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Many People in One – Multiple Personality Disorder

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is a mental disease that exists in about one percent of the population. Much research supports the existence of this disease and its origins, causes and effects on the people in who suffer with it. This essay will clearly define Multiple Personality Disorder along with a detailed synopsis of the disease itself. The diagnosis, alter personalities, different treatments and views will indicate the disease is real. The American Psychiatric Association named Multiple Personality Disorder in 1994 Dissociative Disorder.

Multiple Personality Disorder is diagnosed when a person has two or more personalities. These personalities have the ability to control the person and make them do things that they do not remember or would normally not do. When someone has MPD, they do not realize when another personality is in control or what they are doing. MPD is most often caused by early sexual child abuse. This child abuse is often intolerable, so much so that the person forgets these events and develops another personality to remember the abuse. The alternate personality is a defense mechanism.

Multiple Personality Disorder can also stem from high levels of stress during childhood, again, usually from abuse. This stress manifests a personality within the person so the stress does not have to be dealt with.

When someone has MPD they feel confused. They do not know why or when they have done a certain thing nor with or to whom. There are some early signs of MPD, but they are often mistaken for other disorders such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, schizophrenia, and/or bi-polar disease (manic-depression). A child with MPD could possibly have imaginary friends of any gender or age; MPD individuals will talk to themselves in a manner that is not like them, or honestly do not remember doing things. An example apart from normal childhood lying would be if the child drew all over the walls and when confronted, one could honestly see they do not remember the incident. There is also a lack of diagnosis among children, only nine reported cases were in 1990.

During adolescence, a teenager will often turn to other things to deal with the stress of abnormal and excessive forgetfulness or blackouts. An adolescent with MPD can oftentimes exhibit signs of bi-polar disorder, insomnia, suicide threats and attempts, drug use, violent mood swings and panic attacks. When a teenager exhibits these characteristics, MPD is not the first diagnosis to be explored, rather, it is blamed on hormones or drug use. These things can only fuel MPD rather than calm it.

Adulthood, or in the age range of 20 years to 30 years old is when a person with MPD is usually diagnosed. This is a time in a person’s life when the symptoms of MPD directly interfere with their lives. Not knowing where you are or how you got there is a big issue if you are trying to raise children or maintain a marriage. Also, as an adult, there is the freedom to seek help.

Diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder is a complicated process. It involves many psychological tests on the patient as well as preliminary therapy to accurately determine if the patient has MPD. The International Society for the Study of Dissociation revised guidelines in 1996 concerning treatment options for persons with MPD. According to their website, www.issd.org, “A mental status examination augmented with questions concerning disassociative symptoms is an essential part of the diagnostic process.” This means there are specific questions and evaluations that have to be presented before a diagnosis is made. The patient is asked questions about hearing voices, forgetfulness beyond normal, amnesia, problems with identity, regressed memories and hypnotic episodes. Also according to the website, “Structured interviews for the detection of dissociative disorders are now available and can be used to confirm a clinician’s diagnosis”. Such interviews are the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, which helps the therapist “evaluate and document the severity of specific…symptoms”(www.religioustolerance.org), and the Dissociative Disorder Interview Schedule that is a detailed interview to diagnose MPD.

The problem with the diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder is that it takes such a long time to actually diagnose, the average is six years to eight years but it can take up to twenty. The reason for this is the disease is often hidden behind other disorders that have stemmed from MPD such as depression and/or anxiety. Those persons who use MPD for attention or to justify abnormal behaviors are looked at closely. In truth, genuine MPD persons “conceal their awareness of the problem”(www.menninger.edu).

The “personalities” in Multiple Personality Disorder are different within the person. Each personality can have separate memories, behaviors, physical attributes, and even a different gender than the patient. For example, when remembering child abuse, a patient may have a personality to just remember those memories of abuse and will act violent or withdrawn even if the patient is someone who it outgoing.

The personalities serve different purposes. The self-help personality acts as the self-confidence of the patient and gives the person self-esteem in high stress situations involving confrontation. The persecutory personality acts on the hate within the person with MPD. For example, if someone tends to self-mutilate it is the persecutory personality acting on the person’s behalf. The hate within the person can be so great they relieve the stress with the persecutory personality. Switching is the term used when a person goes between one personality and the other. Co-consciousness refers to the ability of the personalities to know each other and their actions.

There is a wide range of treatment options for Multiple Personality Disorder; yet there are no controlled clinical studies involving the outcome of MPD treatments. Further research is needed to find the ideal treatment. When treating MPD it is important to have “stabilization, control of dysfunctional behavior, restoration of functioning and improvement of relationships” (wwww.issd.org/isdguide.htm). Treatments include hypnotherapy, memory therapy, psychotherapy, and inpatient treatment. In hypnotherapy (hypnosis) sometimes MPD is discovered when the person is there for a different treatment. Hypnotherapy can also be used for memory retrieval. Under hypnosis, the alters may come out and reveal abusive childhood memories. Although the most common use for hypnotherapy is for calming and soothing the person during their treatment. Memory therapy involves recovering the memories the patient may have had that has triggered their multiple personalities. When this is done the therapist will “re-integrate the alters into the dominant personality” (www.religioustolerance.org). Meaning, once the memories are recovered, they are transferred to the main personality or namely, the patient.

