I’ve been noticing an aggressive internet propaganda campaign about Dissociative Identity Disorder, apparently being waged by certain members of International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), using mental health journalists – who happen not to be mental health professionals themselves – as ‘fronts’. Specifically, there are several quasi-interviews with Bethany Brand PhD – a member of the ISSTD Journal of Trauma and Dissociation Editorial Board – purporting to be concerned with “dispelling myths about Dissociative Identity Disorder”.
One example of this campaign can be found on the PsychCentral website. Titled “Dispelling Myths about Dissociative Identity Disorder” and written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., it is located here:
This article by Margarita Tartakovsky portrays itself to be a matter of public health education, intended to ‘correct’ myths and misunderstandings about DID that “the public” is supposedly confused by;
“(DID), known previously as multiple personality disorder, is not a real disorder. At least, that’s what you might’ve heard in the media, and even from some mental health professionals. DID is arguably one of the most misunderstood and controversial diagnoses in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). But it is a real and debilitating disorder that makes it difficult for people to function”.
Tartakovsky & Brand begin their myth and misunderstanding expose with an obtuse Strawman;
“Why the controversy? According to Bethany Brand, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at Towson University and an expert in treating and researching dissociative disorders, there are several reasons. DID is associated with early severe trauma, such as abuse and neglect. This raises the concern over false memories. Some people worry that clients may “remember” abuse that didn’t actually happen and innocent people may get blamed for abuse. (“Most people with DID don’t forget all their abuse or trauma,” Brand said; “sufferers may forget episodes or aspects of some of their trauma,” but it’s “fairly rare not to remember any trauma at all and suddenly recover memories of chronic childhood abuse.”) It also “pries into families’ privacy,” and families may be reluctant to reveal information that might put them in a negative light”.
Innocent persons being falsely accused of sex abuse crimes against children, based on false memories, is indeed a legitimate concern in our society. However, Tartakovsky and Brand are contending that DID is a controversial diagnosis/ research subject/ treatment specialization, because DID is alleged to arise out of the trauma of childhood abuse & neglect, and “families” [readers are intended to infer “abuse perpetrating family members”] don’t want information about abuse & neglect to be revealed.
The strawman here is an insinuation that the only reason for DID to be “controversial”, is that child abusers don’t want to get exposed by adult survivors of their abuse. Extend the insinuation…DID skeptics must be child abusers! The ongoing recourse to this type of slanderous crapola by DID therapists, researchers and ‘advocates’ only demonstrates that they possess no valid evidence for the legitimacy of DID and must resort to slanderous insinuations against those who expose the truth about it.
Here are some of the true reasons why DID diagnosis/ research/ treatment continues to be controversial;
1) The DSM-5 definition for Dissociative Identity Disorder is too broad, vague and subjective to be a legitimate diagnostic definition of a genuine medical condition. It reads more like an Identity Statement for a community association of self-professed, self-“diagnosed” ‘Multiplicities’ – which is, in truth, what it really is. It is an ultimate, nonsensical, “have your cake and eat it too!” capitulation to various special interests within the community of self-defined Multiples. Gone is; “these distinct identities take control over the behavior recurrently”, so a person can now be diagnosed as DID without any experience of “identity switching” at all! The patient can be under the control of their primary or master personality at all times and there no longer has to be any observable evidence of multiple personalities-identities – the patient only has to report that they experience or have experienced two or more distinct personality states. And criteria 1 in DSM-5 now states that experiencing two or more distinct personality states could be “an experience of possession” – there’s no need to stick to science in medical diagnosis anymore, it seems.
2) “Demonstrations” of identity switching, in public or on film, have been laughably, transparently faked or a self-delusion. Too few DID patients could carry it off believably outside of the clinician’s office – that’s the real reason for dropping the criteria of observable evidence for 2 or more personality states.
