We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Dissociative Disorders - Part 12

To continue my discussion about Paul McHugh’s misguided attempts to thwart the treatment of adult survivors of child abuse who are diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I will quote an article he wrote in 1993 representing Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

MPD is created by therapists. This formerly rare and disputed diagnosis became popular after the appearance of several best-selling books and movies. It is often based on the crudest form of suggestion… The cause of MPD is supposed to be childhood sexual trauma so horrible that it has to be split off (dissociated) from the host consciousness and lodged in the alters. Patient and therapist begin a search for alters who remember the trauma and can identify the abusers. Thus commitment to the diagnosis of MPD is enhanced by the sense that a crime is being exposed and justice is being done. The patient now has such a powerful vested interest in sustaining the MPD enterprise that it almost becomes an end in itself… Everyone is distracted from the patient’s main problems by a preoccupation with dramatic symptoms. It is no wonder that MPD is regarded as a chronic disorder that often requires long stretches of time on dissociative units… These patients should be isolated and [therapists need to use] countersuggestion. Close the dissociation services and disperse the patients to general psychiatric units. Ignore the alters. Stop talking to them, taking notes on them, and discussing them in staff conferences. If these simple, familiar rules are followed, multiple personalities will soon wither away and psychotherapy can begin.”1


From my own experiences I can say I:

  • Was severely abused and neglected throughout my entire childhood,
  • Dissociated to cope and developed about 20 alters to survive,
  • Was in therapy with a therapist who listened and explored with me the meaning of my distress,
  • Had a therapist who did nothing that anyway remotely resembles what McHugh wrote about in terms of “suggesting” I had MPD (multiple personalities),
  • Was in therapy for 23 years during which I spent 11 of those years integrating all of my alters into one,
  • Was first hospitalized in a general psychiatric ward with people who knew nothing about dissociation and who only exacerbated my symptoms of anger and betrayal,
  • Was subsequently treated in a hospital’s dissociative unit on four separate occasions and received excellent care, and
  • Have now recovered and am living a healthy life.

My response to Paul McHugh is “Hogwash and Shame on You.”

I have provided documented evidence of the study of multiple personalities dating back to the 1800s in the beginning of this series. What McHugh leaves out of his explanation regarding the rise of awareness of Dissociative Disorders implying that multiple personality disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder) – magically appeared  due to best-selling books and movies – is the issue of mental illness.

From the 1800s to even today in the 21st century, mental illness was, and still is, thought of as something to be ashamed of and hidden. People were scared to death of being locked up in insane asylums. Even today, the need to enter a psychiatric hospital is looked upon as something to avoid if at all possible.

McHugh’s antics, purporting to be the voice of science is anything but. His very rationale of endorsing mimicking the procedures of Charcot in the 1800sto isolate patients and ignore their symptoms – is archaic and unconscionable.

Since he’s primarily interested in supporting those accused of pedophilia through his support of the False Memory Foundation, it isn’t hard to understand why he works so hard to disparage all the scientific work that has been done over the last 120 years that completely disagrees with what he professes.

Someone who was traumatized as a child, unlike McHugh’s assertions, doesn’t jump up and down for joy when his/her therapist talks about a MPD (DID) diagnosis. Rather, we as survivors have been shamed so much, this diagnosis is difficult to accept. And yet, it makes perfect sense, as it did for me.

If I revealed to a doctor in a hospital that I had multiple personalities and was told I would be isolated in my room and no one would work with me until I wanted to face my “real problems,” I would be both frightened and disgusted. It was because my therapist worked with my alters that I was finally able to integrate all of them and no longer suffer from the horrendous pain and depression I had beforehand.

Survivors of child abuse with DID cannot get treatment for this disorder at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, MD because they don’t “believe in it.” And yet, they get funded with millions (perhaps multi-millions) of taxpayer dollars. That is an area I feel the Federal Government needs to investigate.

People have told me, “Yes, but he’s the former Chair of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins.” My response is:  “Just because someone was the former Chair of NASDAQ (Bernie Madoff) doesn’t mean he was right, and it doesn’t mean he was ethical.”

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Dissociative Disorders - Part 11
Dissociative Disorders - Part 13


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