Read about mental health professionals calling for major reforms to the DSM-5.

Removing Diagnostic Labels

Anthony Temple

Possibly one of the worst things that ever happened to multiples was when the American Psychological Association declared multiplicity an official "mental disorder" worthy of inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Although this may have been beneficial to numerous people who genuinely needed help with disorganised systems and hadn't been able to get any, it also named the condition of being multiple, in and of itself, as a mental disease.

This was done partly at the behest of well-meaning feminists, the Religious Right, and child-welfare crusaders who honestly believed Connie Wilbur's ludicrous theory that multiplicity was always a form of dissociative mental illness caused by severe, often sexual, child abuse. They were justifiably anxious to do something to stop child abuse and help those suffering from its aftereffects years later.

What might have made more sense in retrospect is to expand the category of delayed stress or post-traumatic stress disorder to include the unique difficulties suffered by adults and children who have been abused, and leave multiplicity out of it.. or better yet, to create a separate category for multiples who are in disarray and need help organising things.

Instead, multiples, singlets, and abuse survivors fell prey to overzealous crusaders like Elizabeth Humenansky, cultmeisters like Bennet Braun and Colin Ross, and the despicable False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Sincere doctors suffered as well. Those who made attempts at genuine help for disordered households, or any kind of serious study of multiplicity, have now fallen into disfavour. Thanks to right-wing ideologues like Paul McHugh, it is modish to dismiss multiplicity as an hysterical media-generated fantasy, and the label's been changed from "MPD" to "DID", to appease the white singlet males who run the psychiatric industry. Now, multiple households who need or want treatment have a harder time than ever trying to get it.

I've heard the argument that the diagnostic label was supposed to ensure that multiples who needed therapy could get it, and for their insurance to cover the cost of treatment. I get many more emails from multiples who, even during the heyday of the MPD/recovery movement, were told "there is no such thing", "no real multiple knows that she is or will admit it if she knows", and at least one who reported his therapist was fired merely for giving him a DID diagnosis.

Since the DSM is also a legal reference guide for state of mind in criminal cases, one would think that including multiple personality in the DSM was a good way to protect multiple systems in which one or more members have run afoul of the law. Generally, a multiple-personality defense is indistinguishable from the standard Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity plea. Multiplicity is not insanity, and it should not be a legal defense for criminal behaviour. Members of multiple households need to be organized enough to create a working system that ensures responsible behaviour. Realistically, there will always be systems in chaos who could benefit from a course in household management. What would make much more sense is to create a category, specifically, of disordered multiples, not simply to define all multiples as disordered.

When homosexuality was deleted from the Big Red Book after the industry finally accepted the reality that it's not a mental disease, it was replaced with "ego-dystonic homosexuality", so that the few gay people who did view it as a disorder could still receive help. I suggest something similar for multiplicity, to be taken seriously and not as a "junk" diagnosis. In this way, multiples who see themselves as conforming to the Wilburian pattern and who may wish to be integrated, can seek appropriate services; and systems in chaos whose out-of-control selves commit serious crimes can receive treatment that will benefit the group, and ultimately, society-at-large.

Update: There is a grassroots movement among mental health professionals who have begun speaking out for major reform of the DSM. They warn of the huge increase in the number of possible diagnoses that are handed out to women, children and the elderly. Natural, normal emotions are becoming increasingly pathologized.

An Encyclopedia of Insanity by L.J. Davies. Originally appeared in Harper's magazine. How the DSM is misused to make ordinary life problems into mental illnesses for which doctors can get paid by insurance companies.
Criticism of America's Diagnostic Bible by Michael J. Conner gives you more info as to how the DSM is used and can be misused.

Other Essays by Anthony Temple

Multiple Personality and the Media Why are we constantly portrayed as freaks?
Multiplicity Is Natural We have been sold a bill of goods about a "mental disorder".
On Integration Why it is neither necessary nor desirable... and may be impossible.
No More.. A tirade on multiplicity as sickness.
Our Truth For those of you who wish to help us out of our denial.
The Kaycee Nicole Thing On the Internet, you are who you say you are... use it wisely.

Validation and Language in Multiple Personality An answer to the often-asked question "Does this happen to anyone else?"

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