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April 15th, 2008
12:10 PM ET

Herschel Walker's alter personalities

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent

When I first heard that former football great Herschel Walker had multiple personality disorder, I was pretty stunned. Even though, I am a doctor, I had to admit that I knew very little about this particular psychiatric disorder. For starters, it is called DID, or dissociative identity disorder, instead of multiple personality disorder. Most people think of Sally Field's character Sybil, but another thing I learned is neither Sybil nor Walker actually has multiple personalities, but rather the lack of one cohesive personality. In Walker's case, he has 12 - yes 12 - alter personalities, which are all better described as fragments of one. (Here is an article I thought was very informative: http://www.dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=11122)

Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker

Sitting down with Walker, I met an extremely charismatic and likeable man who certainly didn't overtly flip from one alter to the next. It became clear, though, throughout our conversation that these alters were just under the surface. From stories of playing Russian roulette while still an extremely successful football star to rapidly switching from one alter to the next with absolutely no recollection, it was mind boggling, confusing, and a little bizarre. Again, unlike uncontrolled rage or depression, Walker really could not remember from one alter to the next. He even had names for his alters. The one that showed up on the football field was the General, and he was a competitive killer.

Because of the lack of memory of these various alters, we found it important to speak with people who witnessed this firsthand.  So, we flew to Dallas and met with his former wife, Cindy.  She described many incidents, including a chilling one of waking up with a straight razor to her neck and Herschel threatening to slit her throat - and then having Herschel quickly flipping and asking her if she was OK.  She saw that flipping back and forth and it scared her - eventually leading to their divorce.

Medically, I was fascinated to learn that DID is much more common than people realize - about 1 percent of the population has the disorder. It is often associated with psychological and physical abuse as a child; in fact it is a childhood disorder that is often diagnosed as an adult. The child starts to separate his or her personality into fragments in order to deal with different aspects of life.  By adulthood, these fragments become full-fledged alters. Herschel himself admitted he was bullied a lot as a child, because he was overweight and stuttered.

In Walker's case, sometimes the alter personalities worked for him as the General did on the football field, but most of the times they were destructive. He is getting help nowadays, but there is no specific medication that can be prescribed. Instead, he goes through counseling to sort of teach his alters to know one another and become one cohesive personality. While he seemed to have things in control as we talked for a long time and even threw the football around, the alters are still very much there.

As I said, I found the story of Herschel Walker to be absolutely fascinating.  And I wondered how many more stories like his are out there.  Have you ever seen or heard anything like this?

Programming note: Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's interview with Herschel Walker and report on dissociative identity disorder on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight at 10 ET.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation. 


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soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Paul

    My wife is diagnosed as having DID. There are at least 40 named alters.It has been 14 years since diagnosis. I am looking for any partner that has been able to make this work long term.

    April 15, 2008 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Evy

      I had it. We integrated two weeks ago. Your wife needs to get in to therapy and go through the eye desensitation and reprosessing. Good luck.

      February 3, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Marilyn Cottrell

    Herschel Walker is very brave to discuss this publicly. He is performing a real service by educating us about DID.

    April 15, 2008 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Nicole Riddick

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    Mr. Walker's willingness to come forward and discuss his condition is extraordinary. Most people dealing with this problem are hiding in the shadows of ignorance, denial, poverty and other mental illnesses. Therefore, it appears to take the exposure to highly qualified physicians, like Mr. Walker's, in order to adequately diagnose and treat this illness. So what is a person to do who has family members with this illness without the benefit of access to Mr. Walker's money to hire qualified physicians in order to survive the fallout of this condition? The bigger question that needs to be addressed here is that Mr. Walker bravely brought this medical problem to the light. However, to those who are walking around suffering from the devastating affects of having people in their lives with this level of mental health illness their is no light at the end of the tunnel. Let's put on our thinking caps and purpose a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to making the diagnosis/treatment process
    available to the poor like we do drugs for HIV and Rehab for Alcoholic and Drug Addicts. When this problem strikes the family of poor people, it often costs lives because it goes hand-in-hand with alcohol abuse, drug addiction, depression and other psychopathic disorders and ultimately turns unsuspected individuals into killers. We must come up with a comprehensive screening solution for the masses in order to save lives because this problem has reached epedemic proportions and we can no longer stand by the sidelines and accept the inevitability of scenarios like what happened at Virginia Tech.

