Multiple Personality Disorder

Right, but I’ve seen the same thing with people who don’t have DID and make no pretense that alters are responsible for their actions. People sometimes become enraged or act out violently, and often they’re remorseful and embarassed about it a couple minutes later. Occam’s Razor suggests that the people who blame this on alters are simply trying to rationalize behavior about which they are regretful or ashamed.


Hi. :slight_smile: I think Cecil’s column is a decent overview of a lot of the reasons to be skeptical, although I don’t agree with his conclusions.

For me multiplicity falls into a grey area between mental illness – which is largely a social construct anyway; you can’t scientifically prove many of the DSM-V defined disorders except via a cluster of symptoms that psychologists have agreed upon, at least until there’s a drug to treat them (I mean there is no scratch test for sociopathy, except for behaviour, but it is generally accepted that there are sociopaths) – and self-definition.

It is an epistemological problem, really: how can we know what is real? Descartes’ solution was to take it down to “I think therefore I am,” and many multiples are basically operating from the same principle: out of everything I know, I know “this” is me and “this” is not me. That’s the experience.

Sure, some people fake multiplicity (some people fake pregnancy too) and some people use it for attention (ditto). You can’t disprove pregnancy just because there are cases of hysterical pregnancies and fakers and all that. And if everyone is looking for the extreme cases, like Sybil, I think it would be fair to say that seems extreme.

Also, it is a shame that people seem to think that all multiples are out there trying use their multiplicity as an excuse for being irresponsible. That’s not true in my experience, for sure. Those are the cases that come to the media’s attention, though. I mean, “went to work today” doesn’t make a great story. Nor does “well functioning multiple” make a good defense. :slight_smile:

For me, it is the simplest explanation how I experience (or don’t experience) my life.

So sure, I think the scientific evidence (sense-data) continues to be somewhat weak, although MRIs may be changing that. But that doesn’t mean that the possibility doesn’t exist, or that those who self-define that way should be disrespected.

Now if you’re talking about whether multiples should be held to societal standards of behaviour, that’s a whole different argument. Elyn R. Sacks’ book Jekyll on Trial deals with the legal aspects really well, I think.

The SRA argument is, I think, largely separate unless you buy into the belief that multiplicity exists if and only if there is some kind of ritualistic abuse. I don’t believe that’s generally the case although certainly many people have linked the two. Multiplicity as a response to trauma of some kind is more common as a belief goes. But the causality is again based on more belief than science.


To defend this position, I suppose that MPD/DID could be an example of the extremes of domain-specific behaviour. We all act differently to some degree dependent on our environment, both in terms of behaviour and language. I’m guessing that this is a potential explanation of DID, but I wouldn’t put too much weight on that, it’s just an idea.


Not really. While those results seem to put quite a dint in the posttraumatic model of DID they are consistent with the sociocognitive model. And Cecil hasn’t backed himself into a corner either. I think the following would be endorsed by the majority of psychologists I know.

Seems like a lot of first time posters are participating in this thread. So, I think I’ll Justsay hello and welcome all of you at once.

BTW Naldym What kind of work do you do?

*Originally posted by mrsam *
**To defend this position, I suppose that MPD/DID could be an example of the extremes of domain-specific behaviour. We all act differently to some degree dependent on our environment, both in terms of behaviour and language. I’m guessing that this is a potential explanation of DID, but I wouldn’t put too much weight on that, it’s just an idea.

It’s true we all act differently depending on whether we’re at work or with friends or at home with our partner or talking to our kids, but my partners who are in multiple system each do the same thing too. My partner the math instructor acts differently in the classroom than she acts at home, etc. Like a singleton, she has different “personas” for different situations. And the other members of her system similarly behave differently depending on the situation.


After re-reading some of this thread-
kesafloyd, can I ask a stupid question? Why would someone with these disorders refuse to be treated?

Well, I enjoyed that he raised the question of why-do-people-care-so-much-anyway. Personally, I care because I’m multiple, but I fail to see why people elsewhere are so invested in “is it REAL?” or not.

That’s not entirely true, really. I think it’s a natural reaction to finding out that maybe, sometimes, the world works in a totally different and unexpected way than what someone knew about before.

It’s just that there’s this whole dynamic set up where it’s medicalized, labeled a disorder and given a certain set of medical/psychological criteria, and then the only people considered to be “experts” and have valid opinions about whether it exists are the people in charge of disorders and psychological whatnot - therapists, psychologists, et cetera. And so they debate it tremendously, not least because that happens to be a community (the professional psych world, that is) where there is a lot of dissention, controversy, and just plain bickering over every little thing.

