Sybil, Three Faces of Eve and Billy Milligan (and I believe he's multiply-diagosed) are extreme Hollywood-ized examples of MPD in the first place, though unfortunately (and with the flash of Hollywood) they are also the first stereotypes people think of when they think of MPD at all.
I found a really great site that explains alot about Switching, from the Mental Health Association. This might help explain things to people who aren't familiar, so they can see how it works.
Dissociative Disorders: What Are They?
Dissociative Disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as who he is, what his personal history is, etc.) Dissociative Disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder.)
All of the dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism--the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self.
Symptoms of disorders, if not one or more of the disorders themselves, are seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Dissociative amnesia: This disorder is characterised by a blocking out of critical personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature. Dissociative amnesia, unlike other types of amnesia, does not result from other medical trauma (like a blow to the head).
Dissociative amnesia has several subtypes:
Localised amnesia: is present in an individual who has no memory of specific events that took place, usually traumatic. The loss of memory is localised within a specific window of time. For example, a survivor of a car wreck who has no memory of the experience until two days later is experiencing localised amnesia.
Selective amnesia: happens when a person can recall only small parts of events that took place in a defined period of time. For example, and abuse victim may recall only some parts of the series of events around his or her abuse.
Generalised amnesia: is diagnosed when a person's amnesia encompasses this entire life.
Continuous amnesia: occurs when the individual has no memory for events beginning from a certain point in the past continuing up to the present.
Systematised amnesia: is characterised by a loss of memory for a specific category of information. A person with this disorder might, for example, be missing all memories about one specific family member.
Dissociative fugue: is a rare disorder. An individual with dissociative fugue suddenly and unexpectedly takes physical leave of his surroundings and sets off on a journey.
These journeys can last hours, or even several days or months. Individuals experiencing a dissociative fugue have travelled over thousands of miles. An individual in a fugue state is unaware of or confused about his identity, and in some cases will assume a new identity (although this is the exception).
Dissociative Identity Disorder: which has been known as multiple personality disorder, is the most famous of the dissociative disorders. An individual suffering from DID has more than one distinct identity or personality state that surfaces in the individual on a recurring basis. This disorder is also marked by memory gaps that vary with the individual's "alters" or other personalities.
Depersonalisation Disorder: is marked by a feeling of detachment or distance from one's own experience, body, or self. These feelings of depersonalisation are recurrent. Of the dissociative disorders, depersonalisation is one most easily identified with by the general public; one can easily relate to feeling as though they are in a dream, or being "spaced out."
Feeling out of control of one's actions and movements is something that people describe when intoxicated. An individual with depersonalisation disorder has this experience so frequently and so severely that it interrupts his or her functioning and experience. A person's experience with depersonalisation can be so severe that h or she believes the external world is unreal or distorted.
Since dissociative disorders seem to be triggered as a response to trauma or abuse, treatment for individuals with such a disorder may stress psychotherapy, although a combination of psychopharmacological and psychosocial treatments is often used.
Many of the symptoms of dissociative disorders occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and can be controlled by the same drugs used to treat those disorders. A person in treatment for a dissociative disorder might benefit from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.
What Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)/Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)?
Dissociative Identity Disorder was previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). While some people still prefer to use the old name it should be made clear that it is the same condition, just with two names applied. Some people think that there is a difference between DID and MPD, there is not.
Why the names change. There have been many reasons, but one is that the words “personality disorder" were taken out of the name, as it is really not a personality disorder, but a dissociative disorder.
Multiple Personality Disorder (renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder) is the most severe of the Dissociative Disorders, and is the ability of a person to split off awareness to other dissociated parts (alters) of his or herself, to deal with unbearable situations, or with memories of severe traumas.
These dissociated states are often refereed to as "parts", "alters" (short for alternate personality state), others, inside people and other names that multiples use to describe their own systems.
The system is the name given to the way in which a person?s internal personalities are established and function. Each person has a different internal system, although there may be some similarities.
These other personality states or "alters" may take on such roles as "protectors", "persecutors", "victimised children", or of being "angry", "sad", "happy", "social" or any other role that the person cannot deal with. The person may be partially, vaguely or totally unaware of these other parts or "alters"
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD /Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.)
Is NOT Schizophrenia!
People suffering schizophrenia do not have alternate personalities/identities.
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness that includes episodes of psychosis, and is thought to be a biochemical and/or genetic disorder of the brain.
Schizophrenia is not caused by trauma and does not involve amnesia and flashbacks.
What M.P.D/D.I.D. IS
It is a survival mechanism developed in early childhood as a defence against severe abuse and trauma.
It is maintained throughout life as a coping method when faced with difficult or overwhelming situations.
It is very frightening for the person living with this disorder.
It is real.
