Top 10 Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Movies

    10 Top Movies featuring Multiple Personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
    These movies have been chosen based on their entertainment value, popularity, and realism in representing Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder, sometimes incorrectly called 'Split Personality"). Half these movies are based on the real lives of people with multiple personalities, the others entirely are fictional.

    Based on a True Story
    Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase · Frankie & Alice · Sybil · David and Lisa · The Three Faces of Eve
    Fictional Plots
    Waking Madison · Fight Club · Primal Fear · A Tale of Two Sisters · Identity

    Reviews comment on the movie's accuracy in showing Dissociative Identity Disorder - is what is shown likely, possible, or simply not DID at all? Which leave out key symptoms or invent nonsense? Do the movies entertain, and avoid stigmatizing mental illness? Find out little known facts about the movies, famous quotes, and which movies you'll want to watch again, and again. Where to Watch lists which can be watched freely online.

    All movies have been reviewed by at least one person with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

    1 Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase

    Voices Within - When Rabbit Howls Dissociative Identity Disorder movie reviewed
    Year: 1990 Genre: Drama   Country: USA
    Director: Lamont Johnson No rating. May be an old movie or made for TV
    Actors: Shelley Long, Tom Conti, Tiffany Ballenger, Jon Beshara
    Major awards: 1 win & 1 nomination
    Book (Autobiography): When Rabbit Howls (1987), by /
    Our top choice for psychology students, professionals or psychology buffs, and the only movie with a script written with very close involvement with a person with multiple personalities (DID): Truddi Chase, New York Times best-selling author of When Rabbit Howls. Voices Within, starring Shelley Long and Tom Conti, tackles many of the common stereotypes and misunderstandings. Truddi's script shows what it's like to be high-functioning, and have polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder, meaning she has a large number of alter personalities, 92 in fact. She also has a sense of humor, which shows throughout the film. She explains life with so many alter personalities:
    "We're a lot of people in one package. Not five, or twenty, but we had a roll call and there's enough to cover our front, our rear and our flank. We are the Troops and we have our marching orders tonight."

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 10
    Psychology broadly correct Very well explained
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID Truddi Chase (and the Troops)
    Triggers Substance use (alcohol, tobacco), child sexual abuse, animal abuse and more.
    CommentsTackles key misunderstandings of DID. Does not show the severity of abuse that causes polyfragmented DID (read her book), or include suicidal alter in the original book. Watch Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve for an alternative view of DID.
    In a very short introduction we get to know and hear from some of Truddi's alter personalities, known as The Troops, including Mean Joe, Lady Catherine, Black Katherine, Sister Mary Katherine, Catherine, and a businesswoman called Ten-Four. This challenges the common total amnesia stereotype of Dissociative Identity Disorder - which says everyone with DID must have no memory at all of the actions of their alter personalities (only recurrent amnesia is required for DID: amnesia for alters' actions isn't necessary).[3,4,7] The main film begins with Truddi in a payphone: saying she's found "him" and tells her therapist she plans to kill "him" … this feels like one of the fictional events that the movie warns you about at the start. During the journey to get to "him" the movie travels back in time to events earlier in her life.

    Truddi's early, adult life is happy, despite the untreatable blackouts, but then her daughter brings a dog home, triggering a memory. Stability is replaced with outbursts of odd behavior, flashbacks, panic attacks, and memories of child abuse. Finally she calls a child abuse helpline, and the journey into her mind truly begins.

    A major strength of the movie is in explaining how the creation of each of her alters helps rather than hinders, and actually allows her to function better, and to survive with her sanity.

    Some people with DID might find the movie too far from their experiences, but including a range of very different experiences in the movies helps show the variety within DID. Others may like (or hate) the very strong views expressed against integration into a single personality - they decide to co-operate but not merge. If this is the only source of information you have about Dissociative Identity Disorder you might get the impression it's easily manageable - but the movie left out a lot, including Truddi's suicidal alter, so watch another real life movie for a more balanced view. The movie has some fictional events and drama added - but not in a sensationalized way.

    Where to Watch It
    It's available on youtube and linked to from Truddi Chase's website for watching online, or try Amazon to buy it on video. The UK video is called Shattered (1990). Truddi's interviews with Oprah are on youtube.
    • — What are you? Who are you? How many of you, are you?
    • — 2-4-6-8 we don't want to integrate!
    • — We'll always outnumber you, Stanley.

    • Like Truddi, most people with Dissociative Identity Disorder now choose co-operation between alter personalities rather than full integration (fusing into one), but both have good outcomes [4]
    • Truddi calls her alter personalities 'The Troops' and they worked together to write the book When Rabbit Howls

    2 Sybil (1976)

    Sybil with Sally Field - Dissociative Identity Disorder movies reviewed
    Year: 1976 Genre: Biography, Drama   Country: USA
    Director: Daniel Petrie No US rating (TV movie). Australia: M, Netherlands: 16, Portugal: M/18, Sweden: 15
    Actors: Sally Field, Joanne Woodward
    Major awards: Emmy, nominated for a Golden Globe

    Books: Sybil, by (1973). Many others, including SYBIL: In her own words, by Dr (2011), which includes some of Sybil's artwork.

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 9.5
    Psychology broadly correct
    Avoids mental illness stigma? 2007 version suggests Schizophrenia made Sybil's mother abusive
    Based on real person with DID Shirley Ardell Mason
    Triggers original   ( 2007 version)
    Self harm, sudden violent death, severe sexual abuse (not directly shown), religious abuse, suicide attempt and more.
    Comments1976 rating shown. A dissociative fugue within DID is shown in 2007 version. Shows a limited/stereotyped view of DID, watch Voices Within for an alternative.
    Sybil 1976 (original) starring Sally Field, Part 1.
    English with French subtitles
    Some scenes may cause distress.
    You may need to reload the link after turning off the age restriction.

    Watch Sybil 1976 online now

    Watch Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

    Sybil (1976)   Overall Rating 9.5

    'Sybil' is the best known case of a person with multiple personalities/Dissociative Identity Disorder. Sybil Dorsett's life is completely unmanageable: her regular flashbacks make her dissociate and "lose time", then she ends in a different place with no idea what happened. Life is falling apart, she can't manage to study, and she's finding herself in increasingly dangerous situations. Sybil gets referred to Dr Wilbur, then slowly begins healing from her childhood trauma and severe child abuse, particularly her mother's horrific acts of sexual abuse and emotional abuse.

    Of the two movies, the original (1976) and newest (2007, made 9 years after Sybil's death), the original is far superior, with a better script, better portrayal of trauma therapy, and Sally Field in the lead role as Sybil. Sybil has strange reactions (triggers) caused by everyday things: dishcloths, walking canes, and even the color green - will she ever make sense of it? Will she ever be able to manage her life? The movie keeps your attention and is far from predictable, with the last scene being particularly moving.

    Sybil (2007)   Overall Rating8.5

    Year: 2007 Genre: Drama   Country: USA
    Director: Joseph Sargent Rated: No US rating (TV movie).
    Actors: Jessica Lange, Tammy Blanchard, Ron White, JoBeth Williams
    Major awards: 1 win & 2 nominations.
    After her mother's death, Sybil, a young art student, becomes so unstable she experiences a dissociative fugue, when she "comes to" it's 6 days later, and she discovers she's in Philadelphia, in the snow. The New York art college setting adds interest, with boyfriends in art school, and her alter's art being brought into therapy. Even for a movie the switches to alter personalities are very obvious and melodramatic - but in real life Sybil, like over 95% of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder, hid her diagnosis well;[4] nobody guessed her real identity while she was alive. The switches between alter personalities get more subtle - and more realistic - later, but are still easy to keep track of.

    One of the male alters, Sid, is unaware he is in a female body but has noticed that something is missing, and uses the classic "trance logic" style of thinking that alters have to reassure himself that it will grow when he's older. Moments like this might be extremely familiar to those who know people with DID. The film is difficult to watch at times because of the graphic imagery and described abuse, but it holds your attention until the very end.
      Two main negatives:
    – Sybil's doctor's childhood medical records are left out, it then feebly attempts to cast doubt on Dr Wilbur, showing uninteresting arguments with a colleague
    – It's misleading to hear Multiple Personality Disorder was not a diagnosis, it just wasn't yet a separate diagnosis - and the first psychiatric manual was less than 10 years old and did include it. MPD was "dissociative personality" in 1952 (DSM-I); by 1968, it was named "hysterical neurosis, multiple personality type" - in the same "hysteria" category as amnesia and fugue.
    Sybil's DID diagnosis has been confirmed as accurate by psychiatrists Dr Colin Ross & PM Coons, and by her closest relative Naomi Rhodes.

    Controversy, false claims in Sybil Exposed and trial by media The doubting of Sybil's diagnosis came to public attention many years after her death, largely as a result of interviews and writing by journalist Debbie Nathan, author of the book Sybil Exposed, and someone known to doubt the very existence of all Dissociative Disorders (Ross, 2012).

    One article including such an interview boldly claims Real 'Sybil' Admits Multiple Personalities were Fake, reproducing part of a letter in which 'Sybil' renounced having multiple personalities, while simultaneously claiming "I am all of them." The article omits Sybil's follow up letter, which was written just 2 days later, in which she renounces the content of the previous letter, and explains she wrote it because she was having difficulty in admitting that she didn't have control over her "selves". 'Sybil' then writes that denying her diagnosis was a way to try to prove to herself that she did not need her psychiatrist. In the interview, Debbie Nathan fails to mention this second letter, or even the fact the letter that the interview is based on was in the original book, Sybil. Dr Suraci, a retired psychiatrist who was a friend of Sybil's proved that journalist 's book, Sybil Exposed, included a number of false statements, and forced the publisher to alter the original dust jacket. Many sources given in the book were "phone conversations" without transcripts, Debbie Nathan also appears to have also left out key medical evidence confirming the abuse, and waited until the deaths of 'Sybil', her psychiatrist Dr Wilbur, and author Flora Schreiber to write what amounts to a character assassinations of them all. This is hardly a surprise given Nathan's past defending of child abusers, including her book "Are these women child molesters?: The making of a modern witch trial (1987). She's also a board member of the "National Center of Reason and Justice" which helps people who claim to be "innocent" of sexual abusing/harming/killing kids, but does not help victims who have had crimes committed against them.

    Journalist Debbie Nathan's assertion in Sybil Exposed that Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms - including amnesia and fugues caused by pernicious anaemia (which is caused by vitamin deficiency) are absurd. Psychiatrist and medical doctor Colin Ross refers to her pernicious anaemia theory as "medically implausible", and "self-contradictory", noting that the dates of Sybil's documented dissociative symptoms and improvements do not correlate with either anaemia or her psychiatrist "iatrogenically" creating Sybil's multiple personalities (Ross, 2012). Does Debbie Nathan find a medical doctor or psychiatrist who does agree with her "pernicious anaemia" theory as the cause of Sybil's symptoms? No, she does not, and nor does she include in Sybil Exposed the opinion of Herbert Sybil on Sybil's diagnosis in her account of her interviews with him; Spiegel knew Sybil and she participated in research and clinical demonstrations with him for 3 years, and he was also consulted by Connie Wilbur on the case. Spiegel's view was that Sybil had a Dissociative Disorder (DDNOS), which he stated in his book Trance and Treatment (2008) - which also includes his detailed account of Sybil's case. He also called her a "grade 5 hysteric", which isn't a psychiatric diagnosis but his own term, the highly stigmatized term "hysteric" actually refers to someone with hysteria, which was later renamed to Dissociative Disorders - another fact Debbie Nathan does not mention.

    At the very start of Sybil Exposed Debbie Nathan claims - without any source - that both the popular book Sybil and the televised drama - 'were instrumental in creating a new psychiatric diagnosis: multiple personality disorder, or 'MPD' - but the DSM-III does not list the book Sybil or any paper based on the real-life Sybil in its references, but it does list Sybil's psychiatrist, Dr C.B. Wilbur, as joint author of a multiple personality case study (of someone with 4 personalities) from a year before the book Sybil was published - "The objective study of a multiple personality" by Ludwig, Brandsma, Wilbur and Bendeldt (1972). In fact, contrary to Debbie Nathan's claim, 'multiple personality' was already in the DSM psychiatric manual, it was described within 'hysterical neurosis dissociative type' (code 300.14), as 'multiple personality type'; alongside 'amnesia', and 'fugue', symptoms 'Sybil' also had. When Multiple Personality became a separate diagnosis in 1980, it even kept the diagnostic code: 300.14. On page 73, of Sybil Exposed, Nathan fabricates details of the sex life of Flora Schreiber (the author of 1973's Sybil) by adding the words 'penis' and 'finger' - Schreiber's' sex life is certainly crossing a major boundary, 'sexing up' and inventing non-existent details, and so the book Sybil Expsoed continues. The original scans from page 73's source are on Dr Patrick Suraci's website - proving there's no references to a penis, or fingers. Debbie Nathan even calls 'Sybil,' a victim of severe child abuse, a 'perpetrator' of fraud. But Nathan only wrote this after the death of 'Sybil'. Of course. Perhaps the only thing exposed in Sybil Exposed is the fabrications within the book itself.

    • — You're never ready for what you have to do. You just do it. That makes you ready.
    • — You survived it when it happened, and you'll survive remembering it.
    • — There is no past. Past is present when you carry you.

    • — How long have you been around, Vicki?
      — Oh, since Sybil was [inaudible]. I was the first, and the others came after.
      — What others?
      — Sid and Maddie and Peggy and [inaudible]. Oh, [laughs] you don't know about them, do you?
      — I've met Peggy.
      — How many are there?
      — Sixteen. There are 16 of us.

    • — Feeling is as inescapable as breathing, Mr Dorsett.

    • — People say I do things that I haven't done.
      — Like what?
      — Well, sometimes I'll meet people I've never seen before who say they know me, and sometimes I'll find clothes I don't remember buying hanging in my closet. Or a painting I've started.
      I'll come home and find it finished, only in a completely different style. Like this.
      passes Dr Wilbur a black and white drawing signed Peggy Lou Baldwin
      — Who is Peggy Lou Baldwin?
      — I never heard of her.
      — My mother used to call me Peggy Louisiana when I was a little girl, and Mrs. Baldwin was my favorite teacher in school.
      — But I didn't draw that.
      — Where did it come from?
      — I‐‐I found it in my room in Philadelphia when I-‐
      — What were you doing in Philadelphia?
      — I don't know.

    • Sybil is the best known biographical account of a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder
    • Eight years after Sybil's case, the multiple personality diagnosis, a subtype of hysterical neurosis, was moved to a separate diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder became a separate diagnosis in the same year: 1980. [DSM-III]
    • A year before the book Sybil was published, Dr Wilbur jointly published a research paper about another case called The objective study of a multiple personality: Or, are four heads better than one?. [DSM-III]

    3 Frankie & Alice

    Frankie & Alice Dissociative Identity Disorder movie
    Year: 2010 Genre: Biography, Drama   Country: Canada
    Director: Geoffrey Sax Rated: R
    Actors: Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgard, Phylicia Rashad
    Major awards: Nominated for a Golden Globe

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 9
    Psychology broadly correct DID no longer treated using hypnosis or drugs to recover memories [4]
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID Francine L. Murdoch
    Triggers Substance use (alcohol, drugs), sexual scenes & dancing, racism, self-harm and more.
    Commentsviolence is not linked to DID, child alters are very common, doesn't explain why alter Genius was created

    From the title, you would expect that Frankie and Alice would be a movie about a couple called Frankie and Alice, or one person (Frankie), who has one alter personality, or alter, called Alice. Neither is quite right: the movie is young woman called Francine, or Frankie, with very posh, racist alter called Alice and a highly intelligent child alter called Genius.

    Frankie's life is a disaster, and she isn't looking for help. She's busy trying to avoid her problems as she drifts from one alcohol and drug-induced haze to another, and getting fired from one shady 'exotic' dancing job after another. Help finally comes when she is arrested for a minor offense, and enters treatment for substance abuse … then alter Alice starts talking to the psychiatrist…

    Self harm near the end of trailer. Contains strong racist views.

    • — I close my eyes and let the music take me, like I'm on the outside just watching. Like I aint even there. Like I'm watching myself from the outside.

    • Actor Halle Berry prepared for the role by meeting the real Frankie, speaking to professionals and watching hours of footage of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder recorded in therapy (with their consent) [5]
    • Frankie later married a psychiatrist

    4 David and Lisa (1962)

    David and Lisa - mental illness movie
    Year: 1962 Genre: Drama   Country: USA
    Director: Frank Perry No USA rating (TV movie). UK video rating: 12+ years
    Actors: Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, Howard Da Silva
    Major awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars
    Book: Lisa and David, by (1961)

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 9
    Psychology broadly correct David (a patient) calls Lisa "Schizophrenic", at the time DID was called: dissociated personality, dissociative reaction, hysteria [DSM-I] for 1962 movie
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID Real person, diagnosis uncertain
    Triggers Violent nightmares and emotional abuse.
    CommentsNo scenes involving treatment of dissociation/DID/DDNOS. Child alter personality appears to shown. A 1998 remake also exists.
    A drama about two patients, David and Lisa, in a residental school for "disturbed" teens (those with psychiatric problems). If you dislike the labelling kids with mental disorders or traditional psychiatric approaches then this movie might just appeal to you. While the movie has been tagged Dissociative Identity Disorder by many people online, it's much broader and more interesting than focusing on one person with one specific disorder; it's a fascinating look at the inner thoughts and actions of different people, and how they connect and heal while changing those around them.

    Both David and Lisa are seen as "odd" by both society, and their peers. David is exceptionally smart, normally hostile and fears being touched. Lisa only speaks in rhymes - if she speaks at all. Hardly anyone likes David, yet he befriends the friendless Lisa, who sometimes - when she has switched to her alter Muriel - runs and jumps around like young child, asks him to 'play,' and terrifies him by keep trying to touch him.

    It is the character of David, rather than Lisa, who is the most intriguing, with his anti-psychiatry views and combative manner. "You've won," he tells the psychiatrist when he finally sets foot in his office … the office that David has secretly been battling to avoid. The movie doesn't really reveal Lisa's past, but David's dysfunctional family are horrified by the changes in him when he starts getting better.

    Adapted from a book by a psychiatrist who doesn't appear interested the "medical/biological" model of mental illness, the original 1962 movie reviewed here is a black and white indie movie, and reported to be better than the 1998 color version.

    A diagnostic puzzle? Descriptions on movie websites refer to David as having psychosis (really??? he doesn't show any breaks with reality in the movie), and refer to Lisa as having Dissociative Identity Disorder. Confusingly the 1962 movie cover says nothing about any diagnosis, but the remake says Lisa has Schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder. Lisa's drawing appeared to show she understands she has either Dissociative Identity Disorder (or a similar form of Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS-1) - with a child alter personality, Muriel, but amnesia didn't seem apparent in the 1962 version. It seemed more interesting to think about whether a mental diagnosis could be appropriate for David's mother, and if so, what would it be? Is there really a clear line between mentally healthy and a consistently diagnosable disorder?

    Triggers: This may be the only film about DID that is in any way close to being family-friendly: no crisis, self-harm, suicidality, drug use, violence or sexual scenes. David's violent nightmares involving are disturbing but he wakes up before anyone is hurt.

    Schizophrenia originally meant a "split mind" but not split or multiple personalities - it is a psychotic disorder, not a dissociative disorder.[3] It remains a common misdiagnosis for DID.[4]

    5 Waking Madison

    Waking Madison Dissociative Identity Disorder movie review
    Year: 2010 Genre: Drama   Country: USA
    Director: Katherine Brooks Rated: R
    Actors: Imogen Poots, Elisabeth Shue, Taryn Manning, Sarah Roemer

    As fictional movies about Dissociative Identity Disorder go, this one of the best ones, and one of the very few with an original plot.
    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 7.5
    Psychology broadly correct Good for fiction. Alters are not imaginary friends,[3],[4] can integrate (merge) but not die, threats to "kill" alters are against treatment guidelines,[4] hallcinations of alters not typical [2,4]
    Avoids mental illness stigma? Most
    Based on real person with DID
    Triggers Many, includes sexual assault in present, injecting drugs, psychiatrist using marijuana, religious abuse, self-harm
    CommentsBest fictional movie about Dissociative Identity Disorder, and one of the very few with an original plot.
    Suicide threat and self injury in trailer
    One of the newest movies, and in our view the best based non-biographical movie about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Madison Walker decides to lock herself in her home for 30 days until she "figures herself out", the odds are not in her exactly favor: people with Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms often don't get diagnosed for around 7 years.[7] Wisely, she decides to keep a video diary to remind herself why she's there.

    The trailer and first few minutes are intense - the surreal but beautiful hospital corridor scene immediately after Madison's suicide attempt is the most striking scene in the movie; the mix of distorted reality and grisly images may trigger, but most of the film has a lighter tone. Events jump between the psychiatric ward, and its other residents, and the 30 days before Madison's suicide attempt. Madison's brief visit to her parents, with her mother's emotional and religious abuse, referred to as part of her untreated "sickness", opens the door to her past, but could have been done without blaming mental illness for abuse.

    Dissociative Identity Disorder is portrayed fairly well for a movie not based on real experiences, but doesn't show signs of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms which are typical in DID, and any self-injury seemed healed by the next scene! Watching from an entertainment point of view this doesn't matter, and it is a very good film. The twist at the end was unexpected, and of course unrealistic, but definitely improved the movie. Happy endings leave behind good feelings - even if in real life things are not so easy.

