Why do we often get worse after starting therapy?

I lamented in a previous post that therapy has made things worse. For that “logical” reason, I decided to stop therapy. However, after a switch away from that rageful person, I am less sure. Some thoughts on why this happens.

On the idea of getting worse, I found a website with concrete references that this is normal. While the entire page is useful, I was drawn specifically to the question: “My friend says he or she is multiple, but since he or she started therapy he or she seems to be getting worse, not better!

As explanation, Putnum is quoted on this page:

It is a bit like having an infected wound: to open it up again to clean it out and apply antibiotics is very painful, but it is the only way to heal.

Progress is often followed by relapse. Often it seems to be due to learning new information. Reasons may include:

  • Becoming aware of the switching, becoming aware that amnesia has been occurring
  • New or a return to self-injury after resurfacing of traumatic memories
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection by family and friends, often leading to suicidal urges/attempts
  • Inability to express anger and rage, often leading to suicidal urges/attempts
  • Additional chaos in life as more alters are found, uncovered or come out
  • Periods of confusion where the host denies the diagnosis
  • Recognition that multiple (and sometimes conflicting) opinions exist and may lead to distrust from others.

I guess I have seen several of these in me. So intellectually, I can understand why things are getting worse. Although that does not mean that I fully accept it. I don’t want it to continue happening, so I go into denial that there is even a problem. Generally, this happens to the host – to me. Because I have been feeling “normal” for the past five days, I am tempted to stop therapy and the meds because I feel fine. I don’t need this anymore – it was all just a dream anyway.

I tried that a few months ago, and crashed.

Relapse. I wonder how many more cycles of this I will have to go through.


MinEncourg. (1998). My friend says he or she is multiple, but since he or she started therapy he or she seems to be getting worse, not better! accessed from http://members.aol.com/MinEncourg/WbPgMPDQuestions.htm#Getting%20Worse?

MinEncourg. (1998). Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD): Questions and Misconceptions, accessed from http://members.aol.com/MinEncourg/WbPgMPDQuestions.htm

Putnam, F. W. (1989). Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press



  parris wrote @

You know, Em, this is exactly what my family/friends said about us! Therefore, we were left to our own devices, which created so many more problems.

I’m glad you brought this up, too, because there are times when the pain feels so unendurable that I ask what in the world made me do this (therapy) thing? It’s pure torture!

Well, there is no going back, ever. I’ve been there, tried that, it ain’t happenin’. There have been dozens of episodes when I lapsed into denial and basically vanished, abandoning the Others to fend for themselves. Serious mistake.

How has my therapist stood this lack of responsibliity, I’ve asked. She has understood the anguish, and has as close to unconditional love for us that any human could have.

You seem to be progressing in leaps, whereas we’ve been slow. There are so many of us, though (hey, all the more to change the durn lightbulb!) and we have so much programming to overcome. Or maybe this is just an excuse?

Anyway, every time we read something here in your blog, we learn new things. Your minds are so active, isn’t it wonderful? You will encounter bouts of denial possibly for the rest of your life. Sometimes it’s the only way to get through. And it’s okay. It has to be.

It will take you time to discover and explore all your alters, what their purpose is, what their beliefs are, how they influence your decisions, etc. Often this process is terrifying.

Therapy with the right person is a comfort. There is nothing more satisfying than looking into someone else’s eyes and just know that s/he wants to know who you are, and what happened in your life to create the wonderful persons who saved you.

Do you know this already? Maybe I need to read more about you before I rattle off, for goodness sake. Just keep reminding yourself that you can do this, no matter what stage you’re in.

Thanks again, all you people inside Emily, for sharing your experiences and knowledge with the world! It is a joy getting to know you.

  emilylonelygirl wrote @


You said something that struck me…that I may “encounter bouts of denial possibly for the rest of my life.”

Wow. I never thought of it that way. I keep thinking, if I work hard enough, if I go through enough therapy, that eventually all of me will no longer deny.

You give me the opportunity to consider that it may be OKAY to have periods of denial. I beat myself up about it. Maybe if I could just accept that sometimes *I* (as a group selves) will be denial and that will be okay. Because at least at this point in my recovery, I am AWARE that there is this sense of others and I understand INTELLECTUALLY that they are there, even if I don’t feel them.

Thank you for that. It is a good thing to contemplate.

Thank you for your kind words! It is wonderful to hear different experiences and same thoughts.


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