It is treatable.
What M.P.D/D.ID. IS NOT
It is not Schizophrenia.
It is not a way of seeking attention
It is not rare (approx 1 in 100)
It is not a construct created by over-zealous therapists
It is not a fantasy.
It is not a psychotic condition.
M.P.D. How Does it Feel?
Have you ever woken up to find that a large amount of time has passed?
Have you ever found belongings that you do not remember buying, such as clothes? ? Have you ever come across drawings, journals, and other writings that you do not remember doing?
Have you ever found several totally different handwritings in your journal?
Do you meet people who you do not know; yet they insist that you have known them for years?
Have there been major life events, such as a wedding, or a graduation that you do not remember; yet you have photos of the event?
Do you look in a mirror and see someone other than yourself?
Have you woken to find you are in another town or country with no knowledge of going there, or of even leaving your house?
Have you ever had trouble knowing what day, month and year it is?
If you do not relate to these examples above, consider yourself lucky. These are just a few of the situations that people with multiple personalities have to deal with every day of their lives. And on top of trying to cope with things such as these (and it can be much worse) we still have to deal with the usual daily routines of living that all people must face.
It is very hard to explain to someone the feelings and the struggles of just going day to day. For a lot of People with DID/MPD, it is not until they are properly diagnosed that they themselves know the reasons for these circumstances and behaviours, the time losses and amnesia?s that they have endured and fought with, their whole lives, usually in silence.
Close your eyes ... picture yourself in one of the above situations ... try to feel how it would be and feel for you ... could you cope?
What Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder?
It is widely believed that a child can develop DID/MPD from severe trauma before the age of around 6-8 years of age. In most cases trauma is in the form of physical, emotional, sexual and psychological abuse. This abuse can be from a close family member, close friend of the family, a neighbour or any other person who has access to the child.
For some, the trauma is so severe and often repeated over a period of time that their dissociation develops to the point where the child splits into separate personality states. This allows the child to escape the situation, and leaves someone else to handle it.
Other trauma can be in the form of ongoing hospital and surgical procedures, witnessing the death of a loved one or other person, or surviving a major accident.
Not all people who suffer trauma will become dissociative to the point of DID/MPD but those with a high susceptibility for dissociation are at greater risk.
Who Gets Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Anyone can be affected by DID/MPD. While DID/MPD develops in early childhood, it is not usually diagnosed until the mid 20s or older.
DID/MPD affects more females than males, but this may be due to the fact that more females present to mental health services for assistance, which leads to treatment.
How Common is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
According to Dianne Hales and Robert E. Hales, MD. (p445) "it is now believed that Dissociative Identity Disorder may be far more common than had been thought, largely because child abuse has proven to be much more widespread than once was thought. An estimated 3% of individuals hospitalises for psychiatric treatment have this disorder"
In Australia it is estimated that DID/MPD accounts for 1% -2%. Many people with this disorder have had several mis-diagnosis, with unresponsive treatment, before DID/MPD is diagnosed and effective treatments commenced.
The textbook diagnosis for MPD/DID and further information can be found here at: Guide to Psychology, and at the Diagnostic Statistic Manual IV.
Further reading and information:
Acocella, Joan Ross Creating Hysteria - Women and Multiple Personality Disorder Hardcover - December 1999
Crews, Frederick (Editor), et al The Memory Wars - Freud's Legacy in Dispute Hardcover 1995 | Paperback 1997
Hedges, Lawrence E. Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through Childhood Trauma - The Psychodynamics of Recovered Memories, Multiple Personality, Ritual Abuse, Incest, Hardcover - April 1995
Kluft, Richard P & Fine, Catherine G Clinical Perspectives on Multiple Personality Disorder Hardcover 1993
Piper, August, Jr Hoax and Reality - The Bizarre World of Multiple Personality Disorder Paperback 1997
Putnam, Frank W Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder (Foundations of Modern Psychiatry) Hardcover 1989
Ross, Colin A Dissociative Identity Disorder - Diagnosis, Clinical Features, and Treatment of Multiple Personality (Wiley Series in General and Clinical Psychiatry) Hardcover 1996
Multiple Personality Disorder - Diagnosis, Clinical Features, and Treatment (Wiley Series in General and Clinical Psychiatry) Paperback 1989
Spanos, Nicholas P Multiple Identities & False Memories - A Sociocognitive Perspective Hardcover 1996
Spira, James L (Editor) & Yalom, Irvin D Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder Paperback 1996
Bass, Ellen & Davis, Laura The Courage to Heal - A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Audio Cassette 1989 | Paperback 1994
Davis, Laura The Courage to Heal Workbook - For Women and Men Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Paperback / Published 1990
Hacking, Ian Rewriting the Soul - Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory Hardcover 1995 | Paperback 1998