It’s a little bit like how people say “well, evolution isn’t proven, it’s just a theory!” – yeah, because science folks call everything a theory. That’s not their word for “thing that we aren’t really sure of;” it only means that to lay people. And endless controversy is very fraught with meaning to lay people, but is pretty matter-of-course in the psych world.

It does bug me that people, basically, don’t believe I exist, and argue about it on message boards and write whole articles about how nobody believes I exist. (I might add here that I think Cecil’s summary of “what experts believe” was really incomplete - I’m sure that’s the information he found, but there are also a lot of respected psych people who have much more broad-minded views on multiplicity. But then, I don’t think their ability to agree on a given issue is representative of that much anyway.)

But to me it’s like being gay or bisexual or trans - there are TONS of people in the gay community who bicker ALL DAY LONG about whether bisexuality exists, who sit around being like “oh it’s just a phase, they’re just trying to be weird and get attention, they’re just not ready to really come out yet,” and tons and tons of people who don’t think anyone is, or who think veeery few people are, really transsexual, and who have all these different arguments about what kinds of transgendered people REALLY exist and what kinds they think are just trying to make stuff up and get attention… it’s maaaadness.

But it’s like - any of these questions about “how do you know a multiple isn’t faking it?” or “how do you know someone isn’t lying about being ritually abused?” or whatever else can be parsed that way too - how do you know someone isn’t lying about being trans or faking being bisexual because they think it’s so exotic and attention-getting? (The answer I usually hear from other multiples when this comes up, especially people with abuse backgrounds that they’re also having to work through, is “Yeah. Because I get SO MUCH great attention and validity for saying I’m multiple, and because this is SOO MUCH FUN.”)

I think the multiple community is just where the gay community was, oh, fifty years ago maybe. In that sort of almost non-existent/ perceived just as freaks to pity kind of place. And maybe where the trans community was not very long ago at all, and still is in a lot of places. (The bi community is something of a different fish in that at least I don’t think bisexuals are pitied or pathologized by most people. Whereas both homosexuality and transsexuality have been listed as disorders in the DSM.)

For me the bottom line is that if people really want to ask questions about all of this stuff, they should go find the multiple community and ask people there… not therapists, who by and large can’t agree on a straight answer about anything, and who more importantly mostly aren’t multiple and can only answer based on their own perception of the experiences of people who see them once a week (sometimes more) usually when their lives are in crisis. It’s not really a representative sampling.

dryly and while I am multiple, I can assure you I am not in Astarea’s system. There’s more than one system out there. honestly, even asking that question is putting WAY too much effort into this. :->

sigh I fully plan to go dig up the FBI’s sainted report on ritual abuse, but what I gathered from it was not that they found that ritual abuse didn’t exist, but that they didn’t find proof that there was a national or international network of Satanic cults that were all ritually abusing people together for Nefarious Purposes. IIRC, they KNOW ritual abuse exists.

below is something I wrote about ritual abuse for that might clarify this more. For what it’s worth, I do not claim to have been ritually abused; I do know people who were, and I have studied it enough that I have a fairly good idea of, for example, what kinds of effects it has on people’s lives and so on. It’s not the kind of thing people can fake, and it’s really not the kind of thing that at least the people I know well would fake. It is not fun, it is not worth it in any way, and they do not get anything good out of it. But I digress…

At its most broad, ritual abuse is physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse involving a religious framework. For example, a Sunday-school teacher molesting the students as part of a lesson about penitence or original sin would be exploiting and twisting their religion to ritually abuse them. Generally, ritual abuse has taken place when someone’s experience of a religion has involved abuse presented as part of the religion.

Ritual abuse should be distinguished from ritualized abuse. Ritualized abuse does not require a religious component and is merely abuse that takes place in a repeated, formalized manner. It is the difference between the religious rituals associated with Easter, and the mundane ritual of brushing one’s teeth and going to bed.

It seems simple, but in fact ritual abuse is extremely controversial, at least in much of the United States, at the time of this writing. Partly, this is because “ritual abuse” is often assumed to be synonymous with Satanic ritual abuse, and Satanic ritual abuse is often assumed to mean one large, connected cult working across the world to abuse children.

The natural response to this, from a population conditioned toward cynicism, is scorn and disbelief. However, when viewed on a smaller scale - the Sunday school teacher or priest, the already-abusive family with a fanatically fundamental religion to drawn from, the extremely similar experiences of many people ritually abused in the same town - it does not always seem so difficult to believe that ritual abuse can take place, if not on the same large scale.

At its most extreme, ritual abuse often involves torture and programming, often using techniques developed by the CIA in projects like MKULTRA and Project Artichoke. When ritual abuse is occuring to this extent, it is generally happening at an institutionalized level. That is, these things usually take place in the framework of abusive cults or sometimes in families with generational abuse, rather than the lone abusive adult. They are simply too involved.

Ritual abuse can also be tricky in other ways, both on a large and a smaller level. For example, an abuser may don a Mickey Mouse or alien mask because if their young victim ever tries to tell someone that Mickey abused them, they will sound delusional. There has been speculation that at least some of the alien abduction stories out there, especially with the bright lights and the probing, are connected to experiences of ritual abuse.

As far as the disbelief that there are groups out there with religious beliefs and actions that seem reprehensibly abusive to most people, the tables may be turning. Despite many people’s knee-jerk denial on the subject, ritual abuse was suggested as a serious possibility in the Lori Peterson murder case in California recently. An NBC article on the case even, surprisingly, referred twice to “several Satanic cults known to operate in Modesto.” One reader I know commented, “When I was living in the San Bernardino area everyone knew about the 20 to 30 dead cats and dogs pulled out of the culverts every year, all carved up. I figured that every major and middling city has its own little cult of perverts.”

For those who are desperately wedded to legal and news media evidence, has a large collection of international news stories and court cases which explicitly refer to ritual abuse and related crimes where the plaintiffs pled guilty or were found guilty. (addendum: the above-mentioned CIA efforts are also well-documented through documentation they released themselves through the Freedom of Information Act. further addendum: i don’t think this writeup on it is half explanatory enough, but it may give you some idea of what is really meant by stuff.)

I thought kesafloyd put it well by saying that “It is not necessarily a disorder… The skewed view of MP as a raving, unstable condition comes from the fact that the only cases psychologists have seen are the people who cannot deal with their situation.” I’d like to answer this question too; can you clarify what’s confusing you about it? Specifically, what seems so bad about being multiple, and maybe even what you think the treatment involves?

The traditional “cure” for multiplicity is integration, whereby the “personalities” are supposed to lose their separate identities and become integrated into a single person. The reason many (notice that I’m not saying all) multiples don’t want to be integrated is that they consider each member of their system an individual person and view integration as tantamount to murder/suicide. They don’t want to try to become a singleton b/c they’re quite happy being multiple and consider themselves very lucky for being multiple.


there’s an intresting article which looks at the scientific evidence for multiple personality disorder in the journal ‘New Scientist’ (‘Fractured minds’ vol 179 issue 2412 - 13 September 2003, page 36) which cite evidence from MRI scans which show that when a ‘weaker’ personality is reported to be in controle, there is less activity in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that deals with memories) apparently because a less frequently surfacing personality would have less memories. This and apears to indicate that the difrent personalitys do not have acsess to each others memoriesand would be near imposible to fake. its worth a read.

moriah said:
*And guess what? It’s been disproven. These ritualized satanic abuses never took place.

The onus is on proponents of MPD to scientifically prove it exists. Their argument of ‘discovering’ it in leading therapy sessions falls flat as proof given the ‘discovery’ of other so-called repressed memories which have proven false. *

There have indeed been many cases in which someone claiming to have recovered memories were found to have been recalling memories that never occurred.
But that has nothing to do with DID. Many people are multiples who have never been hypnotized and/or didn’t recover their memories in therapy or under any external pressure at all.
Satanic Ritual Abuse has not been disproved that i know of, please feel free to include a source if you think it has.
But Satanic Ritual Abuse and DID are two completely different things.

Nothing can be proven true. Thats why we call it the theory of gravity, and I must admit, im pretty confident on that one. Many mental disorders are hard to quantify and prove, as statistics that would prove something likely need numbers, and theres no tests for DID that I know of that dont require a persons opinions (making it subjective and able to be lied on, so thats not enough proof) or that really gives numbers other than scores on tests, which themselves are prone to biases up the wazoo.
If you give me some idea how to prove to you that an alcohlic exists maybe we can figure out what sort of proof youd like for DID.

chriscya said:
*I’ve been a therapist for 11 years, worked in hospitals and Residential Treatment Centers, worked with abused and neglected kids- never saw a person who displayed or reported multiple personalities. I am not saying that it does not exists, I m just saying that I have never seen or heard about it at any of the agencies that I have worked for. *

While interesting to know, you assume youd know if you saw a multiple. As has been mentioned, something as dramatic as Sybil is unlikely. And as Cecil points out in his article, many of the expected changes are under voluntary control, so the new personality can control anything you might be looking for. A multiple probably has some pretty good reasons to know how to hide it. Unless they tell you, youll probably never know.

