Portrait of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Everyone Needs Therapy has posted (June 18th) a disturbing, but informative, portrait of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Once known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Almost invariable the person diagnosed has suffered severe sexual trauma, often at the hands of a parent.

Well, hopefully it doesn’t apply to you, Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.)

But it might. We used to call it Multiple Personality Disorder. Some people think this label applies to Schizophrenia, but because you read this blog, you know the difference.

People who suffer from Schizophrenia may hear voices, but they don’t usually have multiple personalities. These are both Axis I disorders, by the way, not personality disorders (Axis II).

And this is not Depersonalization Disorder, either, which is getting some press because Adam Duritz of Counting Crows (a popular rock band) is said to have it. (Read Dr. Deb). Depersonalization Disorder features persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from one’s mind or body, as if watching the self as an outside observer.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

5 thoughts on “Portrait of Dissociative Identity Disorder”

  1. Sorry, Pasadena, but I have to offer a word of dissent, or caution, or maybe a voice of reason, here. This is based on the years I spent working with patients who were being diagnosed with MPD, and then DID, at a very rapid and unconscionable rate. This diagnostic trend (or feeding frenzy) was partly driven by social factors, partly driven by greed (private psych hospitals were set up and funded specifically for this purpose; I know, I worked in two of them while I was in grad school).

    There are a lot of things going on with people who are diagnosed with DID, but I have found that the act of making that diagnosis tends to make people worse, not better; it changes the way they see themselves in such a way that their lives usually spiral downhill. In the right social climate, with the right suggestions and reinforcement, it is amazingly easy for a person to begin to see herself as composed of different “parts,” and to act out those “parts,” or “alters,” and to trace them “back” to horrific events that may or may not have happened. This person often then becomes totally consumed with the work of “being a multiple,” being in therapy, producing more memories and more detailed charts of different “alters” and their relationships with each other and their supposed origins. This, in my experience, is NOT helpful to the patient.

    I have written about this elsewhere (here:

    and many others have, as well. I highly recommend two books about this phenomenon: Multiple Personalities, Multiple Disorders; AND Rewriting the Soul (by Ian Hacking).

    I very well understand the pathos and compelling nature of the histories provided by and the presentations made by these patients. I just think there are ways to help them that avoid using the diagnosis of DID.

    Delany Dean, PhD


  2. Sorry, but DID is real. Though no one will deny that there are some iatrogenic cases of DID as well as some factitious ones, there are definitely real cases of DID out there.

    I think you need to read Dr. Colin Ross’s book Dissociative Identity Disorder: Diagnosis, Clinical Features, and Treatment of Multiple Personality from cover to cover.

    I wish I had the time and space to quote material from that book that proves, study after study the existence of DID, but I do not.

    I happen to have DID myself, and I would absolutely love to say that it is all fake and have the power to say, “I just won’t be DID anymore.”, but that’s not reality. I can try as hard as I want and I can’t erase it.


  3. Agree with SecretShadows, here … as a DID who has been aware of my condition from a very early age.

    However — I think, honestly, that DID is overdiagnosed, and that there are fewer genuine cases of it than the “fashionability” of dissociative disorders would lead one to believe. I self-diagnosed long before I found a trauma therapist who recognized what was going on; I don’t exactly fit the profile, despite having part of my personality perceived as living outside my body, in another country, with his own name, life, appearance, and skill set. It’s still almost impossible for me to believe that he’s not a separate entity who drops in to take over my body sometimes, for his own entertainment, I guess.

    My therapist did not suggest this (or my other alters) to me. I told her about them all on my first visit. How I wish that this whole thing had been planted by a therapist … then I might have a chance of shrugging it off and having a normal life. But that, alas, is not the case.


  4. When I was diagnosed with DID, I had mixed feelings. Yes the DX is a heavy. On the other hand, it validated over 25 years of issues I had experienced based on trauma, etc.

    Implanted information?

    I have diaries going back to my early teens. Where I struggle with not remembering. Different handwritings. Letters from my best friend who can’t understand the radical changes in me day to day. Diaries lamenting that I know I have made life-altering decisions and the next morning can’t remember what they were. Things I have been told I did. Names of other parts of me that have been here for many years.

    Yes, some DID is fake….for many causes. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of cases that are sadly real.



  5. Hello Delany,

    As someone with DID I think I can actually hear what you are saying and urge those who are also suffering, to read without defensive guards up so strong maybe…I don’t think you are saying you don’t ‘believe’ in DID?

    As someone who spend several years in hospital with multiple misdiagnosis and harmful treatments…when I eventually did get the right diagnosis I could see the propensity for this, and its not anything to do with ‘faking’ at all. I could be totally wrong but I think it becomes a potential risk when the ‘jargon’ within the DID diagnosis (or any diagnosis) is too heavy in therapy.

    For most of us who have lived with DID all our lives we have never needed to communicate about it to anyone (or wanted to…or even been aware that it wasn’t normal for everyone). To get help you need to use ‘language’ , but words have the potential to make things more ‘fixed’, solid, and concrete when shared. Think about it in reverse…if you are someone who has flashbacks of abuse…it is in converting it to words and sharing it that it becomes ‘fixed’ a reality etc..not just symbolic, imagery, and emotion etc. I think that there is a risk in this when trying to express and describe much of the experience of DID. So in getting treatment I do question semantics around DID a lot…as in…is it not a small part of therapy to point out similarities rather than emphasis disparity?

    eg: If someone without DID has a sudden shift in mood, we don’t say they have ‘switched’, yet to say that to someone with DID…is that the best, most helpful way to describe it? there comes a time in therapy where ‘switching’ can be a be a bit stuck, incomplete…very uncomfortable it is somewhat natural to want to aliveate that discomfort, so we agree and understand it as ‘switching’, rather than try and find words to explain how that is changing …maybe toward something healthier…you can see over time how this could hinder or slow up therapy, simply form semantics attached to the diagnosis…hard to explain this…switch is a very definitive, absolute word. Even if we experience it that way, in therapy many of us are trying to break down the walls of segregation within us, the jargon around the diagnosis I believe can hinder this. Language is a hugely powerful tool and I suggested to my therapist that we didn’t use the ‘jargon’ around DID diagnosis (I am not a label…I do not want to identify with the diagnosis…I am aiming to identify with myself!) It is harder to communicate, but possible, it points out similarity rather than difference, it allows room to describe ‘in between or less complete changes etc.

    At the end of the day its whatever suits the person and is most helpful for you. I just suggest considering what Delany Dean has said, as a professional…this person is NOT invalidating or discrediting any of us with a DID diagnosis…just maybe suggesting some inherent dangers in the diagnosis regarding treatment. At the end of the day this is our primary defense against the hell life can be. So the thought of letting go of that, is painfully frightening…but isn’t that why we are in therapy? to learn a better way? To see the similarities within ourselves rather than accentuating the differences, to accept ALL as ‘I’, rather than allowing the lack of acceptance thought definitive and segregating terms? that means considering the advise of others with experience in helping us…and holding off just a bit on defending our existence, to first hear what they are saying.

    I am terrible at explaining myself..so if anyone hears what I’m saying but can explain it better that would be cool!!

    just a thought…


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