Multiple Personality Disorder is a more universally known name for the illness described as the presence of two or more distinct personalities within one person (Meyer, 2003). MPD is also defined as a type of dissociative disorder in which more than one personality exists in the same individual. Each personality has unique memories, characteristic behaviors, and social relationships that determine the individual actions when that personality is dominant (*1). The DSM-IV uses the term Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which replaces the name of Multiple Personality Disorder but it is often referred to as both (Meyer, 2003). .
Dissociation itself is a common experience that most people have mildly observed. It is easy to lose touch with your surroundings during usual activities of daily living. Some examples of these episodes include day dreaming, highway hypnosis, or losing oneself in a movie or a book. MPD is viewed by some as an extreme level of dissociation which may result in serious impairment or inability to function(*2).
"Dissociation is an act of disconnecting, locking the memory or pain in a 'suitcase" and storing the 'suitcase" in the back of the brain. DID is the phenomena of completely disconnecting oneself from a memory and the emotions around the memory, creating a separate identity to hold the memory and emotions" (*2).
In creating another identity a person does not have to deal with the immediate effects of whatever is being hidden. Since the 1970's, therapists who believe in the reality of MPD generally believe it is caused by ultimately severe abuse during childhood abuse so horrible that the child cannot even begin to absorb the realization that it even took place. The child then dissociates and creates an alternative personality to handle the abuse (*2).
"Trying to escape overwhelming fear and pain by imagining you are somewhere else or even someone else seems to lay the groundwork for separating off some parts of your identity"(*2).