Mental Health Monday–Multiple Personalities


Kathee Jantzi requested information about multiple personalities, specifically any books about the subject as well as how someone with multiple personalities goes about getting better.

Check out her blog, Quill or Pill? She also had a short story published on RomanceFlash!

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) categories various forms of dissociation (a disruption in memory, awareness, identity, and/or perception).

  • Depersonalization disorder: period of feeling detached from one’s self; this is often seen in anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder…or if you stare at yourself in the mirror for too long. Go ahead, try it. Go on.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: a person experiences significant impairment in recall of personal information, often resulting from a serious trauma; duration varies; often spontaneously remits
  • Dissociative fugue: a person “forgets” who they are and may travel to a different city & pick up an entirely different life; this may last hours to days or longer, depending on how severe. It can spontaneously remit and is usually the result of a significant traumatic event.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder): a very rare disorder where a person’s psyche is fractured into several (2-100) different personalities. These personalities are known as “alters,” and each has his or her own way of behaving. Depending on the severity of the situation, the person may or may not be aware of their alters. If the individual is not aware, the times when alters “take over” are experienced as black outs or “lost time.”

It is purported that DID develops as a means of self-protection. Often, those with DID have experienced significant abuse as a child and the personality fragments into several different “people.” This allows the “main personality” to compartmentalize trauma and function in the face of it.

People with dissociative disorders do not choose to become another personality. The idea is that it is out of their control. With therapy, a person becomes more aware of their alters and learns to communicate with them until they are reintegrated.

Dissociative disorders are challenging to treat because people are often reluctant to come into treatment and co-morbid conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and substance use disorders can occur.

Several well known movies and books about individuals with DID exist. Three Faces of Eve, Sybil, and the United States of Tara are more entertaining views into this tragic disorder. There are several textbooks discussing the identification and treatment. Click here for a link to an Amazon search page for DID.

Psychiatrist Richard Baer documented treating a woman (Karen) with 17 personalities in Switching Time. Here’s an excerpt as presented by ABC News. A link to a video with Karen by Good Morning America.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and is NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Check out Lydia’s post on Medical Mondays!

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16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Multiple Personalities

  1. Thanks for bringing this disorder to light, many people still don’t recognize multiple personality disorders

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    This disorder has always intrigued me. My first exposure to it was Sybil. But then, through my education (undergrad/grad in psych stuff) it’d always held my fascination.

    Thanks for this post. Have a great day.

  3. Kathee J says:

    Thanks so much for this information Dr. D! I was reading a post from Emily Bryan today where she and Zoe Archer were discussing Romance Writers and how supportive a group of people they are–always cheering for and helping out one another. The question I posted to Laura was about a character I intended to put in my WIP – she answered me promptly and in doing so has saved me from writing in a character with DID when in fact that would have been the INCORRECT diagnosis. Thanks again –

  4. Danyelle says:

    This post is awesome, Laura! People are so fascinating. 🙂

    What are some of the symptoms of depersonalization disorders? Would thinking in third person (even in reference to themselves) count? I’ve never heard of this one before, but it sounds fascinating. Well to study, probably not to live. 😀

    • lbdiamond says:

      Yes, one of the hints that someone has DID is if they refer to themself as “we” or “us.” Of course, the queen also refers to herself in that way… 😉

      Anyway, before I go down the awkward path about the queen…

      Depersonalization is something that happens to everyone, to some extent. If it takes up a significant amount of time or disrupts someone’s functioning in work, relationships, and play, or if it causes significant distress, then it becomes patholoigical. Staring at the mirror for a while gives an idea of the sensation.

      Dissociation also frequently occurs & doesn’t necessarily indicate pathology. Driving on the highway and not really paying attention to how far you’ve gone is a classic example. Sometimes, people pass their exit by mistake becuase their mind has gone off somewhere.

      Again, it comes down to how disruptive the symptom(s) is/are.

  5. I’ve always been intrigued by this. I don’t remember what movie it was but I remember this woman who had three personalities, each with their own name and one of them ‘died’ but she said to the doctor that she hoped one of the other two would win the struggle inside. I always thought that was awesome that one third of a personality would want another one to win over the final third.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

  6. I remember the Three Faces of Eve. Whew! It is sad to think of people undergoing so much trauma and stress internally that their own minds would react in such bizarre ways to compensate or cope with their fears. Thank you for sharing this information.

  7. You realize I’m going to go try the mirror trick now…

  8. Nicole says:

    I love reading about different psychological disorders. Took several psych courses in college.

  9. Too cool! You just explained why one of my characters refers to herself in third person. The symptoms even match the cause – she has good reasons to suffer from PTSD.

    Now if anyone complains, I can say, “She has DID.”

    I love it when my subconscious knows more than I do.

  10. Quinn says:

    Thanks for this post. In the novel I just finished writing, I have a character who has dissociative identity dissorder. It’s always good to read more information. I want to portray it as accurately and realistically as possible.

  11. J. Elle says:

    Very interesting, thanks for posting!!

  12. […] blogged about dissociative disorders some time ago and here’s a link to review that post. Classic symptoms of DID include: losing time (because other personalities […]

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