3) The explanation for how alternate personality-identities, or ‘alters’, come into being is nonsensical and contradictory to the model for self-awareness from which the concept of dissociated states is derived. The Sense of Self in the immediate here-and-now has two components; Sense of Self-agency – “I am the person doing this or that”, and Sense of Self-ownership – “I am the person experiencing this or that”. The theory that childhood trauma generates alters, holds that some trauma experiences are so overwhelming for children that their Sense of Self-ownership collapses as a defense. Their perception that “I am the person experiencing this” loses the “I” awareness, leaving them with a perception only that “some person [who is not me, because there is no me] is experiencing this”, effectively blocking out the trauma and preventing a narrative memory of the experience from being recorded. However, personality and/or identity require full Sense of Self – both components must be functioning. “Switching” from a primary personality to an alter personality would require functional Sense of self-ownership, and the person would still experience the suffering and trauma of the event. Switching personalities-identities to escape suffering & trauma is a superficially logical-sounding hypothesis, but it cannot work in reality.
There are a lot more rational objections to DID, but I’ll come to them as we go.
Margarita Tartakovsky then lists “7 common DID myths”, introduced by; “It’s safe to say that most of what we know about DID is either exaggerated or flat-out false. Here’s a list of common myths, followed by the facts”. Tartakovsky and Brand want people to believe that some things they know about DID are really exaggerations or falsehoods – but there are reasons to believe that this desire to change people’s perceptions about DID has a self-serving purpose rather than a purpose to educate anyone about “the facts”.
Tartakovsky’s first ‘myth’ is that DID is very rare; “Studies show that in the general population about 1 to 3 percent meet full criteria for DID… The rates in clinical populations are even higher, Brand said”.
The validity of that statistic is debatable, however what is really important is Brand’s motivation for wanting people to believe that DID is more common.
“Unfortunately, even though DID is fairly common, research about it is grossly underfunded. Researchers often use their own money to fund studies or volunteer their time. (The National Institute of Mental Health has yet to fund a single treatment study on DID.)”
And here we have it! “…research about it is grossly underfunded…” – but if people believe DID is a more pervasive problem, the funding will surely follow. Interesting, then, that Bethany Brand is begging for funding on her website;
“Support Dr. Brand’s Research
Research investigating how to accurately assess traumatized and dissociative individuals is of great importance because much of the research on psychological assessment has not been conducted using individuals traumatized throughout childhood (often referred to as complex trauma). As a result, current test and psychological interviews may misclassify individuals with complex trauma-related difficulties as feigning or exaggerating psychological problems, or as having psychotic or borderline disorders. Most do not detect dissociative disorders or complex trauma. It is critical that assessment research is conducted using complex trauma survivors as participants so that valid and reliable data is developed for interpreting tests results for these individuals.
It is also critical that treatment outcome studies on dissociative disorders is conducted. Research using rigorous designs is needed to provide stronger empirical support for the best treatment methods for this under-studied and highly symptomatic group of patients.
If you would like to fund Dr. Brand’s research, you can make a tax-deductible charitable donation via the Kate Fund at Sheppard Pratt Health System. Every penny donated to the Kate Fund goes directly to support Dr. Brand’s research on trauma disorders research. Click on “The Kate Fund” to make a donation. Thank you for your support”.
Apparently, “it is critical” for everyone to believe that DID is a valid & pervasive problem, so that Dr. Brand can get the funding she desires.
Tartakovsky’s second ‘myth’ is that; “It’s obvious when someone has DID. Sensationalism sells. So it’s not surprising that depictions of DID in movies and TV are exaggerated. The more bizarre the portrayal, the more it fascinates and tempts viewers to tune in. Also, overstated portrayals make it obvious that a person has DID. But “DID is much more subtle than any Hollywood portrayal,” Brand said”.
Well, perhaps Brand ought to take this up with all the self-professed DID patient ‘drama queens’ on tv talk shows and Youtube – some of whom are or have been patients of Brand’s ISSTD colleagues. The next batch of Brand’s comments are again transparently self-serving;
“In fact, people with DID spend an average of seven years in the mental health system before being diagnosed…They also have comorbid disorders, making it harder to identify DID. They often struggle with severe treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse. Because standard treatment for these disorders doesn’t treat the DID, these individuals don’t get much better, Brand said”.