    April 15, 2008 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Evy

      It doesn't embarrass him. Any more than mine embarrassed me. My alters saved my life. I have someone now trying to use it against me. It won't work.

      February 3, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse |
  4. A. Bart

    I'm not sure if this is the place to ask questions, but while reading this blog and scanning the linked article for information I wonder:
    1. why the different percentages reported (.5% in China and 1.5 % in Turkey and the Netherlands for instance). Is this based on self reported incidents of the disorder? Is it in part a measure of how much the medical establishment knows about this disorder?
    2. There is a suggestion that often this disorder stems from trauma from the individual's youth? My late father had episodes after multiple nervous breakdowns and suffering from depression for many years (decades) that resulted in what we at the time called "Yekyll and Hyde" behaviour. And he apparently would not always remember what he had done or said. But this started when he was in his seventies for as far as I know. Can the trauma occur later in life as well and lead to DID?
    3. I'm assuming there would be a whole spectrum of DID? Personalities that are somewhat integrated all the way to personalities that fail to integrate. How bad and how subtle can the symptoms be? Or is too little known at this point to say anything definitive?

    A curious reader

    April 15, 2008 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bulldawg Fan

    God bless Herschel Walker.

    April 15, 2008 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Nemo

    As someone who is married to a person with DID. I can tell you how tragic the Illness is. One of the worst aspects is that is almost exclusively a disorder brought on by continuous torture, usually of children. My SO was in and out of hospitals for ten years before they stabilized to they point they would not be a threat to themselves or others. While their "alts" have never been violent, it is downright scary. The "others" have trusted me enough to come out of occasion and talk to me. It is bizarre to have the vocal patterns of a five year old come out of grown adults body. And when they go into flashback it is frightening . It is like you are there when abuse happened.

    April 15, 2008 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kristen Clark-Black

    I have DID and I have been receiving treatment for it for the past twenty years. It didn't use to be called that and my Dr. did the best he could to help me deal with it. As a result I have huge holes and gaps in my memory. My husband is still amazed at what I can't remember. I have five distict alters and many waiting in the wings, and yes, they have names. My poor family... I thought I was going crazy, but I still seemed to function in society, barely. I'm easy going and generally happy, I think... Right now I'm being treated for bipolar disorder and severe depression. The meds are working quite well and I have things under control, much better than in the past. I have been taking meds for twenty years.

    This disorder really, really sucks. Yes, I was sexually abused as a child and not well liked by my peers because I had an opinion that wasn't the norm. I grew up in Italy and then moved to a tiny town in Idaho. I never did fit in. My father ignored me and was ashamed of me and my mother is a type tripple A personality.

    If you would like the records of the treatment I received I could try and get them for you. I attribute my still being here to Dr. Richard Southwick of Ogden, Utah. The Doc is good.

    Kristen Clark-Black

    April 15, 2008 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Valerie

    My best friend has D.I.D. and while I wouldn't wish the disorder on anyone, I think it may do some good to have a celebrity come forward about their struggles. There have been academic-type people in the past who have come forward, but they don't always carry the same weight with the general public that someone who's been in the public eye like Mr. Walker does.

    I hope that out of all this, the one thing that people come away with is that D.I.D. does not make you criminally insane or even insane at all. There are a lot of people in this world with D.I.D. and many of them lead very productive lives. Yes, alters can disrupt your life, but working with them and with a qualified professional, one can learn to deal with it and learn how to get them all working together.

    For the majority of the people in this world, Sally Field's portrayal of "Sybil" is all they have as a reference point. And while Ms. Field did an excellent job in her portrayal, all people with D.I.D. are not like that. And I hope that if people take anything from this news, it's that people with D.I.D. are just like the rest of us in this world and that they're not "crazy" or "lunatics" or any of the other stereotypes that are out there right now.

    Bravo to Mr. Walker for being brave enough to share his story with the world and I hope he continues to see progress in his treatment.

    April 15, 2008 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. SO

    My husband was diagnosed 2 1/2 months ago and doesn't know his diagnosis. It has been, without a doubt, the most exhausting, painful 4 yrs of my life. There is a wonderful support group on yahoo that is for spouses (there are some DID members as well) of people with DID. It is heartbreaking to know that severe childhood abuse suffered at the hands of my husband's father caused this. His therapist is very hopeful and has been a godsend. For anyone interested the group is sosupport@yahoo.com.

