Multiple Personality Disorder and Child Abuse :
Each day that we pretended,
we replaced reality
with lies, or dreams,
or angry schemes,
in search of dignity...
until our lies
got bigger than the truth,
and we had no one real to be.
Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Throughout history the idea of
not being just us has intrigued everyone from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
But imagine having no control over who you are. Imagine having 30 people
inside of you, and every one of them wanting to be in control. This is
the case with Multiple Personality Disorder, and it affects thousands of
people in the United States alone. But why does MPD fascinate us? It
has often been found quite interesting. Movies, books, and even talk
shows have been made trying to show the harsh reality of the disorder,
but how seriously are we expected to take Truddi Chase and the "Troops"
when they are on The Oprah Show? How worried are we for Sybil when we
remember Sally Field as Gidget? As grim as this disorder is we often
don't realize the severity unless we hear it from "the voices."
Using the psychoanalytical approach, I will show how past abusive
experiences have driven some to MPD. Citing case studies from such books
as When Rabbit Howls, The Truddi Chase Story, Sybil, and Jennifer and
Herselves the correlation between MPD and abuse will be made. There are
more similarities to these examples than just MPD, all were driven to MPD
due to excessive physical or emotional abuse from a parental
figure. Also, each of these studies show the cause and effects this
disorder has on.
Most MPD sufferers are , in fact female MPD sufferers outnumber men
by a ratio of nine to one (Hales, 1993). This may be true because
will keep their feelings of hostility toward others to themselves,
whereas men would be more likely to lash out in random acts of .
For instance, Anna doesn't want to believe that she is getting beaten, so
she believes if she becomes someone else, it is not really her that is
taking the abuse. However, it is only a matter of time before the abuse
increases or takes another form. The effect compounds, one more
personality develops, and so on until "the voices" have consumed Anna and
left her broken, with every facet of her personality now being an
With statistics showing that some form of abuse happens to as many as one
out of every four s (Hales , 1993) it is almost impossible not to
understand why so many are affected by MPD. Not every form of abuse
causes as dramatic of results as MPD. Children who survive less personal
traumas, such as concentration camps, are far less likely to develop the
disorder than someone who is suffering at the hands of a loved one.
Since 1970, the reported rate of growth in multiples and incest cases has
been parallel. Almost as if when the bond breaks, the personality
shatters. The alter personalities create a safe haven where the pain
cannot reach. Each personality is specially equipped to deal with a
specific type of crisis, depending on whatever was happening when they
came into existence. The make-up of most multiples is usually the same.
Each body generally consists of the same people. There is a small child,
who was born when the abuse started. A flirtatious side who exhibits the
repressed feelings. A male, who is either protector or abuser. A
strong female, who doesn't need anyone, and assorted other personalities.
But are the personalities just personalities? Not in their mind.
Multiples believe that they are all different people, they just happen to
be sharing the same body, they can be brothers, sisters, or just close
friends. As strange as it sounds, this statement may have some bearing.
Psychologists have long been able to tell their patients apart from "the
others," just by their faces, body language and posture change, they
actually look like someone else. Tests have also shown that each
personality has its own blood pressure, heart rate, and so on. It
appears that multiples go through some sort of self-hypnotism when they
can no longer handle reality. They go into hiding and someone else, who
is more capable to handle the situation takes over. When later
questioned about what happened while they were not in control, most
multiples are clueless. They report long blackout periods, if they admit
to "losing time" at all. Losing time is one of the most obvious signs of
MPD. When multiples "wake up" wearing different clothing or eating food
they know they did not buy, admission of the disorder is easier. It is
when multiples begin to want their lives back that they start to wonder
what caused them to end up the way they did.