Czarcasm said:
Are you trying to say that the other personalities never show up when it is inconvenient? Do they show up when strangers are around, and if so, how do they react?

If another personality did show up, how would a stranger know? Identical twins can probably imitate each other pretty convincingly. Now if these identical twins were together constantly and had been for years, and if for those years theyd been practicing, theyd be pretty good at hiding it.
Most importantly though, no one will notice because most people arent looking for it. Even then, a word i hear a lot about multiples is ‘moody’. People will assume what differences they do see are just mood swings, PMS or what have you.

t-keela said:
BTW Naldym What kind of work do you do?

Hi. Right now im a computer programmer, but i have a background in Biology too. Why do you ask?

Marley23 said:
*After re-reading some of this thread-kesafloyd, can I ask a stupid question? Why would someone with these disorders refuse to be treated? *

Lets say you had an illness that was looked down on, considered synonymous with ‘stark raving mad’, and disbelieved by many (including many in the mental health profession) and rudely dismissed as attention-seeking behaviour. Lets further say this illness was only popularized in its extreme cases, when a person is a danger to others or extremely disturbed, adding the worry that some would see you as potentially dangerous. Add to all this that your illness is often confused with a related condition which even fewer people believe in and even more people view as attention-seeking behaviour. For giggles lets throw in that you probably came from an abusive background, where if you got yourself noticed you were probably punished, and if you were perceived as lying the punishment was even worse.

Would you tell anyone about it?

I’m seeing in this thread the claims that well-adjusted multiples have independent long-term memories, and that the different personalities can all share the same perceptions, if desired (as, for instance, when watching a movie). What about short-term memories? An experiment comes to mind: Ordinarily, a single person can retain in short-term memory approximately the equivalent of one phone number, but not two phone numbers. Assuming that each member of a multiple system has an independent short-term memory, one would assume that a system of n personalities could look at a list of n phone numbers, with each personality holding a separate number from the list in memory. Then, the list could be taken away, and the person(s) asked to reproduce the list. If they can reproduce even two of the numbers, that would be notable, and more would be extraordinary (since a normal single-person can generally only remember one). If, however, only one number is reproduced, that would indicate at the very least that members of a multiple system do not have independent short-term memories.

Please note that I do not suggest this with the specific intent of disproving the existence of multiple personalities. I offer this experiment because either result is likely to be interesting, and if multiple personalities do in fact exist, they would provide a potentially valuable window into the human mind, a subject worthy of much study.

The memory thing isn’t so straightforward. My partners’ system, for instance, has a shared memory bank to which the members contribute. So N, who joined the system when the body was about 12, “remembers” things that happened earlier b/c the children who were there at the time consciously placed those memories in the shared memory bank. The shared memory bank is also used for daily purposes, such as if one person has taken daily medications, he or she will “post” that to the memory bank, so if someone else is around later, he or she will know not to take a second dose.

The shared memory bank was a more recent development after the system had been subjected to a nameless psychiatric treatment which f*cked up their memory totally. So they developed the shared memory bank so everyone could contribute what they did remember and help the system as a whole reconstruct their past.

One instance I can think of that’s different is that B, who suffered some of the worst sexual abuse, remembers what happened, but not any of the sensations. But one of the younger children in the system, who was around when B was, does remember all of it and how it felt, and she thinks that B is a wimp for not wanting to face those memories. <shrug>


Ok, just my two pence… ok… between all of us… more like several dollars worth… but it’s not exactly refusal… alot of us see the stigma attached when people find out about being plural. That and several households never need to expose themselves to therapists. We work out fairly well … we hold down two jobs, a family, and service organization participation.

Chronos wrote, “Ordinarily, a single person can retain in short-term memory approximately the equivalent of one phone number, but not two phone numbers.”

I remember learning that at the Exploratorium when I was little :slight_smile:
( )

The experiment you propose is interesting. It would be largely dependent on the way co-consciousness worked for that particular system. Co-consciouness
is that thing that happens when people in a system can share the experience of, as you suggest, watching a movie, or when people can at least vaguely remember what someone else in their system did the day before - it’s what keeps us (in my system at least) acting RELATIVELY normal :slight_smile:

I have known at least one system where people had absolutely no co-consciousness at all (they got along at work with an elaborate system of post-it notes for each other and a lot of agreement about who would try to be in charge of different things there and so on) and I think that is what you would really need for what you would call extraordinary results in an experiment like that.

