Dissociative Disorders

multiple personality

multiple personality, a very rare psychological disorder in which a person has two or more distinct personalities, each with its own thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. The personalities often are direct opposites and dominate at different times, with abrupt transitions triggered by distressful events or memories. Each may be entirely unaware of the other but aware of unexplained gaps in remembered time. In psychiatry the condition is known as dissociative identity disorder. The term "split personality," denoting schizophrenia, refers to an unrelated disorder in which the split (separation) is between thought and feeling.

Multiple personality was first recognized and described by the French physician Pierre Janet in the late 19th cent. Public awareness of the disorder increased in contemporary times after a case was the subject of The Three Faces of Eve (1957). In the 1980s and early 90s, such factors as recognition of child abuse, public interest in memories recovered from childhood (whether of actual or imagined events), allegations of so-called satanic ritual abuse, and the willingness of many psychotherapists to assume a more directive role in their patients' treatment, led to what came to be regarded as a rash of overdiagnoses of multiple personality.

The cause of multiple personality is not clearly understood, but the condition seems almost invariably to be associated with severe physical abuse and neglect in childhood. It is believed that amnesia, the key to formation of the separate personalities, occurs as a psychological barrier to seal off unbearably painful experiences from consciousness. The disorder often occurs in childhood but may not be recognized until much later. Social and psychological impairment ranges from mild to severe. The primary treatment is psychotherapy to help the individual integrate the separate personalities.

See study by J. Acocella (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Dialogues with Forgotten Voices: Relational Perspectives on Child Abuse Trauma and Treatment of Dissociative Disorders
Harvey L. Schwartz.
Basic Books, 2000
Psychological Concepts and Dissociative Disorders
Raymond M. Klein; Benjamin K. Doane.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Splintered Reflections: Images of the Body in Trauma
Jean Goodwin; Reina Attias.
Basic Books, 1999
Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory
Ian Hacking.
Princeton University Press, 1995
Handbook of Post-Traumatic Therapy
Mary Beth Williams; John F. Sommer Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 30 "Developing an Inpatient Dissociative Disorders Unit"
From Fragmentation to Wholeness: An Integrative Approach with Clients Who Dissociate
O'Reilly-Knapp, Marye.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 32, No. 4, October-December 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dissociative Experiences and Anger Proneness in Late Adolescent Females with Different Attachment Styles
Calamari, Elena; Pini, Mauro.
Adolescence, Vol. 38, No. 150, Summer 2003
Trauma and Dissociation: Treatment Perspectives
Kreidler, Maryhelen C.; Zupancic, Melissa K.; Bell, Cynthia; Longo, Mary Beth.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 36, No. 3, July-September 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Mental Disorders, Medications, and Clinical Social Work
Sonia G. Austrian.
Columbia University Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Dissociative Disorders"
Inner Strengths: Contemporary Psychotherapy and Hypnosis for Ego-Strengthening
Claire Frederick; Shirley McNeal.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications
Jude Cassidy; Phillip R. Shaver.
Guilford Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of dissociative disorders begins on p. 550
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator