My Thoughts on Iatrogenic DID and False Memory “Syndrome”

Some folks don’t believe in DID. Some folks believe it can be real, but it is caused by therapy itself (iatrogenic, meaning induced by the physician. ) Some folks think that therapists can make you believe that all your problems are caused by repressed memories of trauma. That your emotions are really alternate personalities. That all memories must come out. Now. That each alter needs to be actively engaged. That patients who show little to no evidence of DID before therapy become florid, more depressed, and entrenched in the healthcare system until their coverage runs out.

I believe most of this is horseshit.

There are a lot of bad eggs out there. In every profession, there are scumbags. Who was it who said,

“What do you call someone who graduated medical school with a ‘D’ average?”

“Dr.”

Good stuff caused by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation

I believe some of this stuff has happened (iatrogenesis, controversies over false memories). That is unfortunate.

After a huge backlash in the 1990’s, many therapists have become much more careful in not leading patients. Valerie Wolf [1] actually supports the initial goals of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and I applaud her honesty:

My real honest to goodness feeling is that they have done us a favour. They brought up some issues that were real issues we needed to take a look at….We began to realize they were right. I began adjusting the way I was doing things at that point — in 1984 — being more non-direct, more non-leading is actually better therapy.

Great – the foundation had a positive effect. But she also reports – and be aware, this interview was in 1997:

Part of the problem now is that we have really cleaned up our act — I do workshops and training and I can hear more and more therapists becoming more careful — becoming better therapists, becoming non-leading — but they [FMSF] are still riding the same horse, they are still accusing the same way and it makes me wonder if there is another agenda here because we are cleaning up our act …

And that’s where the good stuff ends

Take a look at the foundation now. Yes, a goal is to prevent lawsuits based on false memories. But it seems they are still on a tirade to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They still continue to slam the diagnosis of DID, continue to belittle the work that those of us with DID do in our attempt to LIVE IN THE PRESENT! They pull quote after quote out of context, denying that repressing horrible memories is even possible. Their “science” is anecdotal. They provide references without discussion of content, only that they “support” their views. Yes, there is good information in there, but it is so hidden in the rhetoric as to be useless to anyone actually trying to LEARN something.

Hello, therapists AT THE TIME were practicing according to the current generally accepted practices. They have since updated their recommendations significantly based on the controvery. And yes, the DSM-IV and other references do state that many disorders may not provide evidence for a legal court case, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE DISORDER ITSELF DOES NOT EXIST.

Do a little research on this organization. It is surrounded in controversy, and the questionable motivations of its founders. Look at the articles and who they are funded by. Interestingly, in the pharma field, researchers must disclose to the government all studies involving drugs to ensure complete disclosure for conflict of interest purposes. It would be nice to see the same transparency with this organization.

Name me ONE FIELD where criteria of practice are not constantly reevaluated and updated. Often, unfortunately, it occurs as a result of some disaster. Changes in various regulations occurred after the Hyatt Skywalk Disaster, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster, the Therac-25 medical disaster…the list is long and sad.

But in each field, you can read about exactly what went wrong and how regulations were changed to avoid the problem in the future. We faced our mistakes, we learned and we moved on.

But not the folks at the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Okay, so maybe there are a couple of you DID people out there. What are you getting all bent about?

There are *plenty* of us out here who are not “florid” but who were unaware for many years that we behaved in sometimes radically different ways to others. Who knew something was wrong but thought we were crazy. Who have boatloads of physical evidence of years of diaries … multiple handwritings, tortured musings that we could be insane, realization of missing chunks of time and forgotten memories. Who received ideas/diagnosis from previous therapists that were close but not quite right.

It pisses me off that we ALL get dismissed as a group because of the controversies surrounding patients and clinicians on the border. We are ALL discriminated against.

While I try to keep an open mind when I read articles by certain researchers or organizations, the obviously slanted and biased perspective angers me. Even if 75 percent of diagnosed cases turn out to be DDNOS or bipolar or severe depression or whatever, there are still a whole lot of us left, who when we finally were told what this was, breathed a massive sigh of relief that FINALLY something fits all the bizarre and seemingly unrelated set of symptoms.

I was not happy when I received the diagnosis, but I was relieved. I still go into denial about it often (me as the presenting personality is stereotypically is the last to know).

So to all of you researchers and clinicians out there – please do the research and codify this in a way so that the right people are diagnosed and treated in the most effective way possible.

There is too much at stake here for those of us who belong in the DX.

And for all of you clinicians and researchers who don’t believe in DID, come and take my story, look at my concrete evidence, and then tell me what YOU think this mess really is.

