An MRI that shows the location of patient's alternate selves on her brain. The patient is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder

The Blind Woman with DID and an Alter Who Can See

At the bottom of this post is an excerpt from a YouTube Psychology Vidcast by Dr. Ross Avilla.

In this video he discusses a woman a known as BT who was thought to have lost her sight from brain damage.

BT also has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The video implies that she developed DID as an adult, which is not likely.

According to the Washington Post:

German psychologists Hans Strasburger and Bruno Waldvogel, went all the way back to her initial diagnosis of cortical blindness. Her health records from the time show that she was subjected to a series of vision tests — involving lasers, special glasses, lights shined across a room — all of which demonstrated her apparent blindness. Since there was no damage to her eyes themselves, it was assumed that B.T.’s vision problems must have come from brain damage caused by her accident (the report does not say what exactly happened in the accident).

Waldvogel had no reason to doubt that diagnosis when B.T. was referred to him 13 years later for treatment for dissociative identity disorder, once called multiple personality disorder. B.T. exhibited more than 10 personalities, each of them varying in age, gender, habits and temperament. They even spoke different languages: some communicated only in English, others only in German, some in both (B.T. had spent time in an English-speaking country as a child but lived in Germany)….

Then, four years into psychotherapy, something strange happened: Just after ending a therapy session, while in one of her adolescent male states, B.T. saw a word on the cover of a magazine. It was the first word she had read visually in 17 years.

…Strasburger and Waldvogel say their finding is evidence that DID can unfold at a very basic, biological level. After all, it was not just high-level cognitive functions, like reading, that were affected by B.T.’s condition — even basic things like depth perception were difficult for her. And B.T.’s doctors could see all that playing out in her brain right in front of them on the EEG.

The case study shows that DID “is a legitimate psycho-physiologically based syndrome of psychological distress,” Dr. Richard P. Kluft, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine not associated with the study, told Brain Decoder. The condition is not just a product of culture and psychiatrists’ suggestions, he said; as in B.T.’s case, it “represents the mind’s attempt to compartmentalize its pain.”

The Washington Post

15 thoughts on “The Blind Woman with DID and an Alter Who Can See

  1. This case is interesting Rob. I can easily imagine her various alters being sighted and not. I remember hearing the term “hysterical blindness” when I was in my early teens (on TV dramas). I just took for granted that it was a real, if unusual thing.
    However, I didn’t realize what a powerful thing it was until my anxiety and panic attacks escalated last year to include blurred vision. Once it was so blurred that I couldn’t see anything at all — like a camera completely out of focus.
    Yes, the brain/mind is a fascinating thing. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post, video and article. Further proof that the brain is a formidable organ. How awesome that her therapist could help her. The Brain Decoder article states that all but 2 of her alters can see. Hopefully, one day, all of them may. Amazing. Thanks for another interesting and thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Based on my treatment experience I would say that it sounds about right that the first alternate that can see would emerge after four years. I doubt that she ‘created’ a teen alter in her adulthood. It’s more likely that she has developed some trust of her therapist. It can take someone with DID as long as five years to trust a treatment provider.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Got it? The alter would have already been there and he would have come out to the therapist based on trust? It still brings hope. I always miss the point.


      2. Yes…the alter wasn’t created, it was in hiding, which makes sense. If the blindness is psychosomatic then her ability to see would be stored in one or more alternates.

        My female alternate is only now communicating with my therapist and I’ve been seeing my therapist for five years.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Conversion and other dissociative symptoms were among the first syndromes explored by Freud and Jung.

      These syndromes were rightly seen as proof of the subconscious mind and unconscious motivations.

      Conversion disorders were called ‘hysterical’ reactions and were thought to be a ‘female’ problem.

      It wasn’t until we began to research ‘battle fatigue’ that we saw how it manifests in males.

      Our problem today is that real information in all areas of our lives takes a back seat to profit.

      DBT is cheap and works for people who act out their distress so let’s forget everything we know about the mind and pretend that controlling symptoms is the same as curing illness….

      Deinstitutionalization is a failure and has been for close to two generations, but let’s pretend that the disabled people that we betrayed with cuts to the programs that were supposed to help them heal choose to sleep on filthy rags and eat garbage–oh yes, and let’s pretend that we don’t know how fix it. (hint: raise taxes and refurbish and re-open the hospitals)

      Deregulating the media has turned our politics into a cheap reality show but let’s pretend that a racist ideologue is as legitimate as a professional politician who has studied law and let’s pretend that the white supremacists who support the know nothing ideologue have a valid point of view because — well they stupidly support all of the political positions that have impoverished their lives —

      We live in an enlightened dark ages….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What I find both fascinating and irritating is that we already knew all of this. This insight, that the mind does what it must to survive which includes compartmentalizing its pain is what we tossed when Behavioral Health took over and replaced mental healh with
        ‘behavioral’ interventions. I don’t know why our professional class finds it so difficult to live with the ambiguity that most answers are only half right. When they are not cramming toxic wonder drugs down our throats they are depriving us of access to viable treatments that don’t fit the new fad. In this instance the new fad compares the human mind to computers and treats all mental illnesses as if they are behavioral problems. I don’t know what we can’t have hospitals, psychoanalyses, the judicial use of medications and mindfulness practices. I keep forgetting that I don’t live in one of the civilized Western Nations.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The bio-psycho-social model wins again!

    Thanks for this amazing post. I almost wrote “content,” because it really contains a lot of stuff. I love that it’s possible to compartmentalize sensory experience to the extent that the corresponding area of the brain atrophies. No, correction: I don’t love that it happens, I love that it was documented, imaged, made “true” by a smart therapist who actually believed the patient.

    She must have seen something so horrible that she shut down her visual cortex. And now, through therapy, this alter has come out to slowly, slowly help her regain her trust in seeing again. This is wonderful!


    1. I agree with you, she’s four years into therapy and now the alter than can see feels safe enough to show himself. I can’t the unquestioned BS that surrounds this. No wonder DID is so controversial—shrinks who should know better give out bad information.

      No one develops DID as an adult…

      It is possible that she created a ‘new’ alter but it is unlikely that an adult would create a teen alter…

      And I’m really sorry that DID is rare but given the fact that some of the best research was done in 1918
      the professional ignorance that surrounds this well documented trauma symptom is inexcusable.

      Liked by 1 person

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