Divided Minds Essay, Research Paper
Divided MindsIdentity Disorder will Jane Phillips, author of The Magic Daughter: A Memoir of Living with Multiple Personality Disorder talks about living with Multiple Personality Disorder. I was 40 years old and could not explain why a teddy bear had moved in with me. I would run into people I did not know, but greeted me like an old friend. Time was all out of order. Hours were missing from my days and sometimes days were missing from my weeks. I spent a lot of time alone in front of the mirror; the faces that looked back at me were not really mine. They all seem related but sometimes very young, very old, beautiful, wise, boyish, feminine, or mischievous. All of these thoughts made me feel as though I was crazy. I contemplated suicide many times (20). Truddi Chase author of Rabbit Howls, explains that these symptoms are part of an illness know as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID (x). Barbara Wickens, in Multiple Personalities: Some Victims Develop a Separate Reality, contends that many people are capable of dissociating, or losing a sense of reality to some extent, whether by daydreaming, becoming totally absorbed in a book, watching television, driving, or just staring off into space (1+). The difference between everyday dissociation and actually having Dissociative Identity Disorder involves many different factors. When people develop different personalities, also know as alters they are using a creative and very sophisticated way of coping with a situation their conscious mind does not want to deal with. People have been dealing with their problems this way for a long time. Beth McLeod, author of When The Mind Splits, explains that cases of dissociation were described by noted physicians in the late 1700s, and through the 1890s it was a fairly well recognized disorder. Then in 1920s schizophrenia was introduced to the medical world. Psychiatrists began lumping Multiple Personality Disorder into schizophrenia, a disorder in which the mind dissociates itself from the environment (1+). Schizophrenia is closely related to Multiple Personality Disorder, the most considerable difference is how the person dissociates themselves. In schizophrenia the person with the mental disease is dissociating from the actual environment or the surroundings, while patients with Multiple Personality Disorder are dissociating from themselves. Both disorders dissociate just in different ways. As the medical world began associating multiple personalities with schizophrenia Multiple Personality Disorder was all but forgotten. Most of these cases received little attention until the early 1980s. Chase states that in 1980 The Psychiatric Association recognized the condition of Multiple Personalities as a clinical and diagnostic category in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise know as DSM IV. As more and more psychiatrists got involved with increased number of patients, they decided the name Multiple Personality Disorder was misleading name because the different personalities existed not in reality, but only in the mind of patients (iv). Jane Phillips, points out that in 1994, Multiple Personality Disorder was taken out of the DSM IV, and changed to be called Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID (xiv). Dissociative Identity Disorder is a more appropriate name because instead of referring to an alter as a separate personality, it is referring to the alter as a branch of the patient’s basic self. All the different alters represent different components of the personality. Before there was any recognition of multiple personalities in DSM IV the public was aware of it through different high profile cases.The public feasts on the high profile cases of any mental disorder. Stories involving mental illnesses offer a view into altered states of consciousness, which are not everyday. McLeod explains the first high profile of DID was the story of Eve, the woman with 22 personalities. Eve was the subject of a book, and a movie. In 1957 Joanne Woodward took home the Academy Award for best actress for her performance in “The Three Faces of Eve” (1+). The public was well aware of multiple personalities before the disorder got any medical validity. McLeod goes on to explain another high-profile case described in the 1976 made-for-T.V. movie “Sybil”, Sally Field played a young woman who had 16 personalities. The movie was based on an actual woman who like most patients, developed DID after being severely abused as a child (1+).According to Wickens, studies have shown that more than 90 percent of DID patients have suffered extreme childhood abuse before the age of 12. “Some children use their ability to dissociate, or go into a self-induced hypnotic trance, as a way of blocking out the pain caused by the abuse they suffered” (1+). The brain will develop its own memory bank, and it will begin to function like a separate personality. Imagine this, a child who is sexually abused by his mother for the first time- the same mother who feeds him, clothes him, and reads him bedtime stories. The child does not understand or accept the behavior, which is horrifying, maybe even painful. The conscious part of his mind comes forward to hold the memory or pain. This way he is not crushed under the weight of what happened to him, and he can go about his life, going to school, or going out to play. According to McLeod, if the abuse becomes repeated the “dissociative defense” is used again. Over time these defenses develop into alters that are unique and separate turning them into different identities (1+). Dissociative Identity Disorder is taken to the extreme, making it a controversial and intriguing mental disorder. Mark Pierce in, Sam’s Revenge Multiple Personality Dispute explains that alters can take many forms, but some of the more common alters are a depressed host personality, a scared of hurt child, a internal caretaker, a strong angry protector, and an envious protector (1+). These alters do represent the most common alter personality types, but there may be many variation of these. Chase notes a Dr. Putnam as stating, “I have discovered that there are significant differences in brain wave patterns, voice tone, and inflection, eye responses to stimuli, and other responses to both physical and psychological stimuli among the personalities, even thought they are found in the same body. Often in a matter of minutes a patient may show a huge range of emotions form a crying child to the rage of an angry man” (x). DID is not merely the mood swings most of us experience everyday, but extreme shifts of personality that alter a patients entire sense of being. Chase explains that in DID patients we see reactions and actions of different people in one body (x). The actual personalities or alters themselves are very different. According to McLeod each alter many have its own name, and can be of either sex, regardless of the sex of the host, and can be a variety of ages. The alters may have different voices, facial expressions, body language, handwriting, and physical problems. One personality may even be allergic to something the others are not. One alter may write with their left hand while all the others use their right. Their preference in clothing and hairstyles are all different too (1+). Chase explains that even signs of pregnancy have been noted when on personality has taken over, and then disappeared when the host personality came back (x). Each person living with DID is actually living with separate individuals inside their body. Each of these alters have a chance to become the “host” or main person presenting