    • — You know what I do when I have scary thoughts? I close my eyes and I think of the happiest place I know.
      — But I don't have any happy places

    • Director Katherine Brooks was in Thailand during the tsunami, her newest film Confidential is about a woman with the dissociative form of PTSD, caused by the tsunami

    6 The Three Faces of Eve

    The Three Faces of Eve classic Dissociative Identity Disorder movie
    Year: 1957 Genre: Drama, Mystery   Country: USA
    Director: Nunnally Johnson Approved
    Actors: Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb
    Major awards: Won an Oscar
    Books: The Three Faces of Eve by and (1957), journal article A case of multiple personality by Thigpen and Cleckley (The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 49(1), Jan 1954, pp.135-151).
    Autobiographies: Strangers in My Body: The Final Face of Eve by (pseud.) and (1958), I'm Eve by with  (1977), Eve by (1978), A mind of my own by (1989)

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 7.5
    Psychology broadly correct 40 years before treatment guidelines but excellent. Alter personalities are now known to integrate (merge) or become inactive, not "die"
    Avoids mental illness stigma? The introduction refers to a fictional killer, the rest is fine
    Based on real person with DID Chris Costner Sizemore
    Triggers Brief abuse of child, suicide, alcohol use, domestic violence
    CommentsShows a limited/stereotyped view of DID, watch Voices Within for an alternative.
    Headaches and total amnesia for hours at a time are common before treatment. More than 20 alter personalities - and more early trauma - emerged over time, as 'Eve' described in her later books.
    This Oscar-winning movie is the true story of 'Eve', based on the clinical notes and book written by her psychiatrists, Cleckley & Thigpen. Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for Best Actress in the roles of 'Eve White', 'Eve Black' and 'Jane'. Eve White is a very reserved housewife, unhappily married to an angry, and sometimes violent, man. She gradually begins having 'spells' of amnesia during which her fun-loving alter personality, Eve Black, goes on shopping sprees, neglects her daughter, and acts irresponsibly. Eve Black knows everything about Eve White, but Eve White doesn't even know there is another 'Eve'! Her psychiatrist is so stunned when Eve Black introduces herself that he immediately seeks a second opinion.

    Joanne Woodward is a joy to watch, acting the part of Eve Black: playful, flirtatious and causing no end of minor mischief. At first, Eve Black appears the exact opposite of the reserved and restrained Eve White, but as the movie goes on she seems increasingly like a teenager. Things become even more puzzling when another alter, Jane, suddenly appears: does she hold the trauma memories that neither of the others seem to? Does she remember the missing pieces of Eve's childhood?

    Overall, a great explanation of one-way amnesia … including the alter personality who gets drunk and leaves the host personality with the hangover then laughs about it … it's good to know you aren't the only person with Dissociative Identity Disorder that's had that happen! Joanne Woodward really makes this a fun movie.

    The study of Eve's case was very influential in improving understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder in early psychiatry and psychology (the first psychiatric manual was published only a few years before the film's release). 'Eve' wrote several books on her experiences of DID, which revealed that further alters existed than those integrated in the movie. Surprisingly, this black and white movie has never been remade. Note: Integrating into a single identity is no longer seen as the main way to heal, most people achieve co-operation between their personalities and considerably reduced amnesia instead, often choosing not to integrate.

    • — the fact that you might be having spells of amnesia doesn't mean you are losing your mind … doesn't mean that at all
      — it's no use, you just don't want to tell me but I know it.
      —How do you know it, Mrs White?
      —Because now I'm hearing voices too
      —What kind of voices?
      —Just one voice, but that's what that means, doesn't it?

    • — Well then, is it fair to say you love me but can't marry me, without telling me why not?
      — I just can't. I know it isn't fair. I just can't.
      — What is it honey? I'm not going to let you get away with anything like this. This means too much to me. You've got to tell me.
      — Please, Earl. Just don't ask me anymore. Please.
      — I'm sorry, Janie, I've got to. I can't give you up without even knowing what's the matter.
      — (sighs) Alright then. I'll tell you. Did you read in the newspaper about a month ago (sighs) about a multiple personality case? A woman who has … three personalities?
      — In the Chronicle?
      — Yes, that's the one.
      — Yeah, I read it.
      — I'm that woman.
      — You're the …
      — That's right.
      — But you sound all right.
      — Do I?
      — You sound fine.
      Maybe I do. But not the other two.
      — Other two?
      — Sure. There are two others, you know, and they're very different from me. And I don't even ever know when they're coming out.
      — Holy Moses!

    • — Does she know all about what I do? Does she tell you?
      — If I ask her.
      — Like about that sergeant?
      — Yes, she told me about that.
      — See, that's what I mean. Someone around all the time telling on you.
      — You tell me about Mrs White, don't you?
      — Yeah, but she don't do anything!

    • Despite the title, 'Eve' later discovered she had over 20 different identities rather than only 3.
    • Joanne Woodward, who won an Oscar as Eve White/Eve Black/Jane later played psychiatrist Dr. Cornelia Wilbur in the 1976 film Sybil, also about a woman with multiple personalities.
    • The real 'Eve', Chris Costner Sizemore, was guest of honor at the 50th anniversary celebration of the film

    7 Fight Club

    Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club Fight Club - fun but not Multiple Personalities -10 movies reviewed on traumadissociation.com
    Book: Fight Club, by (1996) Year: 1999 Genre: Drama   Country: USA, Germany
    Director: David Fincher Rated: R
    Actors: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier
    Major awards: Nominated for an Oscar

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 7
    Psychology broadly correct None included
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID
    Triggers Suicide, bloody fight scenes, guns, death, sex, crime and more.
    CommentsDID isn't associated with random violence. Shows an 'alter ego', who may have anti-social personality disorder (be a sociopath), which is very rare with DID.
    The main character, known only as 'the Narrator', has chronic insomnia and a well-paid corporate job but appears to have no friends, a very mundane life and has become emotionally numb. As he seeks for solutions to his insomnia, he meets and connects with the troubled Marla Singler, and charismatic, unconventional soap salesman Tyler Durden, who quickly becomes the dominant influence in his life. He joins in with Tyler's elaborate, anti-establishment and often amusing mischief, and before long they setup an underground bare-knuckle "fight club". His life has begun its rapid descent into violence, chaos and outright rebellion against his former way of living.

    Something this movie does well is portray modern society's very dissociative (disconnected) way of life; with disorienting flights into different time zones, corporations that put profits before consumer safety, and attachment to possessions rather than people - things that have barely changed in the 20 years since the movie's release. In the secretive "fight club" it is not just the Narrator, but all the men, who are forced to live parallel lives, something known in psychology as "doubling".[2]:26 This film isn't informative or helpful in understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder,[1] which it represents as a Split Personality, but it is captivating, and you'll want to watch it more than once.

    It is no accident that 'alter ego' is the term used in the film rather than alter personality; for Tyler is the Narrator's shadow side: his exact opposite,[2]:25 a non-conforming side that counters the Narrator's submission to society's norms. His alter ego is everything that the Narrator is not, and the Narrator gradually embraces this side of himself as the movie progresses.

    • — Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!
    • — It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
    • — Marla's philosophy of life is that she might die at any moment. The tragedy, she said, was that she didn't.

    8 Primal Fear

    Would this suspect really pass a forensic Dissociative Identity Disorder assessment?
    Book: Primal Fear, by (1993), fiction
    Year: 1996 Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery   Country: USA
    Director: Gregory Hoblit Rated: R
    Actors: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard
    Major awards: Nominated for an Oscar

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 6.5
    Psychology broadly correct Explained well, but no signs of PTSD, or distress. DID never officially diagnosed.
    Avoids mental illness stigma? Mental illness/crime plot, plot suggests there's no formal way to diagnosis DID
    Based on real person with DID
    Triggers Gruesome violence (at the start), sexual abuse/rape shown, abuse of power, and more
    CommentsDID isn't associated with committing random violence.

    This fictional film focuses on events surrounding the brutal killing of an Archbishop, the following murder trial, and sexual abuse by clergy. The movie is as much about the legal defense of "not guilty by reason of insanity", and the defendant's life, as it is about the murder. Edward Norton is outstanding in the role of defendant Aaron Stampler: a shy, passive, and baby-faced altar boy who is facing the death penalty for murder. During the trial it emerges that Aaron may - or may not - have Dissociative Identity Disorder

    The plot conveniently ignores the fact that I'm innocent, it was my alter personality! is not, on its own, enough for an insanity defense: a person with DID (or their alter personality) is not automatically considered 'insane', e.g., incapable of knowing right from wrong/incapable of refraining from crime. [9]:345, [10]:352 There's also no attempt to use assessment tools to check for either Dissociative Identity Disorder, or attempts to fake mental illness to avoid a conviction,[8]:86 - but the uncertainty over the suspect's diagnosis definitely improves the story.

    The plot twists and turns, making it a real psychological thriller - as soon as you feel sure you know what really happened, another shocking revelation occurs. Edward Norton won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for this movie, and Richard Gere is superb as his ambitious lawyer, who takes on the seemingly hopeless case free of charge hoping the publicity will enhance his reputation. Although the movie repeats the limited media stereotype of multiple or split personalities - a man with two personalities, one good and the other possibly a violent killer, with total amnesia for the time during killing (of course!) - don't let this put you off watching it; it really is an unusual, and intriguing movie.

    A diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder is not associated with killing people or committing random violence (but it is strongly linked to self-inflicted violence/self-injury), and the plot is legally unrealistic. After watching the movie a second time (it really is the kind of movie to watch more than once) I did notice how unemotional Aaron Stampler was. Facing a murder charge would make most people scared, frightened, depressed, and possibly angry or defiant. Was he too numb to feel anything, which a type of dissociation? Was he so overwhelmed emotionally that it didn't feel real? Did he just not care what happened to him, something fairly common in survivors of severe childhood trauma? Watching the movie again gives you chance to look for subtle signs and indicators of how it will turn out in the end.

    Forensic Psychiatry
    Assessing a person in forensic psychiatry (i.e., assessing the past and present mental health of a person accused of a crime) includes considering whether Dissociative Identity Disorder (or another diagnosis) is being faked to avoid criminal responsibility, and whether a mental illness is present but did not cause the crime.[11] This involves using both psychological assessments (including those specific to Dissociative Identity Disorder) to check if a diagnosis is currently present, plus documentation/interviews to explore the person's history and see if a diagnosis was present for some time before the crime.[11] It's clear in the trial that the defense witness in the movie isn't qualified to do this, and hasn't attempted a forensic assessment. The defendant also has to be assessed to see if they are mentally fit to stand trial.
    At the very end, the defendant reveals he has been intentionally pretending to have Dissociative Identity Disorder in the hope of avoiding jail for murder.
    Likely diagnosis: Either malingering (not a mental illness, just faking a mental illness for obvious personal gain), possibly along with anti-social behavior disorder (being a sociopath). This is linked to crime, lying, deception, emotional numbness and lack of conscience (no remorse/guilt). The 'shadow' he claimed he saw before 'blacking out' was a lie leading to a hunt for a 'third man' and he shows pleasure in having manipulated others.

    Insanity Defense:
    Only around 1% of those charged with felonies (major crimes) plead insanity, and less than a quarter of these are found legally insane. Only around 20% of insanity pleas contested by the prosecution are successful. [9]:338 Any defendants who are acquitted by reason of insanity remain under the jurisdiction of the court or a legal panel. The majority are then committed to a psychiatric inpatient unit, where they can be detained either for treatment, or the safety of the public. [9]:338 Only a limited number of mental disorders qualify as 'mental diseases/defects' for the purposes of a legal defense of 'insanity', in most US courts Schizophrenia, major depression, Bipolar Disorder and intellectual impairments qualify. Only some courts have recognized Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, but most now recognize Dissociative Identity Disorder [11]. Generally not recognized are: Personality Disorders, voluntary intoxication (e.g., intentional drug or alcohol use including alcoholism) or Paraphilias (sexual interest disorders that may harm others, e.g., pedophilia, voyeurism).[9]:342, [11]. Those not recognized as appropriate for a not guilty by reason of insanity plea may still be relevant as mitigating factors, to reduce a sentence, allow access to a prison where the mental illness can be treated, or to plea bargain (but not avoid a conviction).[8],[11]

    • — I speak. You do not speak. Your job is to just sit there and look innocent.
      — I am innocent.

    • — Why gamble with money when you can gamble with people's lives? That was a joke. All right, I'll tell you. I believe in the notion, that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because i choose to believe in that basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things.

    • Primal Fear was Edward Norton's debut movie.
    • Multiple Personality Disorder was renamed to Dissociative Identity Disorder in the time between the release of the book that the film is based on and the release of the movie.
    • Headaches are common in people with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

    9 A Tale of Two Sisters

    Korean folktale/horror/drama with trauma, dissociative amnesia, hallucinations and fantasy
    Year: 2003 Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery   Country: South Korea
    Language: Korean with English subtitles
    Director: Jee-woon Kim Rated: R
    Actors: Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Su-jeong Lim, Geun-young Moon

    Major awards: 15 wins, 2 nominations

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 6.5
    Psychology broadly correct None included
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID
    Triggers Suicide, death, self-harm, emotional abuse, guilt, ghosts/supernatural and more
    CommentsAmnesia for past trauma. Psychosis seems very likely.
    This is the only foreign language film to make this top ten. Subtitled in English (with DVDs subtitled in many languages), this drama/horror/mystery is based on a Korean folk story. The two girls, Soo-mi and Soo-yeon, are a puzzle: are they two sisters as they seem: or both part of the same person? The film begins with a very brief scene in a psychiatric institution hospital after their mother's death.

    Soon after they return home the creepy music starts, and the terrifying nightmares which might be real. The cruel step-mother adds to the family conflict, and then there's the ghost … and it's not just the sisters who see the ghost and fear the things that make strange noises at night. It is everything you would hope for in a traditional horror/mystery, but with hallucinations, and post-traumatic flashbacks as well. The directing is excellent, especially the use of the color red. Fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred, and it becomes harder and harder to work out what is really happening rather than what is just the mind, but things become clearer once the horror of their mother's death is shown.

    Indian film Anniyan (2005), in Tamil and subtitled in many languages, is also fairly recent.

