Dissociative identity disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD)

December 28, 2009

copied with permission

Dissociative identity disorder
(formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD) is defined in the DSM-IV-TR as the presence of two or more personality states or distinct identities that repeatedly take control of one's behavior. The patient has an inability to recall personal information. The extent of this lack of recall is too great to be explained by normal forgetfulness. The disorder cannot be due to the direct physical effects of a general medical condition or substance.[1]

DID entails a failure to integrate certain aspects of memory, consciousness and identity. Patients experience frequent gaps in their memory for their personal history, past and present. Patients with DID report having severe physical and sexual abuse, especially during childhood. The reports of patients with DID are often validated by objective evidence.[1]Physical evidence may include variations in physiological functions in different identity states, including differences in vision, levels of pain tolerance, symptoms of asthma, the response of blood glucose to insulin and sensitivity to allergens. Other physical findings may include scars from physical abuse or self-inflicted injuries, headaches or migraines, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.[1]

DID is found in a variety of cultures around the world. It is diagnosed three to nine times more often in adult females than males. Females average 15 or more identities, males eight identities. The sharp rise in the reported cases of DID in the U.S. may be due the greater awareness of DID's diagnosis, which has caused an increased identification of those that were previously undiagnosed.[1]The average time period from DID's first presentation of symptoms to its diagnosis is six to seven years. DID may become less manifest as patients reach past their late 40's, but it can reemerge during stress, trauma or substance abuse. It is suggested in several studies that DID is more likely to occur with first-degree biological relatives of people that already have DID, than in the regular population.[1]


* 1 Symptomatology
* 2 Causes
* 3 DSM inclusion
* 4 History
* 5 Physiological Evidence
* 6 References
* 7 Bibliography
* 8 External links


Individuals diagnosed with DID demonstrate a variety of symptoms with wide fluctuations across time; functioning can vary from severe impairment in daily functioning to normal or high abilities.[2]Patients may experience an extremely broad array of other symptoms that resemble epilepsy, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, and eating disorders.[2]CausesThe causes of dissociative identity disorder are theoretically linked with the interaction of overwhelming stress, traumatic antecedents,[3] insufficient childhood nurturing, and an innate ability to dissociate memories or experiences from consciousness.[2] Prolonged child abuse is frequently a factor, with a very high percentage of patients reporting documented abuse[4] often confirmed by objective evidence.[1]

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that patients with DID often report having a history of severe physical and sexual abuse. The reports of patients suffering from DID are "often confirmed by objective evidence," and the DSM notes that the abusers in those situations may be inclined to "deny or distort" these acts.[1] Research has consistently shown that DID is characterized by reports of extensive childhood trauma, usually child abuse.[5][6][7] Dissociation is recognized as a symptomatic presentation in response to psychological trauma, extreme emotional stress, and in association with emotional dysregulation and borderline personality disorder.[8] A study of 12 murderers established the connection between early severe abuse and DID[9].

DSM inclusion

DID meets all of the guidelines for inclusion in the DSM and is supported by taxometric research.[10] Research has established DID as a valid diagnosis.[10] In one study, DID was found to be a genuine disorder with a constant set of core features.[11]


The 19th century saw a number of reported cases of multiple personalities which Rieber estimated would be close to 100.[12]By the late 19th century there was a general realization that emotionally traumatic experiences could cause long-term disorders which may manifest with a variety of symptoms.[13] Between 1880 and 1920, many great international medical conferences devoted a lot of time to sessions on dissociation.[14]Starting in about 1927, there was a large increase in the number of reported cases of schizophrenia, which was matched by an equally large decrease in the number of multiple personality reports.[14] Bleuler also included multiple personality in his category of schizophrenia. It was found in the 1980s that MPD patients are often misdiagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.[14] Multiple personality disorder began to emerge as a separate disorder in the 1970s when an initially small number of clinicians worked to re-establish MPD as a legitimate diagnosis.[14]

Physiological Evidence

Physiological evidence has provided additional evidence to back the existence of DID. One review of the literature found "physiologic and ocular differences across alter personalities." [15]. Additional studies have been found showing optical differences in DID cases.[16][17] One study found that "eight of the nine MPD subjects consistently manifested physiologically distinct alter personality states."[18]. Other reviews have found additional physiological differences[19]. Brain mapping has also found physiological differences in alternate personalities[20]. A variety of psychiatric rating scales found that multiple personality is strongly related to childhood trauma rather than to an underlying electrophysiological dysfunction[21].


1. American Psychiatric Association (2000-06).Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV TR (Text Revision). Arlington, VA, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc..  http://books.google.com/books?id=3SQrtpnHb9MC&pg=PA527&lpg=PA535&sig=25ML_7zbvvLZl6ySYCF4DomqeRU DOI:10.1176/appi.books.9780890423349 ISBN 978-0890420249.

2. Dissociative Identity Disorder, doctor's reference. Merck.com (2005-11-01).  http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec15/ch197/ch197e.html

3. Pearson, M.L. (1997). Childhood trauma, adult trauma, and dissociation (PDF). Dissociation 10 (1): 58–62 https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1837/Diss_10_1_9_OCR.pdf;jsessionid=A72D0913DBBF1F96D30FD98B1D8805E1?sequence=1

4.  Kluft, RP (2003). site may have a virus - use caution Current Issues in Dissociative Identity Disorder (PDF). Bridging Eastern and Western Psychiatry 1 (1): 71–87. http://www.psyter.org/allegati/180/Kluft.pdf

5.  Putnam FW, Guroff JJ, Silberman EK, Barban L, Post RM (June 1986). "The clinical phenomenology of multiple personality disorder: review of 100 recent cases". J Clin Psychiatry 47 (6): 285–93. PMID 3711025. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3711025?dopt=Abstract

6.  Ross CA, Miller SD, Bjornson L, Reagor P, Fraser GA, Anderson G (March 1991). "Abuse histories in 102 cases of multiple personality disorder". Can J Psychiatry 36 (2): 97–101. PMID 2044042."The patients reported high rates of childhood trauma: 90.2% had been sexually abused, 82.4% physically abused, and 95.1% subjected to one or both forms of child abuse....Multiple personality disorder appears to be a response to chronic trauma originating during a vulnerable period in childhood." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2044042?dopt=Abstract

7.  Boon S, Draijer N (March 1993). Multiple personality disorder in The Netherlands: a clinical investigation of 71 patients. Am J Psychiatry 150 (3): 489–94. PMID 8434668."A history of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse was reported by 94.4% of the subjects, and 80.6% met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder....Patients with multiple personality disorder have a stable set of core symptoms throughout North America as well as in Europe." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8434668?dopt=Abstract

8. Marmer S, Fink D (1994). "Rethinking the comparison of Borderline Personality Disorder and multiple personality disorder". Psychiatr Clin North Am 17 (4): 743–71. PMID 7877901. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7877901?dopt=Abstract

9.  Lewis, D., Yeager, C., Swica, Y., Pincus, J. and Lewis, M. (1997). Objective documentation of child abuse and dissociation in 12 murderers with dissociative identity disorder. Am J Psychiatry, 154(12):1703-10. "Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder in childhood and adulthood were corroborated independently and from several sources in all 12 cases; objective evidence of severe abuse was obtained in 11 cases. The subjects had amnesia for most of the abuse and underreported it. Marked changes in writing style and/or signatures were documented in 10 cases. CONCLUSIONS: This study establishes, once and for all, the linkage between early severe abuse and dissociative identity disorder."

10. Gleaves, D.H.; May MC, Cardeña E (2001) An examination of the diagnostic validity of dissociative identity disorder. 21(4) 577-608 http://leadershipcouncil.org/docs/gleaves2001.pdf

11.  Ross, C.; Norton, G. & Fraser, G. (1989). Evidence against the iatrogenesis of multiple personality disorder (PDF). Dissociation 2 (2): 61–65.https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1424/Diss_2_2_2_OCR.pdf?sequence=1

12.  Rieber RW (2002). "The duality of the brain and the multiplicity of minds: can you have it both ways?". History of psychiatry 13 (49 Pt 1): 3–17. DOI:10.1177/0957154X0201304901. PMID 12094818.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12094818?dopt=Abstract

13.  Borch-Jacobsen M, Brick D (2000). "How to predict the past: from trauma to repression". History of Psychiatry 11: 15–35. DOI:10.1177/0957154X0001104102.

14. Putnam, Frank W. (1989). Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press, 351. ISBN 0-89862-177-1.

15. Birnbaum MH, Thomann K. Visual function in multiple personality disorder. J Am Optom Assoc. 1996 Jun;67(6):327-34 "BACKGROUND: Multiple personality disorder (MPD) is characterized by the existence of two or more personality states that recurrently exchange control over the behavior of the individual. Numerous reports indicate physiological differences, including significant differences in ocular and visual function, across alter personality states in MPD. METHODS: The existing literature was reviewed to provide an overview of the nature and characteristics of MPD, with emphasis on reported physiologic and ocular differences across alter personalities. In addition, a case is reported of an MPD patient seen over a 3-year period. RESULTS: Physiologic differences across alter personality states in MPD include differences in dominant handedness, response to the same medication, allergic sensitivities, autonomic and endocrine function, EEG, VEP, and regional cerebral blood flow. Differences in visual function include variability in visual acuity, refraction, oculomotor status, visual field, color vision, corneal curvature, pupil size, and intraocular pressure in the various personality states of MPD subjects as compared to single personality controls. CONCLUSIONS: The possibility of MPDs should be considered in patients who demonstrate unusual variability in ocular and visual findings, particularly with a positive psychiatric history. The existence of visual and other physiologic differences across alter personalities in MPD offers a unique potential for the study of mind-body relationships." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8888853  

16. Miller SD. Optical differences in cases of multiple personality disorder. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1989 Aug;177(8):480-6 "MPD subjects had significantly more variability in visual functioning across alter personalities than did control subjects." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2760599 