Psychotherapy involves many years of therapy and sometimes medication. This type of treatment takes several years for success, but over 70% of people are cured with this method. Also with intense psychotherapy, there is a higher sense of connection between the person and the therapist, they are able to become closer thereby creating a more trustful relationship. Inpatient treatment is very goal-orientated for progression towards independence. Inpatient treatment is a good option because the therapist is able to see the patient everyday and mark their progress. The treatment also goes more quickly than a person going to a therapist once or twice a week.

A concern for many psychologists is the use of memory therapy. The problem with memory therapy is sometimes it may be difficult to decipher which memories are real and which are not. In 1993 the American Psychiatric Association concluded that it is possible to remember very later in life child abuse that had been forgotten. The APA also concluded “some people may construct pseudomemories of abuse”(www.issd.org/isdguide.htm). When recovering memories it is important to believe the person even if there are doubts, doubt will only worsen the condition. A therapist is encouraged to maintain a neutral stance on the memories being recovered. Concerning treatment there are methods that are not to be used, such as Electroconvulsive Therapy (Shock Treatment) or Psycho Surgery such as a lobotomy. These treatments have been proven to have no positive effects on the patient.

There are many points of view concerning Multiple Personality Disorder. These include the beliefs that it is a real psychological disorder, it is a psychological fad, and even demonic possession. According to the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, MPD is a real psychological disorder in the same classification as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. As a psychological disorder, it gains recognition from the American Psychiatric Association through their diagnostic manual, and guidelines were set for the treatment and analysis of the disease.

Dr. William H. Smith, PhD, is a psychologist at the Physicians Psychiatric Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. Based on his article on his website, www.menninger.edu, he says that it is “quite real”. Multiple Personality Disorder is also seen as something that is manufactured in the patient by the psychologist or a psychological fad, something that is not a real disease and does not occur naturally. There are many reasons for this belief. According to the website www.religioustolerance.org, “MPD is an iatrogenic disorder, unknowingly created by the interaction of a therapist and patient”.

Other reasons for doubt is that there are not many early symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder and “many skeptics believe that patients are actually coached…to exhibit multiple personalities” (11 www.religioustolerance.org).

Demon possession is also a popular belief, especially among Catholics and conservative Christians. The reason for this belief is the bible verse which states, “Then He [Jesus] asked him, ’What is your name?’ and he answered saying, ’My name is Legion, for we are many”(Mark 5:9, NKJ). A legion was 600 men in the time of the verse. If it is a demon possession, the church believes the person possessed has been involved in the occult and has been possessed. The standard cure for MPD by demon possession is an exorcism based on the religion of the person “possessed” with MPD.

In conclusion, MPD is a real disease that exists in today’s society, based on the description of the disease within in this essay. The fact that there are many documented cases and so much research can give a clue into the depths of the disease. MPD stems from childhood abuse memories. In adulthood, these memories become alter personalities to cope with the abuse. These personalities severely disrupt the person’s life. There are treatment options available and help can be found for people with this mental disorder.

Arbetter, Sandra. “Multiple Personality Disorder: Someone Else Lives Inside Me”.

Current Health. Nov 1992: 17-19.

Bliss, Eugene L. Multiple Personality, Allied Disorders and Hypnosis. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1986.

Brenner, Ira. “The characterlogical basis of multiple personality”. American

Journal of Psychotherapy. Aug 1996: 154-166.

“Chapter Fourteen – Psychological Disorders”. 20 Nov 2000.

The International Society for the Study of Dissociation. “Guidelines for Treatment”.

1997. 1 Nov 2000.

Kluft, R.P. “An overview of the psychotherapy of dissociative identity disorder”.

American Journal of Psychotherapy. Summer 1999: 289-319.

Phelps, Brady J. “Dissociative Identity Disorder: The relevance of behavior analysis”.

Psychological Record. Spring 2000: 235-249.

Piper, August. “Treatment for Multiple Personality Disorder”. American Journal

of Psychotherapy. Spring 1995: 315-316.

Sancar, Feyza. “Exploring Multiple Personality Disorder” 1999. 20 Nov 2000.

Schrof, Joannie M. “Moving Beyond True and False”. US News and World Reports.

27 Jan 1997: 67.

Smith, William H. PhD. “Dissociative Disorders: Overview of multiple personality

Disorder”. 20 Nov 2000.

Robinson, B.A. “Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) a.k.a. Dissociative Identity

Disorder (DID): All Sides to the Debate” 27 Aug 2000. 17 Oct 2000.

Spanos, Nicholas P. Multiple Identities and False Memories. Washington, DC:

American Psychological Association, 1996.

Valencia, Luz. “Multiple Personality Disorder”. 20 Nov 2000.

West, Cameron PhD. “Dissociative Identity Disorder Fact Sheet” 10 Oct 2000. 17 Oct 2000.

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