References

[1] CKLN FM 88.1Toronto, Ontario, Canada, International Connection. (1997). Interview with Valerie Wolf M.S.W., Ryerson Polytechnic University, Producer: Wayne Morris, accessed online from http://www.mindcontrolforums.com/radio/ckln11.htm

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9 Comments»

  Tigerweave wrote @

I couldn’t figure out why they [False Memory Syndrome Foundation] seemed to closed to the concept. The website seemed inclined to take a skeptical view of DID for the sheer hell of it. The main article they pointed the reader to, Disorders of self, seems to be talking from a singleton perspective: I myself feel many different states and senses of self, thus these other people claiming to have personalities must be the same as I am.

A circular argument so full of inaccurate statements it is not really worth pulling the whole article apart.

The examples of therapy of DID that supposedly encourage the patient to see themselves as DID are shoddy, with no evidence to support this is what is actually happening when a diagnosis of DID is made, and even if it was, it still does not lead to the conclusions the writer made.

And such statements as this:

“Rather than helping the patient to accept thoughts and feelings he feels to be intolerable and giving him the message that the therapist will work with him to understand, accept, and integrate them, the patient is encouraged to blame a different “person” in himself for his distress. In a true sense, the therapist encourages the patient to avoid self- responsibility and validates his shifting blame and control to a different independent, supposedly uncontrollable “self” — much as in earlier times, individuals would literalize the myth by saying, “The Devil made me do it!” “Demon Rum made me do it,” and so on.”

I mean, seriously, what kind of therapists are they talking about. The way I have been counselled has allowed me to claim not only greater responsibility for myself and my actions, but to increase the lifeskills available to me by helping me access skills from one personality that may have better skills for a certain situation, than the personality that is in the centre at the moment.

Duh *shrugs* These people seem out of touch with reality and at best extremely old-fashioned.

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Tigerweave,

Thank you for slogging through some of the “information” from the False Memory page. It angers me to read much more of it.

The article you quoted was published in 1991 – 17 years ago! I am shocked that they still include this as “relevant information” rather than as a historical footnote for the way this disorder was viewed in the “stone age”.

This is a great example of Valerie Wolf’s contention – they just won’t let it go.

I decided to read up on their latest newsletter. A diatribe yet again against false memories. They trash Herschel Walker and the possibility of his story being untrue simply because some OTHER memoirs (that have NOTHING TO DO WITH DID) were found to contain false information.

They use THEIR OWN NEWSLETTERS as “referential” information.

Significant numbers of references come from newspaper articles rather than peer-reviewed sources.

And here is another from the latest newsletter, typo and all:

“Thanks to Goggle we were able to find enough information about” a particular court case.

As my grandmother used to say about newspapers, “Just cause it’s writ down, don’t make it so.”

While she is no longer with is, the same standard applies to the internet…as my meds doc says, “be careful of the internet – it’s a bad neighborhood” out there.

  Roma Hart wrote @

It was so nice to find a site like yours, I too was “treated” by a true lunatic psychiatrist who blamed every problem and symptom I had on one of my iatrogenically produced personalities. Since this psychiatrist ruined my life and cast aspersions on my sanity I was vindicated and amused to find him on the web this week wearing goggles and tinfoil claiming to have beams of energy coming out of his eyes. ( type in Unfair Park + Dr.Colin Ross has eye beams ). I compare this to having some idiot make derogatory remarks about my virtue and then finding a video of him on the web with two hookers in a motel room.

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Hi Roma

Interesting information you provide. Honestly, I was quite surprised to hear this, so I followed up on it a bit. I read about your court case, as well as some information on his malpractice cases. I would love to have found actual case information that was not just in blogs and commercial sites, but on law or more formal sites. I am not saying I am denying this, I just like to find the original information.

Again, I am surprised – I have read many of his articles and have found some good information about DID. I also checked out his clinics in my other post on inpatient care, and didn’t find enough information on specific therapies that gave me the warm fuzzies about his approach. Perhaps it has been like this for a long time – don’t know.

But thanks for providing the information. The video was certainly interesting. But for me, there is always that shred of possible truth – so many scientists have been ridiculed before they were proven correct. Who knows.

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2008/08/colin_ross_has_an_eyebeam_of_e.php

This article also claims that he has applied to the James Randi Educational Foundation, but I can find no reference to the application on the website’s public list of applications.

