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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 41 (1999) 7, 405 - 413


Dissociative Identity Disorder and the postmodern concept of consciousness

C.M. van der Feltz-Cornelis, W. van Tilburg

Controversies concerning the dissociative identity disorder (did) are discussed. They are connected with the use of concepts such as 'identity' and 'consciousness' in the definition of the did. These concepts are borrowed from philosophy and not sufficiently operationalized to be used in an empirically based manner in psychiatric syndromes such as the did. This bears on the validity of the syndrome, a most undesirable situation.
Analysis shows similarities between the controversies concerning consciousness and selfconcept in postmodern philosophy, and the controversies concerning the did. It seems that psychiatry imported not only the concepts, but the controversies belonging to them as well.
The consequences of this for psychiatry are discussed, and the need for psychiatry to formulate an independent conceptual framework for the did. This should be based upon empirical research leading to a clinical operationalisation of the concept 'identity disorder', that will lead inevitably to a conceptual scientific differentiation of memory functions.

keywords consciousness, dissociative identity disorder, postmodernism, psychiatry, selfconcept