the personality. Sometime these personalities are not always safe towards themselves or others.Wickens reports that more than 70 per cent of DID patients try to commit suicide (1+). These suicidal tendencies develop from a patient’s lack of knowledge and understanding of what ails them. The disorder is not an easy one to diagnose making patients wait long periods of time before they are accurately diagnosed. According to Wickens people that actually have been diagnosed DID, have been said to have many different psychiatric aliments, including, manic-depressive illness, anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia (1+). It is easy to understand that people who have not been diagnosed or treated for DID have thoughts of taking their own lives. DID has not been a widely accepted disorder, making it hard of people to understand exactly what was wrong with them. Wickens explains, “Only a decade ago, most mental-health experts believed that Multiple Personality Disorder was extremely rare (1+). McLeod states that many undiagnosed men end up in the penal system rather than getting the mental help they need to cope with their DID. If women do not get help with their DID they usually end up on the street as prostitutes or petty criminals (1+). Factual information needs to be known throughout the public. Making the public aware on facts, and demolishing the fiction of DID helps many come to grips with this mental illness. McLeod explains that most patients with multiple personality disorder are violent, many of them are towards themselves and others. Some deaths recorded as suicides are actually internal murders-one person killing off another (1+). Self-mutilation is not uncommon among those with the disorder. Cameron West, in First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple talks about his “guys”, and one particular alter named Switch who would take a knife and cut Cameron’s’ arm when he was the host personality (1). Situation like these are not unusual when you have DID. Usually one alter will be so full of rage that they feel they must take it out on the host personality. Although violence is a very obvious symptom, others are more difficult to detect. The symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder may be very vague and obscure. Multiple Personality and Dissociative Disorders list some symptoms to be: lack of appropriate emotional response, memory loss, lost time, feeling dream-like or disjointed, and the most important not remembering childhood or major life events (1+). Because a person may have one or two of these symptoms does not automatically mean they have DID. Dissociation is a coping mechanism, not an attention-seeking behavior. When and why these symptoms occur is one of much speculation. Worshop quotes psychiatrist Christine A. Courtiois as saying, “Many mental health professionals are extremely skeptical about DID and believe it fabricated by the individual as a means of gaining attention and approval or created by a na ve or suggestive therapists” (1+). Although DID is a very different and unique way the mind takes care of our problems, this is not to say it is impossible. It is truly amazing at what our mind can do in order to let our body cope with what it may be going through. Still There are many non-believers, who do not believe that the human mind is capable of repressing anything. Pierce declares that the memory can and often is repressed, and in the case of Dissociative Identity Disorder victims the function serves as a protective reaction to trauma (1+). The mind is an amazing thing that should not be taken for granted. Wickens quotes Margo Rivera as saying, “It is not a genetic disorder, it is not a mental disease, and it is preventable, but until child abuse is eradicated, multiple personality disorder will remain a painful, though ultimately treatable, affliction (1+). Rivera is making a strong point, explaining that child abuse must stop before Dissociative Identity Disorder ever will. If children were not victims of horrible and horrendous crimes such as child abuse the cases of DID in adults would decrease greatly. Sadly with the cases that today, treatment in limited, complicated, and may take years before any fully effective treatments are discovered. According to Chase multiple personality disorder does not respond to psychoactive drugs.(1+). McLeod says treatment takes one of two directions,”Either the therapists tries to integrate or fuse the personalities until they retreat into one or attempts to persuade the personalities to collaborate, establish contact with each other and work out an inner peace” (1+). All of this is much easier said than done. Treating someone with DID is a massive task. The patient is almost always suffering from severe trauma, and must recognize all of the abuse to which they had been exposed to. According to McLeod there is no “short-term therapy” for a person with DID. Most people with Multiple Personality Disorder have tried to find help through the mental health system for more than six years before they were accurately diagnosed and appropriate treatment was started. Experts are speculating on the hereditary link to the ability to dissociate, and drug therapy is under way (1+). Pierce explains the DSM-IV to define DID as “characterized by the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of the individual’s behavior, accompanied by the inability to recall important information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness” (1+). It is significant to know that the DSM IV has changed certain criteria for the disorder making it easier to understand and diagnose. As complicated and frightening as DID is, it is an intriguing response of a creative mind trying to escape childhood terror and pain. It is time to realize that child abuse is not an isolated problem. According to Chase millions of people have experienced some kind of sexual abuse. Although millions suffer from child abuse, only a handful have been diagnosed with DID. In the meantime psychiatrists are continuing to study DID. Wickens explains that scientists are trying to find our how to diagnose the disorder in children. They also want to find out how victims of the disorder establish their different personalities. They want to know how patients switch from one personality to the other and how memories are transferred from one to another. Wickens says that DID may occur in as many as one and every 100 persons. One in ten children are severely abused (1+). As more and more cases are being reported each year DID is becoming a very controversial and intriguing disease. Along with the accelerated amount of DID cases comes a greater need for effective treatments and the prevention of child abuse. Although some psychiatrists may dispute the validity of DID, all agree that it does have catastrophic effects of those who suffer through it and mental illnesses like it. Jane Phillips notes that, “Sadly because of the large incidents of childhood violence there will be a next generation of patients” (xiv). A new way to deal with the problem must be discovered in order to help these people cope with their problems. This only reinforces the point that our society needs to find ways to stop child abuse. Without child abuse the problems associated with it, such as Dissociative surely vanish.