No one has “multiple personality disorder” anymore. It was renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder in 1994 to reflect a more accurate understanding of what happens to the person suffering from it. We now know that someone with DID doesn’t grows a host of new personalities the way a tree might grow new leaves. It’s more like the DID sufferer’s core identity splits or fragments, often in response to trauma. Dissociative identity disorder experts say it’s not that their DID patient has many personalities; they have less than one.
However, while multiple personality disorder no longer exists, multiple views about it definitely do. Even thought it’s a recognized diagnosis in the DSM-5, you find mental health professionals who are all over the map when it comes to their beliefs about what this disorder looks like and whether it even exists:
Dissociative identity disorder is a myth.
No, it’s a real mental illness.
No, it’s a metaphor for genuine pain and suffering, that is shaped by a therapist or the media.
So what are we supposed to believe? The upcoming release of the upcoming docuseries Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Bill Milligan has brought this controversy to a place where the stakes are high; the courtroom. In the late 1970s, this case was on the cover of every national newspaper. The vast majority of Americans firmly believed that Milligan’s claims about multiple personalities were definitely possible; whether or not he had them was a matter for the jury to decide.
While this case occurred years ago, Dissociative Identity Disorder is still used as a defense. In 2016, for instance, it was was offered as a defense in a child pornography case, by a mother accused of drowning her two-year-old, and in the murder of a prostitute. Let’s take a look at the three “faces” of Dissociative Identity Disorder in the courtroom and the role a forensic psychologist plays in integrating them.
Billy Milligan: The “Successful” MPD
William Stanley Milligan was born on Valentine’s Day, 1955 in Miami Beach, Florida to Dorothy Milligan and Jim Morrison. His life apparently got off to a rough start; his biological father was a comedian who killed himself when Billy was four…