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Dissociative Identity Disorder: Anna’s Case Essay

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Updated: May 30th, 2020


This essay explores dissociative disorders as forms of abnormal psychology and abnormal behavior with specific reference to the case of Anna O. These disorders entail abrupt distraction or changes in generally integrated functions of perception. The conditions are not common, and they are prone to faking in some cases. There are several subcategories of dissociative disorders. These conditions affect memory function, sense of identity, cause conflicting or competing personalities, and distort a sense of reality temporarily. Some of these abnormal psychology disorders and abnormal behaviors are not easy to diagnose because they do not have clear symptoms (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Sleep disorders also involve a changed in a state of consciousness, but not as severe as cases of dissociative disorders. Multiple personality disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder is an intense type of dissociative disorders. Most cases occur among women, there are few documented cases, which occurred after several years.

A Brief Overview Of The Case Of Anna O

Anna O was a patient of Breuer (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009). She first visited a doctor because of a persistent cough, but Breuer used hypnosis to elicit memory and reconstruct the past. He focused on the client’s reaction to her childhood experiences and caring for her father to understand her distress.

Anna had problems with her vision, hearing, headaches, neck weakness, and anesthesia on her limbs. She was mute and thereafter showed two different personalities, which changed without any warning.

Anna was “melancholic, experienced unconsciousness, mood swings, and potential hallucinations” (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009). Anna’s second personality presented antisocial qualities characterized by abuse and odd, rebellious behaviors.

After the death of Anna’s father, only Breuer was close to her. The patient would be sleepy during the day, then the therapist would mesmerize her or conduct autohypnosis for the day’s events.

The patient’s situation deteriorated and she developed suicidal tendencies. Breuer had to implore his patient in order to address the condition. Anna claimed that she could not recognize Breuer visually. She got better and attributed the recovery to ‘talking cure’.

Anna had altered personalities, and Breuer tested this by using oranges, which was the only food she wanted. Anna avoided water for six weeks. Breuer recognized Anna’s healing process as catharsis. Anna released her repressed feelings during hypnosis. Symptoms reappeared but were relieved through insights and ‘working through’.

Several symptoms disappeared as Anna experienced ‘disagreeable event’.

Anna became addicted to morphine because of ‘time missing’, loss of consciousness, and her inability to speak German. Five years after therapy, the patient displayed two distinct individuality traits.

Anna could have been sexually abused while her mother abused her emotionally, but she did eventually recover and spearheaded the rights of women.

Anna’s Disorder

Although causes of MPD remain vague, studies show that a combination of biological and environmental factors could be responsible for it (Kendler et al., 2008). Anna had a parent who was severely disturbed. She also had histories of contradictory personalities, distress, and cough during sensitive periods of her developmental stages.

Her mother emotionally abused her. In addition, the girl’s family and surrounding society stifled her attempts to be independent. Anna had unstable moods. She exhibited antisocial behaviors accompanied by abusive tendencies. After her father’s death, the client could not identify anybody except for her therapist. For example, she could only eat if fed by Breuer. In some cases, Anna appeared emotionally stable, and she would not respond to Breuer’s talks. She could only respond after establishing that it was Breuer by touching his hands.

Anna had strange conscious gaps and changes in perceptions, which defined her cognitive abilities. Although she was intelligent and curious, the girl developed suicidal tendencies and dramatic shifts in personalities. She also expressed potential cases of hallucinations. Anna informed Breuer that she was pregnant while indeed she was not. Freud later attributed this to sexual attraction between Anna and Breuer.

Anna’s behaviors continued to be odd, naughty, antisocial, abusive, and rebellious. She became somnolent and would only talk to Breuer at specific times. Anna had mood swings, which controlled her behaviors toward others. The client did not drink water for several weeks and would only eat oranges as her main food.


This essay has explored Multiple personality disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder with specific reference to the case of Anna O. It shows that MPD and other disorders are not common conditions and could be extremely difficult to diagnose.

Individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder have two competing personalities. They experience breakdowns in consciousness, aggression, mood swings, abusive toward others, antisocial behaviors, hallucinations, and suicidal tendencies among others. The condition results from both genetic and environmental causes, including severe past experiences, emotional and sexual abuse.

Breuer used catharsis (emotional release) to treat Anna by engaging in hypnosis or autohypnosis to elicit repressed childhood experiences. Hypnosis helps patients to dissociate and transit to a favorable personality in a managed manner. Therapists also use fusion to help clients reconcile conflicting personalities and behaviors. In some cases, therapists use antipsychotic drug in managing the condition, but outcomes have limited success. In addition, there are also anti-anxiety medications for extreme cases and stress.


Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Kendler, K., Aggen, S., Czajkowski, N., Røysamb, E., Tambs, K., Torgersen, S.,… Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. (2008). The Structure of Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors for DSM-IV Personality Disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 65(12), 1438–1446. Web.

Meyer, R., Chapman, L. K., & Weaver, C. M. (2009). Case studies in abnormal behavior (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon/Person Education Inc.

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