Multiple Personality Disorder

MPD typically originates in the client’s childhood when she suffers a traumatic experience that is too painful for her personality to handle. The client deals with the experience by spontaneously developing a subpersonality that takes over during the trauma and holds the feeling and the memory of the trauma. The client and often the subpersonality can repress the memory and go about her life as though it had never happened. The client can create several subpersonalities from any specific trauma or a number of traumas. Having MPD can help a client survive terrible traumas, but it obviously complicates a client’s life considerably and can put her life at risk with suicidal alters.

The therapist must be able to recognize this disorder so that he either treats the client appropriately or refers the client to a specialist for treatment. Failure of a therapist to recognize MPD or another dissociative disorder puts the client at a medical risk such as suicide, self‑mutilation, substance abuse or eating disorders. It also puts the therapist at the legal risk of a malpractice lawsuit for ignoring the condition of MPD. Also it delays the therapeutic healing process by not correctly diagnosing and providing subsequent treatment interventions that are appropriate to that diagnosis.

A therapist may want to treat clients with MPD or they may want to refer these clients to specialists. The important factor is that every therapist needs to know how to  assess and diagnose MPD not only for the above mentioned reasons but because of the high prevalence of some type of dissociative disorder.  Ross (1989, p. 130) says “I think that MPD, psychogenic amnesia, and atypical dissociative disorder together are as common in the general population as anxiety disorders.”

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