Scientists have long wondered what causes MPD. The cause was first
thought to be the result of mental deficiencies or a defective gene in
the make-up of multiples. After extensive testing proved that multiples
are extremely gifted, few with an IQ of less than 120 (Schoenewolf,
1991), that possibility was thrown out. It has now been shown that
traumatic experiences in life cause Multiple Personality Disorder. The
pattern seems to be that for every severely troubling episode in life, a
new personality is born to help with that particular incident. The
subconscious will withdrawal the conscious and take over whenever the
threat of abuse surfaced. The anxiety of the subversion would frighten
the children to the point were they could not function without the help
of others. When beaten by her father Jennifer turned into Margaret, a
very independent woman, with a deeply rooted fear of men. While Jennifer
was being usually abused by her mother, Jenny appeared, because Jenny
was strong and would just go away. To Jennifer, they weren't alter
personalities, rather friends who needed a place to stay. Many would
dismiss it as an overactive imagination. Sybil's parents would call her
"moody" when she changed. Many others believed it was all just make believe,
most were psychologists. With no clinical definition of this
mystery disorder, many patients were misdiagnosed.
Before MPD was identified as a disorder in 1980, the majority of patients
were diagnosed as Schizophrenics or Manic Depressives, therefore it was
believed that there was no cure. Today, through extensive therapy, there
is hope for multiples. Treatment is a three-step process, which is
usually just as trying on the therapist as the patient. The first stage
is just being aware that you have the disorder, about 80 percent of MPD
sufferers do not realize they have the disease, most don't want to. The
hardest part of the healing process is getting the patient to admit that
there is something wrong with them. Multiples have spent so much time
denying the fact that they have problems, asking them to admit to having
the disorder is like asking them to admit that they are crazy. However,
this stage must be secured before any treatment is possible. The second
stage is co-consciousness. While there is no interaction between the
personalities and their "host," there are fewer blackout periods, and
there is an awareness of what the others are doing at times. The third
step is integration. The goal in this step is all of the personalities
merging into one root, or base personality, but first patients go through
a draining process called abstraction. In abstraction the acts of abuse
are relived under the watchful eye of a therapist. This process causes
patients to relive the abuse that they have been through, and deal with
it head on. Ideally, this step allows multiples to become a well-rounded
individual who is capable of handling problems on their own without help
from the alters. However, it is not an ideal world. Very few MPD
sufferers ever achieve total integration. The personalities that have
integrated disappear, leaving behind their best traits. Those
personalities that have resisted tend to regress until their presence is
no longer felt. While it's not perfect, this is the most common cure.
Fortunately, once this step is reached, the chance of relapse is slim, if
therapy is continued.
The majority of multiples do require continued therapy after integration.
In a 15 year study, it was shown that of multiples that continued seeing
a therapist on a regular basis 96% no longer had multiple personalities
(Hales, 1993). Of the remaining four percent, only one or two
personalities resurfaced. They were usually the more developed, or older
personalities that the base had come to depend on, and refused to live
without. While therapy is the only cure, it is not a cure-all. There
are some who will never lose their alters, whether it be safety reasons
or an act of habit. Some multiples are unable to deal with the emotional
trauma of therapy, without losing whatever grasp they still have on
reality. Therapy is about the most painful thing that multiples can go
through. It is more painful than the abuse because they are forced to
face it, they cannot become someone else. For the first time in their
lives, they are actually feeling. One patient was quoted as saying, "Our
entire self is beginning to thaw after a long, long time of being
Multiple Personality Disorder is one of the most treatable defects of the
human brain. Through empathy MPD virtually disappears, multiples just
need to realize that they are not the only one. In a study conducted at
the Indiana University School of Medicine, Researchers were able to
confirm allegations of parental abuse in 17 out of 20 reported cases.
The earlier treatment begins the easier it is to recover, but it isn't
commonly until early hood that the world of multiples begins to
collapse. While many multiples continue to deny that there is anything
wrong with them, those who are brave enough to seek help are among the
strongest individuals known. They risk their entire world, but what they
gain is immeasurable. They need to recognize that they are worthy, and
understand that they are heroes just to be alive.
1. Chase, Truddi. When Rabbit Howls. Jove Books. New York (1987)
2. Schoenewolf, Dr. Gerald. Jennifer and Herselves. Donald I. Fine, Inc.
New York (1991)
3. Schreiber, F.R. Sybil. Warner Books. New York (1973)
4. Sizemore, C.C. A Mind of My Own. Greene Com. New York (1989)
5 Hales, Dianne. "Silencing the Voices Within," Good Housekeeping.
6. Taylor, John. "The Lost Daughter," Esquire. (March, 1994)
7. Coons, Dr. Philip. Child Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder.
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