How many personalities can we have?

The existence of multiple personalities has long been attributed to the obsession of spirits, demons, and other mystical beings. The first medical records of today’s dissociative identity disorder appeared in the late 19th century, the most famous being Louis Vivet it was a strange case. Vivet was born in France in 1863, was paralyzed from the waist down after an accident, but a year later was able to move his leg again. This already amazed the doctors, and even the fact that a new personality was associated with his new leg. The formerly gentle and hard-working man living in the institute became rude and bandaged, and suddenly did not recognize his fellow patients or doctors. In 1882, a psychiatrist diagnosed Vivet with Fida’s disease – Félida was also a woman with multiple personalities. The case of Louis Vivet and Felida impressed doctors and the public, probably inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, the 1886 The special case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Schizophrenic or dissociative disorder

French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot said the disease was a dissociative disorder, but Freud linked it to childhood trauma. In 1908, Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia to a disease that reflected the separation of mind and reality, believing that the development of multiple personalities was one of them.

This has led to the two diseases being confused to this day, even though they have striking differences. Schizophrenia has no awareness of the disease, has several types and therefore does not have a uniform disease.

A patient with schizophrenia often hallucinates, has delusions, and is often emotionless – but can be treated with medication. Dissociative personality disorder is characterized by the coexistence of several personalities (alteres), between which there may be contact. They do not hallucinate and cannot be cured with medication, only with psychotherapy.

A hit

In 1957, from the writings of two American psychiatrists The three faces of Eve film was shot. The true story is Christine Sizemore he presented his illness and was a blockbuster starring Joanne Woodward. Unlike the film, Christine had 22 personalities instead of 3 who spoke, dressed, ate and behaved differently. Mrs. Sizemore visited several doctors, but her condition did not improve until she was nearly 50 years old, when she was able to integrate different personalities.

In 1973, another film, a Sybil The mini-series was a great success starring Sally Field, which was also based on a true story. Sirley Ardell Mason, who experienced a traumatized childhood, had 16 personalities. The book on which the film is based was suggested by the woman’s psychiatrist, Cornelia Wilbur, who told the journalist a special case – to the great indignation of her psychologist colleagues.

The huge success of the two films (Woodward Oscar for the first received, won second Emmy Awards), picked up the disease. Before 1976, only 26 cases were registered in America, and between 1985 and 1995, more than 40,000 people were diagnosed with the disorder.

Official but controversial

As early as 1980, it was listed as its own distinct syndrome, with three defining features (as defined by the American Psychiatric Association): two or more distinct identities; memory disorders; anxieties and worries in everyday life. To this day, many see it as a defense mechanism that allows traumatic memories to be hidden – into different personalities.

In the 80s and 90s, many psychiatrists noticed that the symptoms of the alleged patients were eerily similar to those of “Sybil.” But almost no one had any mild symptoms of Christine Sizemore or Louis Vivet. So the media played a big role in the spread of the disease, but psychiatry also did a lot of harm to him. In the sixties, psychiatrist Herbert Spiegel treated Shirley Mason (Sybilt) and noticed that the woman was very influential.

Spiegel was convinced that former treating physician Cornelia Wilbur might have suggested some of her symptoms. It was later revealed that this was also the case with Christine Sizemore, with her third personality, “Jane,” appearing only during her therapeutic sessions with her doctor, Corbett Thigpen.

Contemporary treatment and an interesting company

Today, psychiatrists diagnose much more cautiously because many of the symptoms of the disease overlap with other, more common disorders — schizophrenia, ADHD, and epilepsy. According to new estimates, up to 1.5 percent of the population is affected (typically white women in their 30s).

A company called Multiplicity Community believes that

it is not a disease but an alternative but healthy, non-pathological condition such as left-handedness or autism spectrum disorder.

However, the vast majority of psychiatrists say these statements are harmful: they discourage many sufferers from seeking medical help even though they need it.

Nice dreams, Billy

One famous case of criminology is the story of Billy Milligan, from which Daniel Keyes wrote a novel Have a nice dream, Billy! at (same wrote the great Fifth Sally about a woman with a fivefold personality), but the case was also covered in a documentary – on Netflix Billy Milligan’s 24 personalities running at. The man went to court in 1977 at the age of 22 when he was charged with raping 3 women. Psychologist Dorothy Turner diagnosed her with a dissociative identity disorder, and her lawyers used it to defend her: one of the man’s 10 alternative personalities committed the rape, but Milligan’s main personality didn’t remember anything. He was sentenced to ten years of psychiatric treatment, escaped and then legally released, and died of cancer at the age of 59. To this day, legal experts aren’t sure if they were led by a man with a genius (psychopathic) ability to act, or if Milligan, who was experiencing the traumatic childhood of dissociative identity disorders, was really ill.


(Cover image: Joann Woodward plays a woman with multiple personalities in The Three Faces of Eve (1957). Photo: John Springer Collection (CORBIS / Corbis / Getty Images)

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