The Woman With 15 Personalities
Dissociative Identity Disorder

The Woman With 15 Personalities
Dissociative Identity Disorder

The Woman With 15 Personalities presents a unique look at a person living with dissociative identity disorder, a condition in which a person displays several distinct identities, each with its own perception of the environment.

This hour-long special reveals how this often misunderstood illness affects their daily lives, and provides insight into what it is like to manage multiple personalities who all want a voice.

Dissociative identity disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis and describes a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment.

Each sub personality or alternate personalities have a unique set of memories, behaviors, thoughts and emotions related to each specific personality.

In the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems the name for this diagnosis is multiple personality disorder.

In both systems of terminology, the diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness; in addition, symptoms cannot be the temporary effects of drug use or a general medical condition.

DID is less common than other dissociative disorders, occurring in approximately 1% of dissociative cases, and is often comorbid with other disorders.

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the topic of DID. The validity of DID as a medical diagnosis has been questioned, and some researchers have suggested that DID may exist primarily as an iatrogenic adverse effect of therapy DID is diagnosed significantly more frequently in North America than in the rest of the world.

DID is a controversial diagnosis and condition, with much of the literature on DID still being generated and published in North America, to the extent that it was once regarded as a phenomenon confined to that continent.

Even among North American psychiatrists there is a lack of consensus regarding the validity of DID. Practitioners who do accept DID as a valid disorder have produced an extensive literature with some of the more recent papers originating outside North America. Criticism of the diagnosis continues, with Piper and Merskey describing it as a culture-bound and often iatrogenic condition which they believe is in decline.

In China with "virtually no popular or professional knowledge of DID (...)" where "contamination cannot exist" it has been concluded that "the findings are not consistent with (...) iatrogenic models (...)". There is considerable controversy over the validity of the multiple personality profile as a diagnosis.

Unlike the more empirically verifiable mood and personality disorders, dissociation is primarily subjective for both the patient and the treatment provider. The relationship between dissociation and multiple personality creates conflict regarding the DID diagnosis.

While other disorders require a certain amount of subjective interpretation, those disorders more readily present generally accepted, objective symptoms. The controversial nature of the dissociation hypothesis is shown quite clearly by the manner in which the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has addressed, and re-addressed, the categorization over the years.

The second edition of the DSM referred to this diagnostic profile as multiple personality disorder. The third edition grouped MPD in with the other four major dissociative disorders. The current edition, the DSM-IV-TR, categorizes the disorder as dissociative identity disorder (DID).

The ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) continues to list the condition as multiple personality disorder. Psychiatrist Colin A. Ross has stated that based on documents obtained through freedom of information legislation, psychiatrists linked to Project MKULTRA claimed to be able to deliberately induce dissociative identity disorder using a variety of aversive techniques.