Yes. Dr Brand contends that DID sufferers rarely perceive their symptoms – whatever they might be – as signs that they have DID. Yet, the DSM states that the primary criteria for DID – having two or more personality states – doesn’t have to be observable, the patient can report the experience themselves. How is that going to happen, if they rarely perceive that they possess the primary criteria until someone else confronts them with a diagnosis of DID? And how will Brand diagnose the DID if it’s not necessary for the primary criteria to be observable by clinicians? Never mind though – the real point is that Brand wants ALL psychiatric and medical patients to be given DID screening. So that they don’t waste 7 years being treated for “treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse”, she would say. Screening all patients for DID, (which isn’t happening now), with Dr Brand’s new testing and interview techniques designed to diagnose DID in many patients currently being treated for other disorders, wouldn’t have anything to do with dramatically increasing the DID patient pool and subsequently making a lot more money as a DID clinician, would it?
Next ‘myth'; “People with DID have distinct personalities. Instead of distinct personalities, people with DID have different states. Brand describes it as “having different ways of being themselves, which we all do to some extent, but people with DID cannot always recall what they do or say while in their different states.” And they may act quite differently in different states”.
“As Brand points out, in the media, there is a great fascination with the self-states. But the self-states are not the biggest focus in treatment. Therapists address clients’ severe depression, dissociation, self-harm, painful memories and overwhelming feelings. They also help individuals “modulate their impulses” in all their states. The “majority [of treatment] is much more mundane than Hollywood would lead us to expect,” Brand said.”
People with DID don’t have “distinct personalities”? Wtf? But that was criteria 1 for all previous DSM definitions of DID-MPD, with that exact wording; “two or more distinct identities or personality states are present in the individual” – !
Get out! It’s all about the alters, baby! Has Dr. Brand informed all of the people diagnosed with DID-MPD under previous DSM criteria, that they don’t have multiple distinct personalities? Because I’ve never encountered, seen, or heard of, a self-professed DID-MPD who did not perceive having multiple distinct personalities to be the basis of their diagnosis and their self-identity as DID-MPD.
And what would be the point of screening depressives for DID, diagnosing them as DID, and then focusing the treatment on their depression rather than on their self-states, anyway? Just to pump up the number of DID patients in the stats?
“Therapists help patients integrate their states, which is a process that happens over time. Unlike movies and media depict, integration isn’t “a big dramatic event,” Brand said. Instead eventually, the differences among states diminish, and the person is better able to handle strong feelings and memories without switching self-states and retreating from reality”.
So Dr Brand is an ‘integrationist’ – she practices integration of the multiple selfs? What about all those people in the online Multiplicity communities who perceive their alters to be an asset to their functionality rather than a “retreat from reality”? Some of those folks consider the integration of selves to be akin to acts of murder*. Does that make Dr Brand a serial killer of alters? This is the problem with encouraging belief in irrational constructs such as Dissociative Identity Disorder – you can’t control the fantasy that you have planted in people’s minds – and people like Dr Brand and her associates in ISSTD never accept responsibility for the tragic consequences such fantasies can lead to. Jeanette Bartha and Roma Hart can tell you about those tragic consequences, as can the family of Carol Myers, and all the victims of Satanic Panic.
There’s not much point in continuing with this analysis of Margarita Tartakovsky’s DID apologetics. I’ll close instead with a excerpt from a study that Dr Brand was a co-author of;
“Assessment of Genuine and Simulated Dissociative Identity Disorder on the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms“
“Little is known about how to detect malingered dissociative identity disorder (DID). This study presents preliminary data from an ongoing study about the performance of DID patients on the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS, Rogers, Bagby, & Dickens, 1992), considered to be a “gold standard” structured interview in forensic psychology to detect feigning of psychological symptoms. Test responses from 20 dissociative identity disorder (DID) patients are compared to those of 43 well informed and motivated DID simulators. Both the simulators and DID patients endorsed such a high number of symptoms that their average overall scores would typically be interpreted as indicative of feigning. The simulators’ mean scores were significantly higher than those of the DID patients on only four out of 13 scales. These results provide preliminary evidence that well informed and motivated simulators are able to fairly successfully simulate DID patients and avoid detection on the SIRS. Furthermore, many DID patients may be at risk for being inaccurately labeled as feigning on the SIRS“.
