Ask Dr. Tim: My Sister Was Diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder

Ask Dr. Tim: My Sister Was Diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder


My 52-year-old sister supposedly was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder about ten years ago. I guess it is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As her brother I am 12 years her junior. Sure I have seen bizarre behavior from Jess before but I just don’t get it? It is suppose to come from trauma, isn’t it. I know our parents were pretty weird and upsetting, but look at me. I am as normal as they come.  I went to two years of college and make a good living. Neither of us had it easy as kids, but isn’t this Dissociative Identity Disorder some kind of insanity? It seems like every since my mother murdered our father, I don’t know how to relate to Jess. What should I say to her?



Dear Jesse,

First of all I find it interesting that you and your sister have the same name with a different spelling. And yes that does seem quite usual and perhaps a bit telling about how “weird” you parents may have been. I am pleased you are so “normal”.  Actually, you have raised a number of issues with your question. Speaking directly to the DID question of whether this is some type of “insanity”, I vote no. I have worked with a fairly large number of people with DID. While it at times feels like insanity to the patient and even their family, it is not insanity (of itself). There is a lot, which could be said on this topic, but in brief I believe that with all the chaos DID is a very adaptive and creative way of dealing with trauma. Frankly, I would be shocked if you both didn’t suffer from at least some level of traumatic reaction. As far as what to say to Jess, if it fits and is truthful, perhaps being willing to listen to her and be with her without judgment could be very helpful. Finally, it may be helpful for you to understand that typically the “alter personalities” jobs are to protect your sister. Remember, Jess is one person—not inhabited by aliens or demons. For healing to occur she will need to learn to trust again after her trauma. Trusting you could be particularly helpful.

Dr. Tim

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