Mental Health

The History of Dissociative Identity Disorder

dissociative identity disorder Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Dissociative Identity Disorder before the 18th century

DID Dissociative Identity Disorder Exorcism
The practice of Exorcism

In 1584 the exorcism of Jeanne Ferry was documented and her symptoms match exactly those of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This is not the only case where Dissociative Identity Disorder is mistaken for possession, for example in 1623 Sister Benedetta was possessed by three entities that made her suffer from self-harm, amnesia, and disordered eating.

Dissociative Identity disorder in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century

Dissociative Identity Disorder DID Louis Vivet
Louis Vivet

In 1882 Louis Auguste Vivet is the first person to have been diagnosed with two personality states. Gradually the psychiatrist discovered more of his personality states and by 1888 he had ten different personalities.

It is claimed that he influenced Robert Louis Stevenson while writing the novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In 1885, the French neurologist Professor Jean-Martin Charcot first described the mental illness Multiple Personality Disorder, which we now know as Dissociative Identity Disorder, when he was chief physician at the public Hospital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris.

DID Charcot
Jean-Martin Charcot, the second man from the right

As the symptoms resembled those of hysteria and epilepsy he called the disorder Hystero-Epilepsy.

In 1907 the French physician Pierre Janet wrote that dissociation was a result of a weakness of the mind. He regarded multiple personality disorder as the most complex form of dissociation.

The Austrian neurophysiologist Josef Breuer and his protégé Sigmund Freud saw dissociation as a defense mechanism against memories of childhood traumatic experiences.

Sigmund Freud regarded dissociation to be a normal means through which the ego defended itself against unacceptable unconscious thoughts, an expression of unconscious conflict.

DID Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Dissociative Identity Disorder from the second half of the 20th century until now

In 1968 we found the disorder in the DSM II, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, under the name “hysterical neurosis, dissociative type”.

After the publication of the bestselling biographical novel Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber in 1973 the number of diagnosed cases of multiple personality disorder raised dramatically in the United States.

In 1980 DSM III stopped using hysteria as a diagnosis and divided it into several categories: histrionic personality disorder, somatoform disorders, and dissociative disorders. This is the first time that the term dissociative was used to describe a class of disorder.

In 1994 the DSM IV finally included the criterion of amnesia in the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and changed the name to dissociative identity disorder.

In 2013 the DSM V specified that the criterion of amnesia in the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder does not only occur due to traumatic events but also due to everyday events.


De l’hystérie aiguë au trouble dissociatif de l’identité/

From acute hysteria to identity dissociative disorder

Healthy Place: The Amazing History of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Dissociative Identity Disorder Research: History of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Mental Health Today: Denying the traumatic origin of Dissociative Identity Disorder

The Mighty: What to Know About the History and Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder

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