17. Miller SD, Blackburn T, Scholes G, White GL, Mamalis N. Optical differences in multiple personality disorder. A second look. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1991 Mar;179(3):132-5. "In the present study, data from 20 patients diagnosed with MPD and 20 control subjects role playing MPD were analyzed for statistical and clinical significance. The findings from the present study appear to confirm results from the earlier study that individuals with MPD experience differences in some aspects of visual functioning between alter personalities. The results further confirm that MPD subjects experience more differences across visual measures than control subjects simulating the disorder." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1997659

18 Putnam FW, Zahn TP, Post RM. Psychiatry Res. 1990 Mar;31(3):251-60.Differential autonomic nervous system activity in multiple personality disorder. "Numerous clinical reports suggest that these alter personality states exhibit distinct physiological differences. We investigated differential autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity across nine subjects with MPD and five controls, who produced "alter" personality states by simulation and by hypnosis or deep relaxation. Eight of the nine MPD subjects consistently manifested physiologically distinct alter personality states." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2333357 

19. Miller SD, Triggiano PJ. The psychophysiological investigation of multiple personality disorder: review and update. Am J Clin Hypn. 1992 Jul;35(1):47-61. "psychophysiologic differences reported in the literature include changes in cerebral electrical activity, cerebral blood flow, galvanic skin response, skin temperature, event-related potentials, neuroendocrine profiles, thyroid function, response to medication, perception, visual functioning, visual evoked potentials, and in voice, posture, and motor behavior." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1442640  

20. Hughes JR, Kuhlman DT, Fichtner CG, Gruenfeld MJ. Brain mapping in a case of multiple personality. Clin Electroencephalogr. 1990 Oct;21(4):200-9. "Brain maps were recorded on a patient with a multiple personality disorder (10 alternate personalities). Maps were recorded with eyes open and eyes closed during 2 different sessions, 2 months apart. Maps from each alternate personality were compared to those of the basic personality "S", some maps were similar and some were different, especially with eyes open. Findings that were replicated in the second session showed differences from 4 personalities, especially in theta and beta 2 frequencies on the left temporal and right posterior regions." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2225470 

21. Coons PM, Bowman ES, Milstein V. Multiple personality disorder. A clinical investigation of 50 cases. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1988 Sep;176(9):519-27. "50 consecutive patients with DSM-III multiple personality disorder were assessed using clinical history, psychiatric interview, neurological examination, electroencephalogram, MMPI, intelligence testing, and a variety of psychiatric rating scales. Results revealed that patients with multiple personality are usually women who present with depression, suicide attempts, repeated amnesic episodes, and a history of childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse....These data suggest that the etiology of multiple personality is strongly related to childhood trauma rather than to an underlying electrophysiological dysfunction." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3418321


* Baer, Richard A. (2007). Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities. [New York]: Crown. ISBN 0307382664.* Braun, B.G. (1989). Dissociation: Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 066-069: Iatrophilia and Iatrophobia in the diagnosis and treatment of MPD (PDF). https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1425/Diss_2_2_3_OCR.pdf?sequence=1

* Brown, D; Frischholz E, Scheflin A. (1999). "Iatrogenic dissociative identity disorder - an evaluation of the scientific evidence". The Journal of Psychiatry and Law XXVII No. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1999): 549–637.

* Gleaves, D. (July 1996). The sociocognitive model of dissociative identity disorder: a reexamination of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin 120 (1): 42–59. DOI:10.1037/0033-2909.120.1.42. PMID 8711016. "Most recent research on the dissociative disorders does not support (and in fact disconfirms) the sociocognitive model, and many inferences drawn from previous research appear unwarranted. No reason exists to doubt the connection between DID and childhood trauma. Treatment recommendations that follow from the sociocognitive model may be harmful because they involve ignoring the posttraumatic symptomatology of persons with DID." http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=1996-01403-003

* Goettmann, B. A.; Greaves, B. G., Coons M. P. (1994).Multiple personality and dissociation, 1791-1992: a complete bibliography. Lutherville, MD: The Sidran Press, 85. ISBN 0-9629164-5-5. http://boundless.uoregon.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/diss&CISOPTR=38

* Kluft, R.P. (1989). Iatrogenic creation of new alter personalities (PDF). Dissociation 2 (2): 83–91. https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1428/Diss_2_2_6_OCR.pdf?sequence=1

* Underwood, Anne. Identity Crisis - What is it like to live with 17 alternate selves? A survivor of multiple personality disorder discusses the disease and the painful integration process that made her whole. Newsweek, October 22, 2007. http://www.newsweek.com/id/57861

External links

* International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation http://www.isst-d.org/
* United States of Tara - Learn More About D.I.D. - Showtime supports the awareness for Dissociative Identity Disorder  http://www.sho.com/site/video/brightcove/series/title.do?bcpid=1847322218&bclid=5253538001&bctid=6803420001