Think back to a time where you had a bit too much to drink. The next day, could you remember what your drunken self had done? Now, remove the alcohol. If you still drew a blank, you would have something in common with these famous cases of dissociative identity disorder.
Dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly referred to as multiple personality disorder, is when a person manifests two or more distinct personalities that switch off controlling the body. The "blackout" periods are where the dissociative part comes in. Often the personalities have no memory of what went on when other personalties were in charge. In other words, the individual may have no clue that the other personalities even exist.
Usually, there is a dominant personality and one or more "alters." Which personality is dominant can actually change over the years. Sometimes the alternate personalities appear as hostile, foreign invaders to the dominant personality, and can be mistaken for cases of demonic possession. Real cases of DID are extremely rare, and are almost always the result of extreme trauma or abuse. The disorder serves as a psychological coping mechanism in which the psyche compartmentalizes the trauma. Ultimately, the disorder is a failure to integrate various memories, personality traits, identity, and consciousness into a single, multidimensional persona.
These are real people with dissociative identity disorder. All of their stories are true, and well documented. Beyond the sensationalism of tales like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a very real psychological concern that, while rare, can be extremely difficult to live with.
Kim Noble Has Four Switches Per Day
Noble was born in 1960 to two unhappily married factory workers in England. Her childcare was outsourced to friends and family, and at some point between the age of one and three she suffered from extreme and repeated abuse. It was at this point that her psyche splintered, completely compartmentalizing the trauma.
Her condition went undiagnosed through adolescence, even when she was put on suicide watch in a psychiatric hospital after frequent overdosing. In her 20s, a sudden switch resulted in her plowing a van into a line of parked cars. This resulted in another mental health examination, and the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
After being released from the mental hospital, Noble somehow ended up caught up with a pedophile ring. When she reported it to the police, she started receiving threats of retaliation. A man threw acid in her face, someone lit her bed on fire with her in it, and while she escaped, her house was completely gutted. She has no recollection of the incident.
In 1995, Noble was finally diagnosed with DID. Her dominant personality is named Patricia, and under her care, Noble has become an artist and lives with her daughter.
Shirley Mason Made Up Her DID
One of the most famous cases of DID ever recorded is likely a lie, according to a new book, Sybil Exposed, by Debbie Nathan. The book and miniseries Sybil - starring Sally Fields - follows the life of a woman who has DID. It was supposedly a true story, but it seems that the real-life Sybil, Shirley Mason, faked her condition.
Mason initially sought psychiatric attention because she was emotionally unstable. She became attached to her physician, Dr. Connie Wilbur, who had a fascination with multiple personality disorder (as DID used to be called). To get more attention, Mason came in one day and starting claiming to be a different person, talking in a childish voice and changing her mannerisms.
On one occasion, Mason tried to admit that she was faking it, but her confession was dismissed as part of her psychosis. Interestingly, therapist Herbert Spiegel, who saw Mason from time to time, also said that she was probably malingering (faking it) in 1997.
Louis Vivet's Alter Couldn't Walk
Louis Vivet was one of the most extensively studied cases of DID in the early days of psychiatry. Vivet lived in the latter part of the 19th century. His youth was marked by abuse and neglect, and at eight years old, he was sent to a house of correction.
By the age of 17, Vivet was a functioning and intelligent man. While working in the field one day, a viper wound itself around his arm. This event frightened him so much that he lost consciousness and began having violent convulsions that evening. These attacks returned several times, eventually resulting in the paralysis of his legs.
Vivet was sent to Bonneval Asylum in 1880. On April 23, he suffered a severe bout of epileptic fits, losing consciousness at times. When he recovered about 50 hours later, he had regained his ability to use his legs. His mannerisms completely changed as well. He was then released as healthy. He eventually wound up in another asylum, where he continued to have epileptic fits, and alternated between being able to walk and not being able to.
Doctors studied him extensively, performing experiments and hypnosis to try and draw out the different personalities he manifested. In total, Vivet manifested at least three and up to ten different personality states.
Truddi Chase Had 92 PersonalitiesPhoto: The Oprah Winfrey Show
When Truddi Chase was just two years old, she moved out to the country with her mother and stepfather. At this time, she was sexually abused by her stepfather, and the trauma ultimately caused her DID.
For years, Chase was able to suppress her memories by holding them in alternate personalities that rarely came to the surface. Each of her 92 personalties served different roles and held different memories. One personality named Black Catherine held most of her rage. Another personality, Rabbit, held the pain.
Chase wrote a book about her life, When Rabbit Howls. Her life was also turned into a made-for-TV movie called The Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase starring Shelly Long, and Chase was interviewed by Oprah as well.