    • — You want to forget something. Totally wipe it off your mind. But you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And … and it follows you around like a ghost.
    • — "Sometimes you have to bear the worst and live on"
      "Like the way I'm bearing you two!"

    • — Remember what I told you before? Remember when I said you'll regret it some day?
      — You …

    • It is also known as Janghwa, Hongryeon meaning Rose Flower, Red Lotus, after the names of the two sisters, which have been shortened to Soo-mi (Rose) Soo-yeon (Lotus) in this movie
    • South Korea also has a popular TV series featuring a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder, called Kill Me, Heal Me

    10 Identity

    Identity - not even a basic understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder in this movie
    Year: 2003 Genre: Mystery, Thriller   Country: USA
    Director: James Mangold Rated: R
    Actors: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes
    Major awards: 1 win and 8 nominations

    DID Portrayal Rating   
    Overall Rating 5.5
    Psychology broadly correct Nothing is correct. Malpractice: treatment goes against treatment guidelines,[4] dual psychiatrist/defense lawyer role is unethical
    Avoids mental illness stigma?
    Based on real person with DID
    Triggers Multiple murders, crime, aggression, and more.
    CommentsDID isn't associated with being a serial killer, delusions, or complex hallucinations. DID is not treated by "killing off" alters.
    The worst movie reviewed here. Usually it's not worth watching movies with the classic stereotype "person with multiple personalities is a serial killer but doesn't even know it" because you know how they are going to end. This film is a bit different, but a disappointment all the same. It's also one of the highest rated films tagged as both 'Multiple Personality Disorder' and 'Dissociative Identity Disorder' (DID) which is the key reason for reviewing it. It sounds like a very familiar plot for a horror: a group of people are stuck in a cheap motel waiting out a storm, and they are murdered one by one. The strange mix of people stuck in the motel are collectively very, very angry, and surprisingly lacking in fear given the presence of a serial killer among them: arguments abound. Given how many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have avoidant behaviors,[3] many people with DID may struggle to watch so much anger and aggression. The movie is "not educational,"[1] to say the least, with no sign of an attempt to research Dissociative Identity Disorder. The psychology is a horrible mess, with non-existent terms used like dissassociaties and Multiple Personality Syndrome (rather than Disorder) giving a tiny hint at the gross misunderstandings that this movie includes.
    Any psychiatrist who, like the psychiatrist in the movie, states "I knew there would be violence" as a result of "treatment" or that identities should be "killed off" is clearly unfit to practice, and is working against the Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment guidelines.[4] As horror films go, the first half was entertaining, and some scenes seemed to be shot in a way that made them amusing. The second half, which included the psychiatric assessment, was far less engaging, dealt with legal rather than psychiatric decisions, and increasingly seemed to showed a psychotic disorder (breaks with reality) rather than Dissociative Identity Disorder. The end was very easy to predict from early on in the movie. Verdict: Misunderstanding rather than metaphor, and much that you've seen before. Dissociative Identity Disorder is associated with being the victim, rather than the perpetrator of violence: except in the movies where it is typically portrayed as a 'Serial Killer with Amnesia Disorder'.

    Where to Watch Online

    • David and Lisa is on youtube, both the 1962 original, and the 1998 remake
    • Sybil (1976) on DailyMotion, or Sybil (2007) on youtube
    • The Three Faces of Eve rented from Amazon, Google Play, or from youtube
    • Watch Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase using the link from Truddi's website
    • The ovguide.com website finds links to movies and trailers from different sites, including youtube and vimeo
    • A Tale of Two Sisters, Fight Club, Frankie & Alice, Identity, Primal Fear and Waking Madison:
      • Movie subscription services like Netflix & Amazon Prime
      • Amazon instant video, VUDU, Google Play Movies, iTunes, etc (Pay per view)
      • Youtube, vimeo or Daily Motion - trailers, selected movies, streaming to mobile devices, games consoles & smart TVs
      • Live streaming websites offering "free" movies mostly seem untrustworthy according to Web of Trust and review websites, or sign you up for trial subscriptions
    • People with DID with interviews available on on youtube: 'Eve White/Eve Black' from The Three Faces of Eve (Chris Sizemore), Truddi Chase from Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase (on Oprah), and Kim Noble, artist and author of All of Me, also on Oprah (her story has never been made into a movie)
    • Dr Richard Kluft's documentary What is D.I.D.? (2009) produced by Showtime might be of interest (no longer online), or watch Dr Kluft in Learn More about D.I.D. (United States of Tara, Season 1) - a commentary on Dissociative Identity Disorder and it's portrayal in the TV series United States of Tara, also produced by Showtime.
    Movies can also be bought on either DVD or VHS video cassette.

    DID Portrayal in Movies

    Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has only 5 diagnostic criteria, all of which must be met for a person to be diagnosed with it. A DID Portrayal Rating of 5 out of 5 stars means that the movie clearly shows each diagnostic criteria. For movies about a real person it is not about the person's diagnosis, but how well the film portrays DID symptoms, taking into account how much Dissociative Identity Disorder varies between different people.    See Dissociative Identity Disorder's offical DSM 5 wording