Emily

  Roma Hart wrote @

Emily, do you know how to use the Freedom of Information Act ? It takes more time and effort but you’ll find a lot more from some real investigating than just surfing the net.
I never expected to change the beliefs of any person on this site about their diagnosis, I completely understand that most of you have devoted your whole life to this. That is why I didn’t say in my first comment to you that I am a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, because I expected that I would be attacked and not listened to.
I have scanned and sent many legal documents to the JREF to prove eveything I’ve said, the reason that you may have not found any reference to Dr.Colin Ross on their public list of applications is that it is currently incomplete.
That information is found on the same JREF site.
I know that there are many people with sites on the web that try to stop certain people from reading the False Memory Syndrome Foundation site, or just say the nastiest things about it, but please try to have a little more independent thinking. Remember that the most ignorant person is the person who thinks she knows everything by learning only about what she believes in.
I spent 5 years learning all about one side of this issue and completely immersing my life in it. Then I spent many more years learning about the other side of this issue and then used my own critical thinking to decide what I wanted to believe. Fortunately when I was making my decision I was not hooked up to a computer or involved in any support groups so I was not as heavily influenced as people are today. What I did have was a friend who was a private investigator who helped me find out how to use the Freedom of Information Act. I also had access to the university law library.
I am an intelligent woman and I will never again let anyone take away my strength and independence by making me doubt my sanity. That “DID therapy” is so anti-feminist that I can’t believe so many woman are giving away their strength and independence so easily.
Well you can make up your own minds.

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Hi Roma

I do like to use good references here, and you have mentioned that you found several good ones. Is it possible for you to share some of these with us to give us the “other” perspective of FMSF? I am interested, but don’t have time to use the Freedom of Information act. But if you have….I’d love to have you share.

Changing someone’s opinion can be hard, especially if they do not want their opinion changed. Others of us can be persuaded by facts – that is how we are here. Independent thinking is encouraged.

have stated a few times on this blog that the internet is a “bad place” and that I typically avoid forums, etc. The internet does provide GOOD information if you can separate the wheat from the chaff. Good medical journals (such as the university library you mention), etc, are available online, and this is where I tend to focus my research, but you are right – what I do is really in a minority, and it sounds like it is for you, too. Good for you.

As for FMSF, I found both good and bad information on the internet, even on the FMSF site itself. I tried to list some good stuff right at the start of this post – I do believe they/you have made some positive contributions.

If you have help me understand, I am willing to listen, but I cannot accept the statements that all repressed memories are false and the generally unsupportive views if DID.

Perhaps a misunderstanding on your part is that we devote our whole lives on this…perhaps many of us have spent large chunks of our lives dealing with the abuse and the aftermath, but many of us devote our lives to work, family, hobbies, etc. I consider this an intrusion instead and would prefer NOT to spend time thinking about it. But devotion implies a blind adherence. That doesn’t ring true in me.

But the bottom line is, I have this thing – I have way too much evidence starting back when I was young…and solid evidence too – diaries, drawings, etc., that I didn’t understand until recently. These are not false memories, but stuff documented on paper. Yet it appears that FMSF still rejects me.

I do believe that false memories have ruined people’s lives. I do believe that sometimes therapy brings out false memories – it is something we ALL need to be mindful of. I do believe that FMSF has done some good work.

I must say, in conclusion, that your statement that DID therapy is anti-feminist, etc., is not generalizable. I know you had a bad experience and that is terrible, but that does not mean everyone does. Actually, I feel that I am MORE empowered with more internal strength since I started this journey last year.

If you feel this applies to more than you, like to a large percentage of those with dissociative disorders, then please expand on your statement. Good references, etc. I will publish your information.

Thanks for writing,
Emily

  Paul wrote @

Emily,

Excellent post and, again, I’m late to the table.

I surround myself with people who respect me for who I am, diagnosis and all, and walk away from people who don’t respect me. The larger picture is pretty much now irrelevant to me, though I do find it interesting.

If you read ISST&D’s Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, you will see that this controversy has not gone away. Jennifer Freyd is constantly on defense. I don’t know why she bothers to engage in this academic exercise. Maybe it’s her personal attachment to it that she cannot seem to let it go. I find it painful to read.

Paul

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Paul

Late to the table? Never. Look at how late I am in replying.

It’s great you can share and walk away if you want to. I am not free enough yet – I’ve been judged and betrayed, so am still incredibly gun shy. Except here.

I have heard of the association and wandered all over their website – I have found some great information to help me feel more comfortable about the therapy and directions it can take. I found the name of my current therapist there, as she is a member. So, I owe that association my support in that regard. I don’t know Jennifer Freyd but just searched on her name and will read more on what she writes. If she has a particular bent, then being the editor of a journal such as this could be a conflict of interest. But I will check her out. Feel free to post on her opinions if you want – I have considered guest posts if they are logical and in line with what I post.

Thanks for the feedback – it’s good to meet you. You sound like a strong and determined person with a good sense of self and place, and also interested in some of the same detached analysis that I am. Please share any time.

My best
Cami

  Iatrogenic Dissociative Identity Disorder « Petrogenic wrote @

[…] I found something on a blog I know and love from a while back. EmilyFirstGirl (excellent DID blog) has a look at this and gets rather unfortunately engaged in the comments with one of the False Memory Syndrome […]


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