’t observant. Her therapist generally treated her by selecting one primary personality and fusing them together. Stress or trauma could (and did) fracture them though so she’d have to go back to the shrink every so often to have them fused together again.

They could hide things from each other, have conversations with each other, had different tastes in clothes, men, food and so on. I see no reason why multiple personalities would be a physical impossibility since this is by definition a mental phenomenon.

I would find it hard to believe the separate personalities would have mutually exclusive medical problems though.

There was a MPD diabetic/non-diabetic story, supposedly based in fact, printed in one of Discover’s “Life Signs”* features a year or two ago. I’m not qualified to judge the story’s accuracy, but am rather skeptical. Still . . . tis a strange world. In any case, it made for an interesting read.

Um, there should be an asterisk near the bottom of the above post, next to which is a note that says I’m not sure if the feature is called “Life Signs,” but I know that it is something similar to that. Oops.

No wonder so many people have this misconception. The fight against ignorance should start in the classroom and we have teachers confusing the issue. People with MPD may commonly have Schizophrenia, but they are not associated with each other AFAIK. Schizophrenia is a totally different psychosis.

From Healthlink:


For reference the DSM-IV-TR is online at

DID would be a neurosis. No where do you have individual personalities, rather aspects of the same personality.

Also the behaviour of any of the personalities doesn’t go outside their core belief system. In other words, one would not do something any other “aspect personality” woudn’t do

Eek, Which university decided to give you a the responsibility to mould the minds of children?

Hmmm… I never realized that brainwaves are supposedly like fingerprints (ie unchaning and immutable). I thought brainwaves were supposed to change given whatever whatever internal or external stimulus the brain was dealing with.

Is there really some individually characteristic and unchanging “brainwave” a (normal) person has that can used for postiive identification?

I don’t know if it was brainwaves. Forget what I said-I’m afraid I’m speaking from a class I took when I was seventeen.