Dissociative Identity Disorder: An empirical overview

Proponents of multiple personality disorder – renamed and sometimes disguised as unscientifically sound Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – make claims that research indicates this or that… Problem with this statement is that studies, upon closer examination, are fraught with researcher or journal bias & study flaws. Researcher bias is not a technical term but one easily explained and understood by the average Jane looking for specific treatment. Without tight controls, researchers can easily find what they are looking for therefore results are bias. Certain journals, like the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation published by the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD) usually find what they are looking for. There are scant articles criticizing DID or shooting down beliefs or concepts that do not hold up after research is conducted.

I am always skeptical about research or articles, for example, that involve Bethany L. Brand who has repeatedly demonstrated researcher bias. Over and over she finds exactly what she’s looking for. Brand is oft published in the ISSTD Journal.

Upon reading the description below I was surprised to find the authors admitting that the “literature on DID is accumulating.” Although this seems promising for the advancement of psychology and psychiatry for those who support this controversial concept, what disturbs me is that many researchers have, for years, claimed there is already an abundance of research supporting the existence of  alter personalities that require certain types of psychiatric intervention.

Treating multiple personalities is big business. Long-term treatment can span years, decades, and sometimes the entire adulthood of patients. Former patients, during litigation for medical malpractice against providers of treatment for DID, show the cost for their therapy was over $1,000,000.

Patients who believe they have multiple personalities wrongly think there is already an abundance of scientific research supporting their diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder and, therefore, wrongly make conclusions that their disorder is valid and treatable.* In the presence of bias, there is too much room for mistakes and false conclusions.

I am thrilled that this article confesses that there are cultural variables at work. Many of us have been saying that what is a psychiatric disorder in the United States is not a psychiatric disorder worldwide. To think otherwise is short-sited and bias.


*The fact that DID is in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) does not prove anything other than the malady is recognized and is believed to have certain traits. Remember, many disorders are eventually debunked or viewed differently over time and dropped from the DSM. Homosexuality was a mental disorder worthy of treatment, yet this view is no longer held so and it was dropped from the DSM. Dissociative Identity Disorder may likely suffer the same fate.


Dissociative Identity Disorder: An empirical overview

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

Aust N Z J Psychiatry May 1, 2014 48: 389390


Objective: Despite its long and auspicious place in the history of psychiatry, dissociative identity disorder (DID) has been associated with controversy. This paper aims to examine the empirical data related to DID and outline the contextual challenges to its scientific investigation.

Methods: The overview is limited to DID-specific research in which one or more of the following conditions are met: (i) a sample of participants with DID was systematically investigated, (ii) psychometrically-sound measures were utilised, (iii) comparisons were made with other samples, (iv) DID was differentiated from other disorders, including other dissociative disorders, (v) extraneous variables were controlled or (vi) DID diagnosis was confirmed. Following an examination of challenges to research, data are organised around the validity and phenomenology of DID, its aetiology and epidemiology, the neurobiological and cognitive correlates of the disorder, and finally its treatment.

Results: DID was found to be a complex yet valid disorder across a range of markers. It can be accurately discriminated from other disorders, especially when structured diagnostic interviews assess identity alterations and amnesia. DID is aetiologically associated with a complex combination of developmental and cultural factors, including severe childhood relational trauma. The prevalence of DID appears highest in emergency psychiatric settings and affects approximately 1% of the general population. Psychobiological studies are beginning to identify clear correlates of DID associated with diverse brain areas and cognitive functions. They are also providing an understanding of the potential metacognitive origins of amnesia. Phase-oriented empirically-guided treatments are emerging for DID.

Conclusions: The empirical literature on DID is accumulating, although some areas remain under-investigated. Existing data show DID as a complex, valid and not uncommon disorder, associated with developmental and cultural variables, that is amenable to psychotherapeutic intervention.


  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

  2. 2Department of Psychology, Towson University, Towson, USA

  3. 3Department of Psychiatry, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey

  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

  5. 5Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Sydney, Australia

  6. 6Department of Psychology, Carlos Albizu University, San Juan, Puerto Rico

  7. 7Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, USA

  8. 8Department of Psychiatry, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  1. Martin J Dorahy, Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. Email: martin.dorahy@canterbury.ac.nz


retrieved 08-05-14 http://anp.sagepub.com/content/48/5/402.short

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