Dissociative Disorders… More

Dissociative Disorders include striking episodes of amnesia, fugue (fewg), a loss of awareness of one’s identity, or multiple identities. Dissociative Amnesia, a separate disorder, involves an inability to recall one’s name, address or past. Dissociative Fugue involves sudden, unplanned trips away from home for no apparent reason, and confusion about personal identity. Dissociations are often triggered by highly traumatic events (McLewin & Muller, 2006). People who forget personal identity and flee unpleasant situations are exhibiting defense mechanisms against intolerable anxiety.


People suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder have two or more separate identities or personalities. (Note: Identity Disorders are not the same as Schizophrenia, which is a Psychotic Disorder.) One famous and dramatic example of multiple identities is described in the Best Selling book Sybil (Schreiber, 1973). Sybil had no less than 16 different personalities. Each personality had a distinct voice, vocabulary and posture. One personality could play the piano but the real Sybil could not, nor could the other identities.

Escape from Trauma

When an identity other than Sybil was in control, Sybil would experience a memory loss or memory blackout. Sybil’s amnesia and multiple identities first appeared during childhood. As a child she was beaten, locked in closets, tortured, sexually abused and almost killed. Sybil’s dissociations allowed her to escape by creating another person who would suffer in her place. Identity disorders often begin with an unbearable childhood trauma, especially sexual abuse, and is often found in a high percentage of individuals with multiple identities. 

Sybil’s controversial claims, the book and subsequent movie caused an enormous spike in reported cases of multiple personality disorder during the final years of the 20th century. Fortunately, multiple identity disorders are rare.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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