How to Manufacture a Psychiatric Disorder

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Back in the day I became interested in dissociation disorders, a group of conditions where people zone out for periods of time. As with most  psychiatric disorders one must rule out organic or structural abnormality-epilepsy or a space occupying lesion. An EEG and MRI might be indicated. However the most common causation is psychological trauma beyond the brain-mind ability to cope both physiologically and psychologically. Pavlov (the Russian fellow with the drooling dogs) first described this and called it “trans marginal inhibition”. The ultimate outcome is now known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the face of overwhelming stress the brain flips a circuit breaker and the victim zones out for varying periods of time, accompanied by hypervigilance and startle reactions. Combat, sexual assault or torture would be sufficient causes. In law dissociation is referred to as automatism. It could result from a blow to the head or psychological trauma leading to amnesia and a crime committed in this state might be defensible.

The mind reacts to traumas by repression, in other words… forgetting. This is usually incomplete and it takes some symbolic event to trigger total recall, a loud noise or in the case of sexual trauma, eroticized touching.

This brings us to MPD or multiple personality disorder (aka dissociative identity disorder) popular in cinema and prior to its fad resurgence there were no more than 200 cases globally up to 1980. And of those, therapist influence played a role. Indeed the whole history of MPD may be an error sprung from the influence of hypnosis and suggestion by enthusiastic practitioners on hypnotizable patients.

Freud gave up on hypnosis as a therapeutic tool because of the suggestibility of patients and the risk of implantation of false memory.

In my studies of several cases, the  majority were borderline and sexually abused. One can treat these traumatized individuals with conventional therapy without helping them develop belief in alternate personalities, sometimes dozens. In one case I dealt with-15. This  was a therapist memory implant (think the film Total Recall) of paternal oral sex (she was in fact abused by a teacher not father). The patient became infatuated with her therapist and compliments of transference, colluded with him unconsciously to create her alters. Some of them engaged in self mutilating behaviour.

Another patient I worked with was a 36-year-old female, heavy drinker, adult child of an alcoholic family. Shortly after entering therapy (not with me), she was labelled as MPD. ” I thought I had an explanation for my past and someone to blame-my father and his abuse (not sexual). We began dealing with each of my 8 personalities.I argued with my therapist, but he insisted I was in denial and I was hooked on him. Its bizarre and absurd. I was supposed to have a wounded inner child, and then I was told I had 8 inner children. I hallucinated, self mutilated, and thought I was going crazy. That’s what therapy did for me”

After discontinuing the sessions she confronted her parents and concluded her therapist was incorrect in his interpretations. When I saw her she admitted that she had readily abandoned herself to her therapist with belief he might have had the answers to her feelings of inadequacy and relationship issues.

MPD appears to be the result of imaginative thought in vulnerable individuals with poor self-esteem. It requires enthusiastic assistance from gullible practitioners to emerge however. The explosion of cases in the 80’s fizzled out by the end of the 90’s after numerous lawsuits pertaining to therapist memory implants. There is little evidence that MPD is a distinct entity but it is rather an intriguing man-made phenomenon. It does make for interesting theatre however…

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