I was professionally diagnosed with ADHD and I’ve struggled with it since childhood. Later I was diagnosed with BPD and GAD, and a different doctor diagnosed BD2. I am certain about the BPD and ADHD, but I think I might actually have MPD (not GAD and BD2) and I’m concerned. I always hate telling my parents or my doctors about problems I think I might have for fear of looking dramatic or “wanting to have problems.” I fit every description in the DSM5, but when I think of MPD I immediately picture the movie Sybil and I know I am not nearly as severe as her. I would like to get help but like I said, I’m afraid it will be seen as one of my “attention seeking behaviors” (but I’m extremely aware of those, and I’ve been making them healthier behaviors as much as I’ve been able) I wouldn’t even know what to do if it were MPD, all the treatment options sound so scary and the thought of being labeled as one of the so-called “crazy” disorders is also scary.
By MPD, I’m assuming you mean multiple personality disorder. MPD is now called dissociative identity disorder (DID). DID is a rare condition in which two or more distinct personalities are present. Each personality usually has distinctly different names, identities, temperaments, interaction styles, and so forth. The personalities alternate within an individual’s consciousness often causing significant memory lapses and frequent episodes of forgetting. The cause of DID is unknown but it is strongly associated with childhood trauma and abuse.
It is important to remember that the movie Sybil was a dramatized production. It may not be an accurate portrayal of DID and should not serve as the basis for diagnosis. In fact, there’s controversy over the case. Sybil’s real name is Shirley Ardell Mason. Ms. Mason’s psychiatrist, Dr. Wilbur, did not write about this unique case in a scientific journal. Instead she hired a writer and the story was ultimately made into a movie.
A psychiatrist who treated Ms. Mason, while Dr. Wilbur was out of town, did not think Ms. Mason had multiple personality disorder. He described her as “hysterical.” A psychologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, listened to the taped recordings of the therapeutic sessions between Ms. Mason and her psychiatrist and concluded that “it is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be.” You can read more about the case, and its skeptics, in this New York Times article.
Nothing you’ve written in this letter would suggest that you have DID, however if you believe it is a possibility, then you should discuss it with a mental health professional. He or she would be in the best position to determine if you have the disorder.
Even though cases do exist, I suspect that the majority of clinicians have never come across anyone with DID. That’s because people who have DID probably don’t realize they have it and thus don’t seek help from a professional. You might try consulting a DID or a trauma specialist, if one is available in your community. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle