Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is estimated to afflict at least a tenth of the American population. Patients with this disorder suffer from constant memory loss due to the presence of two or more other personalities that "take over" the patient's consciousness at random times of the day. This switching of personalities may last for a couple minutes, a couple hours, to up to several weeks at a time (1). In the past 30 years, the prevalence of Dissociative Identity Disorder has sky rocketed.
The term dissociation refers to the disruption of one or more agents that constitutes "consciousness", such the formation of memories, making sense of them and maintaining a sense of identity (1). Dissociation results from forces beyond the patient's control. Proponents of Dissociative Identity Disorder believe memory loss occurs because the patient's consciousness is taken over by alter personalities believed to be formed during childhood (2). Personalities are usually found to be extremely different from the personality of the patient. The patient is usually shy, introverted and insecure, whereas some of her personalities may be flirtatious, outgoing, confident; and yet others may have issues surrounding anger management. Personalities may be older than the age of the patient, younger, or may have lived over a hundred years ago (1).
Patients who suffer from DID are usually women who have had a history of sexual or extreme physical abuse, or who have experienced repeated trauma beyond her control (3). Because the child cannot physically escape the pain, her only option is to escape mentally: by dissociating. Dissociation is said to defend against pain by allowing the maltreatment to be experienced as if it were happening to someone else. The distress of this childhood maltreatment is also endured by employing repression: a mental mechanism that allows the child to forget the abuse happened at all (3).
Does Dissociative Identity Disorder exist? The American Psychiatric Association states that an individual displaying at least two personality states in which these personality states take control of the patient's behavior can be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (2). The individual diagnosed with this disorder tends to be depressed, passive, and often displays feelings of guilt (2). The patient is often unable to recall important personal information and has frequent gaps in their memory due to the "take over" of alter personalities (1). This suggests the employment of repression. Instead of allowing the self to helplessly accept the abuse, the child convinces herself that she is somewhere else and not directly receiving the pain (2). By convincing herself that the trauma did not happen, the child is able to feel safe. "I was never abused, Susie was". They allow these personalities to experience their pain, and as they grow older, more personalities arise to cope with everyday stressors. The...