    Comparing Movies to DID Criteria

    1. This criteria is met if the person has at least one other alter personality. Alter personalities/identities (alters) can be either observed or described by the person. There are two parts to identifying alters, signs of alters and how the person makes sense of it. Some people/cultures describe this as "an experience of possession."
      Signs of alters include sudden changes in mood, behavior, consciousness (often described as 'blackouts' or 'losing time'), memory gaps, altered perception (eg, size of objects or people), thinking style (IQ alterations in Frankie & Alice), and/or altered senses or movements (for example, temporary ability or inability to feel or move).
      Making sense of the alters if the actions or words of alters are remembered, which they can be (see criterion B,) they must feel like they do not belong to the person/belong to someone else. This may be described by the person as "it was as if someone else's words were coming out of my mouth when I was speaking" or "I felt like I was watching myself", or "I don't know why I suddenly liked eating food I normally hate", "I felt like a totally different person, much younger, like a child". Using the term "we" instead of "I", like Truddi Chase does to refer to herself and her alters in Voices Within, also shows an awareness of other "selves" being part of the person. This is the sense of dissociation, a disconnection from the self. If this is persistent and there is never any amnesia then Depersonalization or DDNOS, (a disorder very most similar disorder to DID), could be the diagnosis rather than DID. Sybil describes feeling "possessed" by her alters.
      DID, psychosis & schizophrenia confusion
      Many of the movies not based on real events suffer from confusion with schizophrenia or psychotic disorder. A person with DID may have alter personalities who may experience themselves or perceive themselves to have a different physical form (eg gender, age, race) than the person's actual body, and may mentally appear that way to the person when communicating, for example Alice in Frankie & Alice, but they are capable of accepting that they appear differently to others, and can learn they share the same physical body.[4] There are no delusions or hallucinations that would make a person believe that both they and an alter personality could be in the same physical room at the same time but in different external bodies - unless a psychotic break or psychotic disorder like Schizophrenia is also present. Schizophrenia is a common misdiagnosis for Dissociative Identity Disorder, only around 1% of people with DID have Schizophrenia as well.[4] The movies that make this mistake are all fictional stories, and include characters who turn to face their alters, these are Identity, Fight Club, Waking Madison and A Tale of Two Sisters. Hearing voices within Dissociative Identity Disorder almost always means the voices seem to originate from inside the person's head, (although flashbacks from the trauma can include sounds or voices that appear to come from outside the head).
      A person may also describe being told of things or finding evidence of things they must have done but have no memory of, for example in The Three Faces of Eve, and Frankie & Alice, both women are told they yelled at their daughters but don't remember, and both find expensive shoes they must have bought but don't think they did.
    2. The person must have recurrent memory gaps, i.e., amnesia, which can be either for day-to-day events, significant personal information, or past trauma. Normal forgetting is excluded. Forgetting sometimes where you put your keys does not count, sometimes forgetting where you live or your name, or being unable to find your keys so often it disrupts your life would count.
      In Voices Within, Truddi comes home from the doctor's office and begins a work-related phone call (switching to a work-related alter). Her husband interrupts and she doesn't remember what doctor he is talking about. He tells her, "we just came from his office". In A Tale of Two Sisters Soo-mi is unable to remember the trauma that happened to her sister until her father tells her, and even then she struggles to accept it happened. In Fight Club the arson of the apartment is forgotten, it's a significant past event but not traumatic to the character - he doesn't seem to have avoidance, flashbacks, nightmares, distress or intrusive thoughts about it, so this wouldn't fit. At the start of Waking Madison, we see her setting up a video camera to record what she does, and writing herself a note to remind herself what the purpose of staying at home is. She's clearly aware that she has periods of significant amnesia, although she doesn't seem to understand why until later.
    3. The dissociative symptoms (subtle or obvious signs or alters, or signs of amnesia) cause either significant distress, or negatively affect the person's social life, work, or another important area of life.
      In The Three Faces of Eve, Eve divorces and feels unable to remarry, and Eve White, who first sought help, is persistently distressed. It's less obvious in Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase; this doesn't show much of the distress and/or impaired life that DID caused compared to her earlier book, When Rabbit Howls. Some anxiety is shown, disruption caused by amnesia and behavior of her alters around her eldest daughter lead to divorce. It's not uncommon for high functioning people with DID to be successful at work, and for people outside their home to not recognize any mental distress. Truddi's need to cut back on her drinking and smoking hint that these may be ways in which she copes with (or avoid) emotions. Missing from the movie is the depth her distress reaches, for example the suicidal alter personality described in her original book isn't included in the movie. In Sybil, both self-injury and a suicide attempt occur; alter Marsha is almost always suicidal.
    4. The symptoms aren't the result of a cultural or religious practice, for example trance or possession states in cultures that use them in religion. In children, symptoms aren't the result of fantasy playmates. In other words, the symptoms aren't imaginary, fantasy religious or spiritual.
      None of the films have this context, although much of the least realistic film, Identity, takes place in the man's mind rather than in real life.
    5. The symptoms aren't caused by a particular substance, for example alcoholic blackouts, altered behavior when using drugs, or another condition like head injury. In Voices Within, Truddi Chase goes to many doctors and psychiatrists and none can find the cause of her 'blackouts'. In Frankie & Alice the drugs and alcohol could cause amnesia and altered behavior, but symptoms continue after withdrawal. In The Three Faces of Eve, a good psychiatric assessment checks her medical history for this reason, with her regular doctor having ruled out physical causes including head injuries.

    Movies Based on Real People

    • The Three Faces of Eve 'Eve' gave up her anonymity and is Chris Costner Sizemore, who attended the 50th annivsary of the film's release. Some clips of her talking about her life are on youtube.
    • Sybil Lived a long life with her identity kept secret, after her death from cancer her identity was revealed as Shirley Ardell Mason.
    • Lisa from David and Lisa - whose diagnosis never made clear - her actual identity isn't known.
    • Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase Truddi raised awareness of Dissociative Identity Disorder and published her autobiography under her name. She lived a long life before dying of natural causes, and remained both 'multiple' and healthy after therapy. Interviews by Oprah can be found on youtube.
    • Frankie & Alice Francine Murdoch met actress Halle Berry before the movie was filmed, but has otherwise led a quiet life. She is known to have married a psychiatrist (although not the one featured in the film). She is still alive.
    Assessing the portrayal of DID in movies based on real people: this is a judgement of the movie, not an attempt to cast doubt on a confirmed diagnosis. Diagnosing a person should be done by a trained and licensed clinician at a clinical interview - studying psychology for instance does not give enough information to do this, although it is interesting to see the more subtle signs of DID in the movies that portray DID well. This is not trial-by-media based on what they are able to firstly able to remember at that time, secondly, comfortable sharing publicly, and lastly, what they were able to condense into movie without risking lawsuits or distressing audiences too much.

    Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase is based on a real person, but missed out from the movie is the depth her distress reaches and the degree of abuse, for example, her suicidal alter personality from her earlier book, When Rabbit Howls isn't mentioned. In David and Lisa, based on another real person, Lisa rarely speaks, so you don't know if she has any amnesia or not, but a clinician would have notes and extended contact and would be able to ask questions to determine that. Lisa is referred to as 'Schizophrenic' but the diagram she draws and her distinct child-like behavior as Muriel make it clear she has an alter personality called Muriel. With her obvious alter identity, behavior that causes problems in public (e.g., at the train station) but uncertainty over amnesia she could have Dissociative Dissociative Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) - a form of dissociative disorder very similar to DID but falling just short of the criteria, DDNOS wasn't introduced until 1980 (along with the other Not Otherwise Specified categories) - it's unfair to attempt to 'diagnose' DDNOS rather than DID based on the movie not showing amnesia clearly in a person who hardly speaks. The movie was produced in 1968, but no psychiatric disorders had agreed diagnostic criteria until the DSM-III manual was released in 1980, so it is impressive to see such a clear good portrayal or a complex dissociative disorder. She does not show any psychotic symptoms, Schizophrenia is groups with the psychotic disorders and not the dissociative disorders, although some dissociative symptoms do occur in Schizophrenia.[3]

    DID is very varied

    Several movies are rated 4 or 5 out of 5 for their portrayal of DID, yet the people portrayed are not alike and their other, non-dissociative, mental health or life problems are very different - this kind of varied mix is not uncommon.[4] Compare Truddi, the career woman from Voices Within who drinks and smokes too much, to Frankie from Frankie & Alice, a very intelligent exotic dancer, also an addict who can't hold down a job. Truddi's use of cigarette, alcohol, and possibly overwork to avoid or numb emotions are less obvious than Frankie's anger and use of illegal drugs. DID affects around 1 in 100 people, and is hidden in 96% of those, except in times major stress. Many people with DID also hide symptoms or problems; Frankie calls her mother from a psychiatric hospital, saying only that she is "in Florida", letting her mother assume it's a holiday.

