Behind Closed Doors The Correlation Between Multiple

Behind Closed Doors: The Correlation Between Multiple Personality Disorder And
Child Abuse Essay, Research Paper

Behind Closed Doors: The Correlation Between 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”

From “For Children Who Were Broken”

by Elia Wise

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 effects 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, ual,

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 independent mind.

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 ual

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 ually

abused by her mother, Jenny appeared, because Jenny was strong and would just

goaway. 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

anawareness 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 abreaction. In abreaction 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 completely frozen.”

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



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. (August


6. Taylor, John. “The Lost Daughter,” Esquire. (March, 1994)

7. Coons, Dr. Philip. Child Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder. {Online}

Available 12/06/96


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