Got that? The Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms, “considered to be a “gold standard” structured interview in forensic psychology to detect feigning of psychological symptoms”, couldn’t distinguish between “genuine” DID and faked DID! But instead of concluding that this demonstrates there is no difference between the two, because “genuine” DID is just a fantasy, the study’s authors conclude that the SIRS itself must be ‘flawed’ and will have to be restructured so that it stops correctly labelling DID claimants as fraudulent or delusional!
*Rants by self-professed multiples, equating integration with murder;
“We don’t want intergration. Have decided on cooperation instead. Too many of us feel it is too much like murder. If some want to intergrate of their own accord, that’s fine. But I, the host, can’t imagine living without the company of my main ones. And, they feel the same way. They don’t want to die.
As far as we’re concerened, the whole concept of ‘integration’ is just that. a ‘concept’. Its a barbaric idea that people put into motion without the slightest clue of what it REALLY means for us from the inside.
They can pretty it up with words like ‘merge’ and ‘fusing’ or ‘becoming whole’ and other crap. Just try asking those experts, “what’s it feel like to be the one getting integrated?”. Might as well substitute the word “terminated”, cos thats what it feels like.
Sure, we’ve had 2 that have decided on their own to ‘integrate’, but whether they’re vanished, ‘fused’ or simply dead….. who the hell knows….. we sure don’t, and none of the experts know either. All we know is that even when those 2 decided on their own peacefully and calmly and without co-ersion to ‘integrate’, it left the rest of us feeling like they’d just died. Left us feeling the emptiness they left behind. Now does that sound like a nice peaceful integration where they ‘merged’ with us somehow?? No. They’re gone, not there at all anymore, missing, left a hole where they used to be. And all of us felt it to the core.
And don’t get us started on what being forced to integrate was like. Don’t even wanna go there. Damn stupid idiot that thought she could just make us all go away. Well we’re still here and it really pissed us off and hurt even the toughest of us. Taken forever to recover from it to the point where we’re somewhat functional again.
So, as they say…..you can take that integration and ‘shove it’
“Altercide – Integration as Killing off the Selves
Integration is sometimes explained as removing the splits to create a single whole. This idea of integrating self-destructive alters reminds me of one interpretation of Integration – that of removing the alters until the individual with DID becomes a single personality.
Is this one mechanism of alter-integration “alter-homicide”? To coin a phrase, “Altercide”?
Removal of most selves, leaving only one? Perhaps just the birthchild. or the one who is most often center.
Is this murder, this idea of killing a self? Is it the humane way to remove a destructing or suicidal alter? If we, as individuals with DID, “kill” off a part, is that murder or suicide?
My selves scream out in protest. <Me? Kill me? I protected you for years!>
The closest I have experienced internally are the small occasional floating of ideas that someone besides me should be center. But that isn’t death, just perhaps a democratic vote, or at worst a coup attempt.
On first glance, it seems perhaps logical to just kill off the “bad” alters that may want to initiate suicide (or homicide against the host or another alter). FaithAllen asserts that the self-destructive alters are actually acting out of caring and love. Perhaps an explanation being that non-suicide initiated self-injury helps an individual regain the ability to feel, escaping the pain and numbness of severe dissociation. Again, this may be more applicable for alter-initiated self-injury (again, not today’s discussion), but not for alter-initiated death”.
Kaimi of Kaimialana
Multiplicity, the sate of sharing headspace with one or more people, is something I experience personally in every conscious moment, and many of my unconscious ones. As such, this paper speaks from a biased perspective, of multiplicity by a multiple system, and furthermore of healthy and empowered multiplicity as a regiment option. I am radical in the sense that I disagree with the MPD/DID diagnosis, that I choose not to see my, OUR condition as a disorder, illness or pathology in need of “curing”. I also frown upon the idea of any integration that does not occur naturally or with full consent of all system members. While some plural systems may need help in understanding their multiplicity, and may decide over all they are happier as a singlet, this does not mark the condition of plurality as something medical and unnatural. To force integration, essentially destroying people, not personality quirks, but people with lives, dreams beliefs, values, goals, friends, people who grow and love; this is akin to murder. My system and I see it as not something similar to murder but murder itself”.