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September 2011



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By | Editor Shaheen E Lakhan


While Toni Collette may have pulled off making dissociative identity disorder (DID) look glamorous and sexy in the recently cancelled Showtime series United States of Tara, the reality of this disorder is much more complex. As fun as it is to watch an actress play five different parts in one show, for people with DID, the shifting is no fun at all.


One thing the show did get right is the fact that most people with DID develop it as a response to trauma, especially early childhood abuse from a parent or caregiver; studies have consistently reported this in 95-98% of the cases. People develop this disorder in order to distance themselves from the traumatic experience, by way of creating other personalities. While momentary dissociation is a technique that normal people use to cope with traumatic situations; in the case of people with DID, this dissociation goes beyond the moment, creating a whole new persona that has not been affected by the abuse, as an escape mechanism.


The prevalence of DID in the general population has been established at 1%, making it far more common than popular belief would have it. Nevertheless, the allure of the “exotic” continues to surround this condition, for example, because hypnosis is commonly used to gain access to the alters, as the different personalities are called. A scientifically accepted technique, hypnosis still remains, in the public mind, a practice bordering the world of the occult, found more at home in magic show than in the therapist´s office.


Perhaps because of its assumed rarity, it is the diagnosis of DID that poses one of the biggest problems. In 1993, a Dutch study of 71 DID patients established that:


Patients had spent an average of 8.2 years in the mental health system prior to correct diagnosis. Patients presented with many different symptoms and frequently received other psychiatric or neurological diagnoses.

Over the years, studies carried out in other parts of the world have yielded similar results, raising awareness about DID and the methods that could be used to identify it, separating it from other disorders, some of which can sometimes be comorbid with it, thus further complicating an effective diagnosis.


According to DSM IV, DID can be diagnosed whenever there is a coexistence of:


  • *The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).
  • *At least two of these identity or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.
  • *Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness and not due to the direct effects of a substance (e.g. blackouts or chaotic behaviour during alcohol intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g. complex partial seizures).


While some alters can be harmless, a study on DID and suicidality found a strong correlation between the disorder and repeated suicide attempts, as well as the risk of causing harm to others. As the DID patient does not control the alters, this presents a great danger. In fact, DID patients have often been involved in crime investigations, and North American law has even recognized the right of the different personalities to have different attorneys, outlining a plot fit for the ultimate trial film from Hollywood. Courts have also been known to take the testimonies of the different alters as if they were actually different people, especially in cases in which one of the “bad” alters has committed a crime that neither the patient´s main personality nor the other alters have a recollection of.


Many times, people have ended up going to jail for crimes committed by one of their alters. Even today, with all the developments and research carried out by the scientific community, it seems that DID remains as mysterious as ever, and people continue to suffer from this disorder without even being aware of it, all over the world.


Read More …



“Dissociative Experiences Scale”


An Introduction to Dissociative Disorders (and Multiple Personality Disorder):


Dissociative Identity Disorder Forum:


Myth Busting and Dissociative Identity Disorder”:


“DID in Popular Culture:


Movie with D.I.D. twist

The 2010 movie The Ward depicts a young institutionalized woman who, while trying to escape from the institution and a resident killer ghost, finds that all the other killed patients and the ghost are alternative personalities she created in order to deal with a violent abduction in her childhood.


Sybil Movie Poster

SybilSybil is a 1976 movie which portrays the life of a woman who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) / Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).


Sybil tells the story of Sybil Dorsett (played by Sally Field), a woman who as been severely abused by her mother and who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) / Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In the movie she recounts with her psychologist Dr. Wilbur (played by Joanne Woodward) her experiences as a child and the different personalities she has developed. Sybil was based on a book by Flora Rheta Schreiber.

Source: http://www.outofthefog.net/Movies/Sybil.html


Raising Cain Poster

View Image

A 1967 Indian Bollywood film directed by Satyen Bose. The leading actress, Nargis, won the distinguished National Film Award for Best Actress for her role as Varuna, a married woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder. By day, she is a typical Hindi homemaker, whilst at night she calls herself Peggy and walks the streets of Calcutta. 


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