Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
multiple personality,a very rare psychological disorder in which a person has two or more distinct personalities, each with its own thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. The personalities often are direct opposites and dominate at different times, with abrupt transitions triggered by distressful events or memories. Each may be entirely unaware of the other but aware of unexplained gaps in remembered time. In psychiatry the condition is known as dissociative identity disorder. The term "split personality," denoting schizophreniaschizophrenia
, group of severe mental disorders characterized by reality distortions resulting in unusual thought patterns and behaviors. Because there is often little or no logical relationship between the thoughts and feelings of a person with schizophrenia, the disorder has
..... Click the link for more information. , refers to an unrelated disorder in which the split (separation) is between thought and feeling.
Multiple personality was first recognized and described by the French physician Pierre JanetJanet, Pierre
, 1859–1947, French physician and psychologist. As director (1890–98) of the laboratory of pathological psychology at Salpêtrière and as professor of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France from 1902, he made
..... Click the link for more information. in the late 19th cent. Public awareness of the disorder increased in contemporary times after a case was the subject of The Three Faces of Eve (1957). In the 1980s and early 90s, such factors as recognition of child abuse, public interest in memories recovered from childhood (whether of actual or imagined events), allegations of so-called satanic ritual abuse, and the willingness of many psychotherapists to assume a more directive role in their patients' treatment, led to what came to be regarded as a rash of overdiagnoses of multiple personality.
The cause of multiple personality is not clearly understood, but the condition seems almost invariably to be associated with severe physical abuse and neglect in childhood. It is believed that amnesiaamnesia
, [Gr.,=forgetfulness], condition characterized by loss of memory for long or short intervals of time. It may be caused by injury, shock, senility, severe illness, or mental disease.
..... Click the link for more information. , the key to formation of the separate personalities, occurs as a psychological barrier to seal off unbearably painful experiences from consciousness. The disorder often occurs in childhood but may not be recognized until much later. Social and psychological impairment ranges from mild to severe. The primary treatment is psychotherapy to help the individual integrate the separate personalities.
See study by J. Acocella (1999).