Multiple Personality. Split Personality. These are various names made popular in the movies Sybil, The Three Faces of Eve, and more recently, Fight Club and Shutter Island. The NBC series, Do No Harm, with Christian Slater, was canceled in 2013 after just two episodes. Occasionally writers try to add a comedic twist to the condition, as in Showtime’s “The United States of Tara,” and the Farrelly brothers’ “Me Myself and Irene.” With 2017 promising a horror version in M. Night Shyamalan’s SPLIT, this is an ideal time to address this condition. The medical terms are Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
Whether referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, Multiple Personality or Split Personality, this condition is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Those that experience dissociation are primarily individuals who have experienced some kind of extreme and/or repeated trauma at an early age. Frequently a history of sexual abuse or ritualized sexual abuse.
In this dissociative state, a child will “check out.” These are the conditions that create one or more additional personalities, or “alters,” as time passes, on into their adult life. This is a survival mechanism that the affected individual implements to adapt to their environment.
These personalities perform certain tasks such as shopping or attending a social event (some may be quite charming). On the other hand, a child or teenager personality may emerge. Certainly not all personalities are pleasant. Some are destructive to others, or to the individual themselves.
Just because the client is female or male does not mean the personalities are of the same gender. Voice changes as well as behavior or mannerisms change…a different personality entirely. Amnesia is a common element of someone experiencing DID. This can happen at anytime throughout their life.
Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder, is rare and only a handful of therapists have the training, experience and ability to work with this condition. In my profession I have worked extensively with this very small population.
My background, experience and training includes more acute cases I encountered at a treatment center that focused on this disorder. Patients came from all over the world for this specialized care and treatment. For a psychotherapist, this is fascinating work, but can also be very energy-draining, depending on the severity and circumstances.
There’s so much more to say about DID/MPD. But as it becomes a popular theme for movies and TV, I wanted to provide a little education and increased awareness.
If you know of someone displaying self destructive tendencies, I would suggest they be evaluated at a mental health facility first, as a precaution. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) can be misdiagnosed so it is important to have a full evaluation. If DID/MPD is diagnosed, then intensive, regular treatment is encouraged.
Some question if multiple personality is real. Others might label it as demonic possession, requiring an exorcism. All of this is to be determined. It does matter to the person or “persons” involved. In the end, the flexibility of the person to adapt to a healthy environment and feel at peace is what matters.
If you, or someone close to you, are in need of counseling and are in the Jacksonville, Florida area, call me at (904) 687-3715 for a consultation or email me here.
~ John Seniff, LMHC, Reverend PureSound