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The MPD / DID controversy

Conclusions. Personal experience. Author's comments.

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Please read the overview to MPD / DID before tackling this essay.

Conclusions:

MPD/DID seems to have gone through a 15 year cycle like many past psychological fads. It rapidly grew in acceptance among a minority of therapists during the 1980's. It reached a plateau and then started to decline in popularity. Few therapists are still active in the field.

Wikipedia's article on DID comments:

"A 2006 study compared scholarly research and publications on DID and dissociative amnesia to other mental health conditions, such as anorexia nervosa, alcohol abuse and schizophrenia from 1984 to 2003. The results were found to be unusually distributed, with a very low level of [DID] publications in the 1980s followed by a significant rise that peaked in the mid-1990s and subsequently rapidly declined in the decade following. Compared to 25 other diagnosis, the mid-90's "bubble" of publications regarding DID was unique. In the opinion of the authors of the review, the publication results suggest a period of "fashion" that waned, and that the two diagnoses "[did] not command widespread scientific acceptance." 4,5

One active therapist is Randi Noblitt, a psychologist who has been involved with more than 400 MPD/DID patients, has co-authored the book "Recovery from Dissociative Identity Disorder" and is a founding member of The Society for the Investigation, Treatment and Prevention of Ritual and Cult Abuse.

At a 2007 conference, he mentioned that:

"... there is a prejudice in the mental health field regarding DID (MPD) so fewer people are going into this area. This is extremely unfortunate since individuals with DID have significant needs."

One very crude way of tracking the popularity of MPD/DID diagnoses is by scanning the publishing dates and topics of books on MPD therapeutic techniques. A search of the Amazon.com website revealed the following numbers of such books published, starting in 1973:

Date range Number of books on MPD
Before 1980 2
1980 - 1984 6
1985 - 1989 9
1990 - 1994 17
1995 - 1999 15
2000 - 2004 2
2005 - 2009 2

The peak year for MPD books was 1994. Amazon.com only listed one book on the topic "Dissociative Identity Disorder;" it was published in 1997.

If MPD/DID were a valid diagnosis, one would expect this type of therapy to become gradually more popular, and would expect the number of professional books on the topic to increase. By 2009, MPD/DID appears to have been almost abandoned by the therapeutic community.

However, not included in the above are books written by persons identifying themselves as MPD/DID survivors, and describing their life experiences. They seem to be on the increase:

Date range Personal books on MPD
2000 - 2004 2
2005 - 2009 8

MPD/DID appears to be now promoted by the efforts of survivors of therapy.

Experience of an OCRT member:

(The OCRT is the organization that maintains this website.) One of our members, who I will call Brenda, volunteered during parts of the 1980s and 1990s at a local crisis intervention/suicide prevention hotline. Like most such agencies, they had many regular callers who would phone a few times each week. In the first few months after a local MPD clinic opened, some of the regular callers started giving different names and ages. They displayed different voices and told different personal stories. In spite of this, in most cases, the agency volunteers were able to identify which alter belonged to which "host" person.

There was a degree of confusion in the agency: Some of the leadership felt that to support alters would feed into what they felt was the caller's delusion, and thus negatively impact the callers' mental health. Most felt that the volunteers should support the needs of the individual alters; this is what the agency leaders finally decided to do.

Much later, the volunteers noted that some of the alters would rarely or never call. The callers volunteered that they had gone to the MPR/DID clinic for a while and had left for personal reasons or because their insurance had run out. It appeared that when their MPD/DID diagnosis was no longer supported in therapy, the alters gradually dissapeared and were never heard of again.

A few months after the clinic closed, most or all of the callers had resumed their normal calling patterns. The alters had vanished permanently.

This was a rather striking indication that MPD/DID may well be an iatrogenic disorder created by the interaction of the therapist and client, perhaps while neither was aware of the process.

Studies of MPD and DID:

Studies attempting to estimate the prevalence of DID among mentally ill persons have found an enormous range of results, ranging from 0.015% in India to 14% in Turkey. This may indicate that DID is not a naturally ocurring phenomenon but is iatrogenically created during therapy sessions. If so, then the prevalence of DID would be highly dependent on the percentage of believers in DID by therapists. 4

horizontal rule

The author's personal comments: (Bias alert)

During late 2000, my guess was that by the year 2010, MPD/DID will be relegated to the trash bucket of psychological fads, along with frontal lobotomy, recovered memory therapy, therapy to uncover memories of abuse in former lifetimes, Satanic Ritual Abuse, and therapy related to abuse by LGM (little green men) onboard UFOs.

This prediction seems to have been partly accurate. Belief in MPD/DID has declined since the mid 1990s. However, as of 2012, it is still being promoted by a minority of psychiatrists, psychologists and other therapists.

Remaining behind are thousands or tens of thousands of victims of MPD therapy, some of whom will continue to suffer some degree of emotional disability. Some will slash themselves; a few will attempt suicide and sometimes die as the result of having been subjected to dangerous therapy.

Fortunately, most of the mental health practitioners who once specialized in MPD have moved on. Many are now performing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). 2 I feel that it is also is junk therapy, but at least it does not have the same potential for harm as MPD/DID did.

Grant J. Devilly of the University of Melbourne published a meta-study on EMDR during 2002. He concluded:

"With regard to overall treatment efficacy, EMDR fares very well against wait list or other no-treatment controls, and likewise displays a healthy effect size relative to some other unvalidated (or placebo) treatments (e.g., biofeedback). If, however, the comparative treatment includes some aspect of exposure therapy, EMDR confers no obvious advantage. In fact, the one study to compare EMDR with a validated treatment for childhood arachnophobia showed EMDR to be significantly inferior. In the only study that compared EMDR with a validated approach for adult PTSD, EMDR was again found to be both statistically and clinically inferior.

In other words, the above analysis suggests that some treatment is better than no treatment; a treatment including exposure principles as a component is superior to an inert or poorly delivered treatment; and a theoretically consistent and delivered treatment based on exposure principles outperforms EMDR. 3

In 1998, I predicted that EMDR will also be generally recognized as worthless by 2015. This seems to be coming true. I also predicted that EMDR therapists will move on to some new emerging therapy whose efficacy and safety will also not have been adequately tested. I can only hope that if a new treatment surfaces, it will be as benign as EMDR and not be as damaging as MPD/DID.

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Living Day-to-Day with DID/MPD," Healthy Place, 2007-APR-18, at: http://www.healthyplace.com/
  2. "EMDR," EMDR Institute, Inc., at: http://www.emdr.com/
  3. Grant J. Devilly, "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: A Chronology of Its Development and Scientific Standing," Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, Fall/Winter 2002, at: http://www.srmhp.org/
  4. "Dissociative identity disorder," Wikipedia, as on at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. H. G. Pope Jr., et al., "Tracking Scientific Interest in the Dissociative Disorders: A Study of Scientific Publication Output 1984–2003," Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (2006) 75 (1), Pages 19–24.

Copyright © 1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JAN-11

Last updated on 2012-APR-16
Author: B.A. Robinson
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