yes, therapy helps!

"Multiple" (Split), a film about Dissociative Identity Disorder

July 18, 2024

Multiple personality or dissociative identity disorder (DID) it has been treated in fiction on a recurring basis. The novel "The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the film "Psycho" by Alfred Hitchcock, influenced a large number of later works, especially in American cinema.

Multiple (Split), the latest film by M. Night Shyamalan , scriptwriter and director of "The sixth sense" and "The visit", is the most recent example of the use of multiple personality in fiction. However, there is a lot of controversy regarding the films that use TID to tell stories about violence and madness, and about the very existence of the disorder.


  • Related article: "20 films on Psychology and mental disorders"

Dissociative identity disorder

According to the DSM-IV-TR, in dissociative identity disorder Two or more identities coexist in a person . These personalities control thought and movements alternately and may have different memories and thoughts, so each alter ego does not necessarily have the same information as the rest.

Multiple personality would be due to disturbances that would impede the normal development of identity , more than the rupture of a personality formed. While the primary identity of people with DID is usually passive and depressive, the rest tend to be dominance and hostility.


Fine attributes the dissociative identity disorder to a suggestion process similar to hypnosis that causes selective amnesia. However, the personalities can be hierarchized so that some control the rest and can access their memories and thoughts. The change from one identity to another is usually attributed to varying degrees of stress.

Likewise, the different identities can interact with each other, enter into conflict and manifest to others as hallucinations visual or auditory; references to alter egos as voices are typical. This may suggest certain similarities between multiple personality and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Dissociative identity disorder it is diagnosed more frequently in women than in men. Women also tend to have more personalities. In general, people diagnosed with multiple personality have between 2 and 10 different identities.


  • Related article: "Multiple Personality Disorder"

The controversy surrounding the TID and the dissociation

Dissociative identity disorder is considered to be an extreme manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder. In these cases there has usually been a trauma in childhood, usually parental abuse or neglect . The symptoms occur as a defense against emotions and sensations that the child is not able to handle consciously. It is also common to occur together with depressive disorders, borderline personality disorder and addictions.

In general, the symptoms of TID are attributed to dissociation or simulation . One fact that seems to reinforce the perspective that multiple personality is feigned is the fact that it is diagnosed much more frequently in the United States, where most of the films that revolve around this phenomenon have been produced.

There are those who affirm that dissociative identity disorder is a chimeric diagnosis used only by Psychoanalysis, which in many cases is condemned from other orientations arguing that it generates false beliefs in patients.

The term "Dissociation" refers to the disintegration of mental life : consciousness, perception, memory, movement or identity. The dissociation, proposed in the late nineteenth century by Pierre Janet, was used by classical theorists of psychoanalysis to explain hysteria.

Even today, dissociation is often used as an explanatory construct. Authors of cognitivist orientation such as Hilgard and Kihlstrom affirm that the human mind is perfectly capable of provoking dissociative phenomena such as multiple personality through a cerebral process similar to the hypnosis focused on consciousness or memory .

The 23 personalities of Kevin in "Multiple"

(Attention: this section contains moderate spoilers.)

Multiple is a psychological thriller in which a man named Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls , apparently with the intention of using them to feed an imaginary or real being known as "the Beast". In Kevin 23 personalities coexist, but the ones we see during most of the film are the most hostile and dangerous, who have managed to take control of their body substituting the most adapted identities.

The leading actor, James McAvoy , he puts himself in the shoes of 9 different characters during the movie. The ones who interact most with the kidnapped girls are Dennis, a man with obsessive-compulsive disorder who enjoys watching naked girls dancing, Patricia, a disturbingly cordial woman, and Hedwig, a nine-year-old child who gives in - and who is a big fan. of the music of Kanye West. These three rejected identities are known by the rest as "the Horde".

Much of the tension of the film, especially during the first minutes, lies in the fact that, like the three girls, the viewer never knows which of the identities will take control in the next place, or when.

Dissociative identity disorder in the film

As described by Kevin's identities, all of them they wait sitting in a dark room until Barry, an extroverted and sensitive man who constitutes the dominant personality, "gives them light," that is, allows them to control the body they share. Patricia and Dennis, the "undesirable personalities", are forbidden to light because of the danger they pose.

By contrast, little Hedwig, who is also rejected by most identities, has the ability to be "in the light" whenever he wishes. Hedwig represents a regression to childhood that occurs at times when Kevin can not face the reality of his actions; It is interesting that, in the personality structure of the protagonist, these regressions take priority not only over "healthy" personalities, but also over violent desires.

Among the personalities accepted by Kevin's conscience, the ones we came to know during the film are Barry, already mentioned, Orwell, a man obsessed with history and who speaks grandiloquently, and Jade, the only one of all the identities that have diabetes These alter ego maintain a kind of alliance with those who do not appear; together they have managed to keep "the Horde" out of conscious experience, or at least Kevin's control, until shortly before the Multiple plot begins.

Barry and his allies regularly visit a psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher. This maintains the hypothesis that people with multiple personality can alter the chemistry of your body through auto-suggestion, due to the beliefs held by each of the identities about their own nature. For the psychiatrist, people with IDD can develop "human potential" to a much greater degree than those who do not have the disorder.

Is the plot realistic?

Many of the characteristics of Kevin's disorder are based on the diagnostic criteria and clinical course usually described for dissociative identity disorder. Alternative identities begin to develop due to the physical abuse that the protagonist receives as a child on the part of his mother, in particular the most hostile, who hold a grudge against the others because they were the ones who endured the suffering during those moments.

Both in posttraumatic stress disorder and in DID it is usual to refer to experiences of dissociation that took place in the traumatic moments ; This would establish the habit of using dissociative mechanisms to escape from reality in times of intense stress. The well-known pianist James Rhodes, author of the autobiographical book "Instrumental", refers to similar dissociative experiences without the presence of multiple personalities.

Kevin's personality structure is quite consistent with those of cases diagnosed as multiple personality. The different identities are hierarchized so that some of them (or at least Barry, the dominant personality) can access the memories of the rest, while, for example, the child Hedwig completely ignores the thoughts of others. These differences in access to mental contents generate memory gaps in each of the identities.

A priori, the possibility of altering neurobiology depending on the personality state is one of the least credible aspects of the film. However, in many cases people with multiple personality not only claim that their different identities have different mental disorders, as in the case of Kevin's selective OCD, but also that some can be right-handed and others left-handed, some need glasses and others do not. , etc.

As we said at the beginning of the article, a large number of professionals question the testimonies and studies that support these possibilities. In any case, in Multiple Shyamalan uses the disorder as an excuse to play with the limits between reality and fiction , as he has done throughout his filmography.

Controversy around the cinema about multiple personality

The Multiple film has been criticized by groups working for mental health, such as the Australian association SANE, and petitions for online signatures have been registered against it. From these platforms it is noticed that Multiple and other similar fiction products, in particular from Hollywood, are harmful to people with mental disorders complex. They argue that people who do not have more information about the disorders than they get through films are induced to think that the people who suffer from them are dangerous and of an aggressive nature.

While it is convenient to know how to separate reality from fiction and understand that cinema is still an entertainment, it is true that the repeated use of multiple personality disorder in horror films has conveyed a biased image of it - in case there is such a reality. diagnostic entity.


SPLIT: All Personalities HD (July 2024).


Similar Articles