Mental Health & Illness

Meet Karen Overhill, The Woman Who Has 17 People Living Inside Her Head

In 1989, at the age of 29, a woman known under the pseudonym Karen Overhill went to Chicago therapist Dr. Richard Baer in the hopes of finding the source of her lifelong memory lapses. After an examination and several visits, the diagnosis came back: Overhill had a rare mental condition - multiple personality disorder, now called dissociative identity disorder (DID). Baer determined Overhill had 17 distinct personalities

In the decades since she began treatment, Overhill’s condition has become a well-known case study. Mental health professionals have maintained there’s a direct correlation between childhood abuse and adult mental illness, citing the example of Overhill. Baer concluded Overhill developed her 16 DID alters to cope with childhood trauma - specifically the sexual assault and torture she told Baer that she endured in the 1960s when male family members allegedly led a cult. Baer employed hypnosis and visualization methods to help Overhill reintegrate her personalities, and in 2017, he released the biography Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities