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Concept: Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture


INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: As in many cultures, spirit possession is a common idiom of distress in Uganda. The DSM-IV contains experimental research criteria for dissociative and possession trance disorder (DTD and PTD), which are under review for the DSM-5. In the current proposed categories of the DSM-5, PTD is subsumed under dissociative identity disorder (DID) and DTD under dissociative disorders not elsewhere classified. Evaluation of these criteria is currently urgently required. This study explores the match between local symptoms of spirit possession in Uganda and experimental research criteria for PTD in the DSM-IV and proposed criteria for DID in the DSM-5. METHODS: A mixed-method approach was used combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Local symptoms were explored of 119 spirit possessed patients, using illness narratives and a cultural dissociative symptoms' checklist. Possible meaningful clusters of symptoms were inventoried through multiple correspondence analysis. Finally, local symptoms were compared with experimental criteria for PTD in the DSM-IV and proposed criteria for DID in the DSM-5. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: Illness narratives revealed different phases of spirit possession, with passive-influence experiences preceding the actual possession states. Multiple correspondence analysis of symptoms revealed two dimensions: ‘passive’ and ‘active’ symptoms. Local symptoms, such as changes in consciousness, shaking movements, and talking in a voice attributed to spirits, match with DSM-IV-PTD and DSM-5-DID criteria. Passive-influence experiences, such as feeling influenced or held by powers from outside, strange dreams, and hearing voices, deserve to be more explicitly described in the proposed criteria for DID in the DSM-5. The suggested incorporation of PTD in DID in the DSM-5 and the envisioned separation of DTD and PTD in two distinctive categories have disputable aspects.

Concepts: Research, Qualitative research, Mental disorder, Schizophrenia, Quantitative research, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture


The purpose of this study was to assess the scientific and etiological status of dissociative identity disorder (DID) by examining cases published from 2000 to 2010. In terms of scientific status, DID is a small but ongoing field of study. The review yielded 21 case studies and 80 empirical studies, presenting data on 1171 new cases of DID. A mean of 9 articles, each containing a mean of 17 new cases of DID, emerged each year. In terms of etiological status, many of the central criticisms of the disorder’s validity remain unaddressed. Most cases of DID emerged from a small number of countries and clinicians. In addition, documented cases occurring outside treatment were almost nonexistent. Finally, people simulating DID in the laboratory were mostly indistinguishable from individuals with DID. Overall, DID is still a topic of study, but the research lacks the productivity and focus needed to resolve ongoing controversies surrounding the disorder.

Concepts: Scientific method, Research, Empirical, Mental disorder, 0, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture


The Trauma Model of dissociative identity disorder (DID) posits that DID is etiologically related to chronic neglect and physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood. In contrast, the Fantasy Model posits that DID can be simulated and is mediated by high suggestibility, fantasy proneness, and sociocultural influences. To date, these two models have not been jointly tested in individuals with DID in an empirical manner.

Concepts: Psychological trauma, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Rape, Iatrogenesis, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture


Elevated scores on some MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory-2) validity scales are common among patients with dissociative identity disorder (DID), which raises questions about the validity of their responses. Such patients show elevated scores on atypical answers (F), F-psychopathology (Fp), atypical answers in the second half of the test (FB), schizophrenia (Sc), and depression (D) scales, with Fp showing the greatest utility in distinguishing them from coached and uncoached DID simulators. In the current study, we investigated the items on the MMPI-2 F, Fp, FB, Sc, and D scales that were most and least commonly endorsed by participants with DID in our 2014 study and compared these responses with those of coached and uncoached DID simulators. The comparisons revealed that patients with DID most frequently endorsed items related to dissociation, trauma, depression, fearfulness, conflict within family, and self-destructiveness. The coached group more successfully imitated item endorsements of the DID group than did the uncoached group. However, both simulating groups, especially the uncoached group, frequently endorsed items that were uncommonly endorsed by the DID group. The uncoached group endorsed items consistent with popular media portrayals of people with DID being violent, delusional, and unlawful. These results suggest that item endorsement patterns can provide useful information to clinicians making determinations about whether an individual is presenting with DID or feigning.

Concepts: Personality psychology, Psychometrics, Simulation, Mental disorder, Schizophrenia, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture


The aim of this paper is to examine if the diagnostic criteria of DSM-5 are able to differentiate between non-pathological religious possession and dissociative identity disorder (DID). We use the case study of an individual who leads an Afro-Brazilian religious group (Umbanda), focusing on her personal development and possession experiences from early childhood to the present, spanning a period of over 40 years, and examine these data following DSM-5 criteria of DID (300.14). Her experiences of possession can be broken into two distinct stages. In the first (childhood and early adulthood), she displayed intrusive thoughts and a lack of control over possession states, which were associated with a heightened state of anxiety, loneliness, amnesia and family conflict (meeting all five criteria for DID). In the second stage (late 20s up to the present), she regularly experienced possession states, but felt in control of their onset and found them religiously meaningful. In this second stage, she only fulfilled three criteria for DID. We question the accuracy of diagnosing this individual with DID in her earlier life, and suggest that the DSM-5 criteria fail to address the ambiguity of affect surrounding possession experiences (positive at the individual level, negative at the interpersonal), and lack a clearer acknowledgement of the prevalence of possession and other unusual experiences in general populations.

Concepts: Diagnosis, Mental disorder, Religion, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture, Afro-Brazilian, Umbanda


Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has long been surrounded by controversy due to disagreement about its etiology and the validity of its associated phenomena. Researchers have conducted studies comparing people diagnosed with DID and people simulating DID in order to better understand the disorder. The current research presents a systematic review of this DID simulation research. The literature consists of 20 studies and contains several replicated findings. Replicated differences between the groups include symptom presentation, identity presentation, and cognitive processing deficits. Replicated similarities between the groups include interidentity transfer of information as shown by measures of recall, recognition, and priming. Despite some consistent findings, this research literature is hindered by methodological flaws that reduce experimental validity.

Concepts: Personality psychology, Cognition, Simulation, Mental disorder, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociative identity disorder in popular culture