    Common Mistakes in Portraying Dissociative Identity Disorder

    • Hallucinations of alter personalities are shown, which the person with DID believes are a separate individual People with Dissociative Identity Disorder don't make this mistake, and don't and watch their alter personalities interact with the outside world, e.g. picking up objects or talking to other people, except when watching through their own eyes as they take out control of the person's physical body. Having a mental image of how alters look is fairly common, but is not the same as hallucinating an additional person's presence and believing others can see that person: delusions aren't present.
    • DID and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are usually the only issues shown, but there's usually a combination of many different diagnoses present, which vary in severity, with many viewed as "coping mechanisms" that help numb emotions before becoming problems themselves:
      Substance Abuse/addiction, Eating Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety Disorders and Phobias, self injury, plus Avoidant or Borderline Personality Disorder are common too. The complexity and mix of symptoms don't normally make it into media portrayals.
    • Communicating with alter personalities typically involves hearing voices inside - not outside the head, keeping a shared journal or blog, or leaving notes for each other
    • Alters cannot truly "die" or "be killed" - they can go into hiding, they can merge (integrate), but normally most people stay separate and work together better. Merging is no longer considered the "best" goal (once the distress/impaired functioning fully goes we still have alter personalities, but no longer have any mental disorder)
    • A person talks about having lots of "blackouts" but shows none - has no memory loss or forgetfulness in the movie, they never forget who anyone is, where they live or anything important
    • Dissociative symptoms go beyond amnesia and alters - derealization, depersonalization, feelings spacey, emotional numbing or fugues
    • Any abusive parents get shown as either non-abusive now (and instantly forgiven), in jail or dead but abusive parents normally stay abusive and may only abuse those they have control and power over, like children, including during adulthood, don't think of your own parents or parents who honestly regret what they did - these parents don't, and may deny abuse in the face of overwhelming evidence, say the child wanted it or deserved it, or constantly invade their adult child's privacy and guilt-trip, and lie, the abuse is a criminal offense so rarely admitted
    • alter personalities are created for a specific purpose, for example self-defense or trauma memories, or work, if the one in the plot has no clear essential purpose re-write the plot
    • opposite sex alter personalities and child personalities (aged under 8) are very common, but only rarely portrayed. DID develops from multiple early childhood traumatic experiences, typically occurring before age 5, some realistic movies, e.g. The Three Faces of Eve and Frankie & Alice, which based on real people, show trauma that occurred at a far later age but before the healing is complete, and importantly show the link between alters' characteristics and previous childhood trauma.
    • Randomly violent alters that seem to have no purpose for the person are often portrayed in fictional accounts. They aren't acting to defend or protect the person with Dissociative Identity Disorder, they are one-dimensional and can't reasoned with.
    • DID has no "quick fix" and no longer having alter personalities is not the "cure" Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder takes years. A third of people with DID integrate (merge) into a single identity, sharing all memories and characteristics of all alters and the most dominant one (the host/main person) together - this is more like gradually forming a personality that incorporates all of them than anything else.[4] Two-thirds of people keep at least some alter personalities and reach a "co-operative arrangement" or "resolution" in which they all work together in daily life, amnesia is minimal in everyday life (known as co-consciousness) but some amnesia exists for the past, they work in harmony together.[4] It is no longer a "mental disorder" when the distress and impaired functioning is no longer present.[3]
    • Organizations that can advise:
      • United States: An Infinite Mind and Ivory Garden, both Dissociative Identity Disorder non-profits holding annual conferences, International Society of Trauma & Dissociation.
      • UK: Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors - regular training and publications, First Person Plural - custom training and DVDs subtitled in many European languages.
      • Europe: European Society for Trauma and Dissociation holds local contact details by country.
      • Australia: Dissociative Open Initiative (non-profit)

    See also:


    1. Wedding, D., & Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Movies and mental illness: Using films to understand psychopathology. Hogrefe Publishing.
    2. (2004). Fight Club: A Depiction of Contemporary Society as Dissociogenic. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 5,(2), 13-34. doi: 10.1300/J229v05n02_02.
    3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association. ISBN 0890425558.
      • High Functioning in Dissociative Identity Disorder
        "Functional Consequences of Dissociative Identity Disorder", page 295, states that impairment can vary from "apparently minimal to profound", giving "high-functioning professionals" as an example of apparently minimal. It goes on to state: "higher-functioning individuals may impair their relational, marital, family, and parenting functions more than their occupational and professional life (although the latter also may be affected)." Published in 2013, this appears very close to Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase (1990).
    4. . (2011). Guidelines For Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder In Adults, Third Revision. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 12,(2), 115-187. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2011.537247.
      • Integration, or a Co-operative Working Harmony between Alters
        "A desirable treatment outcome is a workable form of integration or harmony among alternate identities." p133
        "Accordingly, a more realistic long-term outcome for some patients may be a cooperative arrangement sometimes called a “resolution” — that is, sufficiently integrated and coordinated functioning among alternate identities to promote optimal functioning. However, patients who achieve a cooperative arrangement rather than final fusion may be more vulnerable to later decompensation (into florid DID and/or PTSD) when sufficiently stress p134
    5. Cornish, A. (2010, December 31). Halle Berry Opens up About New Role. NPR News.
    6. (1992). Multiple Personality Disorder. Comprehensive Casebook of Cognitive Therapy, 347–360. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4757-9777-0_35
      • Abstract
        Long believed to be a rare and apocryphal psychiatric condition (Kluft, 1987), multiple personality disorder (MPD) is presently understood as a relatively common but often misdiagnosed syndrome. Putnam, Guroff, Silberman, Barban, and Post (1986), in a study of 100 MPD patients, found that the average MPD patient is correctly diagnosed only about seven years after initial mental health assessment for symptoms referable to MPD. During that time frame, he or she can expect to receive an average of 3.6 erroneous diagnoses. These misdiagnoses have as much to do with graduate training programs, Hollywoodian perceptions, and overt skepticism about a disorder (Dell, 1988) that carries with it supposed flamboyant and attention-seeking behaviors (though this type of presentation occurs in only 6% of the cases; Kluft, 1985) as it does with MPD patients’ decided attempts to dissimulate or deny their condition (Kluft 1985, 1987) to their therapists and to themselves. MPD is a condition of secrecy; if the presentation were truly overt, delay in diagnosis would be the exception rather than the rule (Kluft & Fine, 1989).
    7. Campbell, R. (2009). Campbell's psychiatric dictionary (9th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
      • Awareness of Alters ('Personality States')/ Co-consciousness
        p290 - "There is generally amnesia during each personality state for the existence of the others and for the events that took place when another personality was dominant. Sometimes, however, personalities are aware of (co-conscious with) all or some of the others to varying degrees and may experience the others as friends, companions, or adversaries."
    8. Galton, G., & Sachs, A. (Eds.). (2008). Forensic aspects of dissociative identity disorder. Karnac Books.
      "In R v Hamblyn (1996, New Zealand), the accused was charged with using cheques with intent to defraud. She was diagnosed by two psychiatrists to be suffering from DID. The psychiatrist called by the defense gave evidence that "alter" personalities controlled the behaviour of the accused at the time of the offences but knew right from wrong, even though the host personality did not know of, nor control, the actions of the alters … The court found that "the alters were not insane, so at the time the offences were committed, the body was being directed by a sane mind" (p. 229)." p. 88
    9. Simon, R. I., & Gold, L. H. (Eds.). (2010). The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of forensic psychiatry. American Psychiatric Pub.
    10. , , & (). Multiple personality disorder in criminal law. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 21,(3), 345-356. PMID: 8148515.
    11. , , , , , , … & (). AAPL practice guideline for forensic psychiatric evaluation of defendants raising the insanity defense. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law., 42,(4), Supplement:S3-S76

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