I think if we (in just my system) were going to undertake an experiment like that… well now I want to :slight_smile: Usually more than one of us are out/around at once. (as far as I know, the only outward signs of that are that different people’s mannerisms, speech patterns, or opinions might flash by seemingly out of nowhere - and I think people really have to know us to notice that) That being as it is, we would have to try pretty hard to each only look at or memorize one phone number. dryly Basically, it would require us to have decent boundaries for once. :slight_smile:

I do think that, based on past experience, if we just did it like that we could come up with more than one number. I think it would be most interesting if we tried it just in our normal chaotic state and then tried it in a more orderly way with someone (who we TRUSTED!) talking to one person at a time and giving each of us a different number to memorize – that would be a slightly different test, but if it was done in a span of time that fit into short-term memory it would (i think) accomplish the same purposes.

I do know that we have different short-term memories in here – hence the reference to past experience. For example, if two of us are around but we’re switchy or someone’s not paying attention for a second… well say people A and B are around, talking to our friend 5 or something, and A gets distracted by something shiny and is like “Wait, what were we just talking about?” B will often be like “The economy, stupid!” or whatever.
it’s handy, when we remember to ask…

I’ll throw another one on the pile - we’ve never been diagnosed as multiple. The first three therapists were before we knew and were relatively short-lived (let’s see… one visit because she sucked, three or four visits because we ran out of money, and six months because we graduated) and the fourth was at least a year after we figured it out and we just told her. she didn’t have any problem with it, fortunately.

to forestall the inevitable questions: we don’t feel a need to be diagnosed because it’s pretty obvious to us at this point that we’re multiple, and it seems like a bad idea in fact to have that on the medical/insurance records. i’m also not diagnosed as having gender identity disorder but I’m still transgendered. (same reasons as above.) silly nonsense, the lot of it.

which of course probably raises the question “how do you know you’re multiple?” for some. maybe not :slight_smile: we just wrote a very, very long essay on the subject (partly on that, partly on “dissociative identity disorder” in general) at … but if people want to read it they should be forewarned that it’s over 9,000 words long. sigh :slight_smile:

Oh, I didn’t know it was overturned. I keep hearing people in the multiple community comment on how now it’s illegal for us to have sex in Wisconsin and possibly elsewhere. (another connection between the multiple and queer communities, except that now sodomy etc. is legal in the u.s…) I should ask my lawyer friend to look at that case and see if that actually means it’s illegal or what.

Someone else commented on the horror of there being one more reason not to have sex or something… how bad it would be to be having sex with someone and suddenly you’re having sex with someone else who doesn’t want it, and how they don’t want to have to watch for that. I meant to respond to that… I was going to point out that it’s just like having sex with someone who isn’t multiple but who’s an incest survivor, specifically (or especially) if they’re in the middle of dealing with that.

Often people in that situation will start having sex but then get totally triggered and freaked out and/or having physical memories of being raped, which is basically the same situation - one minute you’re having sex with someone who wants to, the next minute suddenly you’re definitely not. It just takes, I don’t know… patience, I guess – but ideally I think that sex involves listening to your partner’s reactions and knowing what they want more of, or less of, or when they’re going to come, or whatever, and I think that anyone paying enough attention to do that would notice (hopefully!) if their partner suddenly shut down, regardless of why. It’s not something that I think should take Extra Vigilance, really, even though it does kind of suck for the casual sex partner :slight_smile:

I may be wrong, but to me the memory problems seem to be amnesic rather than the reason of possessing separate STM modules. So I don’t think the assumption that each personality has an independent STM is reasonable to make. Empirical evidence seem to suggest that emotionally-neutral information may not be affected by the interpersonality amnesia. DID patients recall more poorly on explicit recall tasks regardless of whether the information was learnt in the same or a different personality, as shown by an article in this year’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology by Huntjens and co.

The following study gives a reasonably interesting commentary on people faking DID for those interested. It provides a very strong case for the posttraumatic model (which is much stronger than I’d assumed in my earlier post!)

Gleaves, D. H. (1996). The sociocognitive model of dissociative identity disorder: A reexamination of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 42–59

The following study provides a good response to that one (from the sociocognitive model’s POV), and I’ll quote a relevant section to this discussion:

Lilienfeld, S. et al. Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Sociocognitive Model: Recalling the Lessons of the Past. Psychological Bulletin. 125(5):507-523, September 1999.

Does anyone know which study Cecil was citing re: the reaction times? It sounds to me like that could probably be explained in Baddeley’s model as due to emotional stress, patients which depression suffer effects on RTs similar to the ones I assume he is citing.

Just a quick poll here if you please.

How many members in this thread are multiples?

Seriously, I’m not trying to condemn or imply anything untoward.