Multiple Personality Disorder
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), also known today as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is a psychiatric disorder where two or more personalities seem inhabit a single body. The different personalities are referred to as "alters". At different times, the personalities alternate in their control of the person's actions and general conduct. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) Dissociation is a mental process, which produces a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. During the time that a person is dissociating, certain information is not associated with other information as it would normally be.
For example during a traumatic experience, a person may dissociate the memory and circumstances of the trauma from his ongoing memory and create another personality as a means temporary mental escape from the fear and pain of the trauma, resulting in a "blackout" in memory as to what took place while they were dissociating. In many instances Multiples,( as people with MPD are known), may experience a total loss of memory in regard to what took place when they were experiencing domination of one of their other "alter" personalities.
The majority of MPD cases have been known to develop among individuals who have documented histories of repetitive, overwhelming, and often life threatening trauma at a sensitive developmental stage of childhood. The most common forms of trauma in this day and age consist of extreme physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in childhood. In people with MPD, dissociation is used as a means of defense where there is no possible physical escape. By doing so, their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of traumatic experiences are separated from them psychologically, allowing them to function as if the trauma had not occurred.
Dissociative Disorders are often referred to as a highly creative survival technique, because they allow individuals to endure what seems to be a "hopeless" circumstance and preserve some areas of healthy functioning. Over time, for a child who has been repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted, defensive dissociation becomes reinforced and conditioned. Because the dissociative escape is so effective, children who are very practiced at it may automatically use it whenever they feel threatened or anxious, even if the anxiety producing situation is neither extreme nor abusive.
Often, even after the traumatic circumstances are long past, the left-over pattern of defensive dissociation remains. The result of this repeated dissociation is a series of separate entities, or mental states, which may eventually take on identities of their own. These entities may become the internal "personality states" of a DID system. Changing between these states of consciousness is often described as "switching".
Those with MPD have a dominant personality or "host" personality, and the alter personalities fracture off that core personality...