Handling Stress and Anxiety: Multiple Personality Disorder

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus

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“What a beautiful necklace, Julie!” Ida exclaimed. “Wherever did you get it?” Embarrassed, Julie told her Aunt Ida that she had no idea where the necklace had come from. In fact, for the past few months, there had been instances where she could not account for periods of time. Ida, knowing of her niece’s traumatic childhood, immediately suggested that Julie see a therapist.

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 “What a beautiful necklace, Julie!” Ida exclaimed. “Wherever did you get it?” Embarrassed, Julie told her Aunt Ida that she had no idea where the necklace had come from. In fact, for the past few months, there had been instances where she could not account for periods of time. Ida, knowing of her niece’s traumatic childhood, immediately suggested that Julie see a therapist.

Perhaps one of the most controversial and potentially dangerous psychological diagnoses is the so-called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD), which was recently reclassified as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID~. Briefly, MPD or DID involves several features, chief of which is the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states, each with its own enduring pattern of thinking, perceiving and relating.

In suspected cases of MPD or DID, at least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior and the individual is unable to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. In the vast majority of these cases, there is a reported history of extreme anxiety, usually stemming from traumatic abuse or neglect.

The fact that the mental health establishment reclassified MPD as DID indicates that the very concept of the disorder is unstable, open to debate, and hard to pin down. Unfortunately, there are some mental health practitioners who seem almost married to the diagnosis and claim that dozens of their clients are suffering from the condition. In truth, if MPD or DID even exists, it is amazingly rare.

The danger for the consumer is that if a therapist unquestioningly buys into the label, the therapist will be likely to find, or worse yet, manufacture, evidence that supports the diagnosis. Even more alarming is that some clinicians actually encourage behaviors that seem consistent with the label, which increases the likelihood that the client will act more like the label and begin to “fit” into this diagnostic category.

We are not denying that people can have strange, disconnected, amnesic and fragmented experiences, nor are we totally decrying the diagnosis of MPD or DID. It is possible that some unfortunate people who suffered through horrendous abuse, neglect, or trauma may indeed suffer from this condition.

Nevertheless, before placing the label MPD or DID on someone, other more rational explanations for the behavior must be ruled out, such as medical conditions, drug intoxication, or perhaps more credible psychological disturbances such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. The bottom line:

• MPD or DID is not a widespread or common disorder despite the insistence of some practitioners.

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Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.

 

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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