    April 15, 2008 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. L

    I was diagnosed 6 years ago, and can say I'm as close to healthy as I will ever be. I am married and lead a very normal life. There is hope through therapy and some medication. I took 4 years off of my life and did nothing but work, go to therapy and work on my mental health. I had the most supportive people in the world in my life, who gained the trust of my alters and helped them resolve their issues. (I had 25 and now I have just 4 who I have no intention of integrating)

    I survived 21 years of horrible abuse – and there are lasting effects. My husband is frightened by the flashbacks I still suffer from on occasion. The safer I feel in my environment, the better I feel.

    For the spouses & family: I know it's a huge emotional drain, but your husband/wife needs someone to help them. Maybe its not you personally, but you can get them to therapy, or if need be a hospital. This is not something you can tackle alone, speak to a therapist yourself. If you're not well, you can't help.

    April 15, 2008 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jeannie36832

    My grandmother has always been troubled but we were not aware of anything other than a nervous breakdown in her 40's ( she is 79). In the last few years, we have noticed the fragmented personalities in her. My mother (her daughter) gets the aggressive, argumentitive personality. My sister sees the childlike more often, and I see the child sometimes, as well as the woman we knew growing up. She is not diagnosed DID and we are unsure how much of this due to her age and dwindling mental faculties or if it was there all along. We suspect the latter.

    April 15, 2008 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. She

    I have no education or knowledge of this disorder, but I can tell you that I mentally noted an interesting observation about Herschel Walker as a high school student (ran into him more than once at HS track meets). Anyone who is familiar with track meets knows that depending on your participation and competition level, there can be some down time to socialize with folks from other teams. During track meets, Hershel was not visibly social with runners from other schools. He always VERY focused (now I might say 'abnormally' so). I just contributed my observation to him not being an outgoing personality. I always thought of him as maybe shy and really focused. It is interesting to think back to some encounters. I also remember discussing with friends that he was a 'machine'. The use of the word 'machine' then would have meant that he just did his job and performed perfectly each time. He was a great athlete to observe and from which to learn. I am so sorry that he has had these extraordinary challenges. God bless you, Herschel.

    April 15, 2008 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Vivian Letizia

    Hi
    H .Walker is a brave man to discuss such a personal topic so
    publicly. My question is what is the difference between DID
    and schizophrenia?

    April 15, 2008 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dar

    Dear Dr. Gupta,
    I am quite dismayed at this article. I have a diagnoses of DID and PTSD. I find some of the language you use and that of your anchor colleagues who describe people with this disorder as bizarre, strange or weird, offensive. I will grant you it is unusual but we are all unusual in some way. Also DID is a disorder and not classified as a mental illness.
    I was diagnosed with this disorder 20 years ago when it was known as MPD. Changing the title and the acronym may make some people feel more comfortable but it does not change what it is.
    My real objection to your piece is that there have been others willing to come forward and other books written on the subject but they were not written by 'stars'. May I suggest "Switching Time" by Dr. Richard Baer. It gives much more insight into the disorder without glorifying the violence.
    That is the real heart of my objection. Almost without fail journalists such as you represent multiples as people who switch abruptly from one alter to the next. Cases in the 'news' are almost always shown as having very violent alters who commit very violent acts and then forget them. I find this very offensive. I have many more alters than you speak of and through therapy we have become a cohesive unit and recovered the memories of a very violent and torturous childhood. And still there is not one part of us who wishes to hurt anyone other than perhaps ourselves at a very early time in therapy.
    Oh by the way, of all of the DID patients I have known or read about in 20 years in the therapeutic circle of life every one has names or designations of some sort for their alters. Why should that surprise you? How would we keep track of all of the alters or 'fragments' if they did not have names or designations of some sort?
    Perhaps in the future before you present a story such as Mr. Walker's you should do a little more research and find more than just a one sided story. There are those of us with DID who would share our stories but they would not be so glorified a story as Mr. Walker's.
    Oh by the way I have neither encountered or read of another DID case caused or even exacerbated by being bullied. DID is caused by SEVERE trauma early in life.
    I am happy to see DID brought into the light but a little more balanced story would be nice. There are those with DID that are high functioning without the need to hurt others. Thanks for your time.

    April 15, 2008 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Andrew Miller

    My wife suffers from DID. We have been married for 14 years and together for 17. She was diagnosed shortly after we started dating and we were both 19. We went through a lot of therapists and doctors.

    Fortunately, we live in Baltimore which has two of the best psychiatric hospitals in the country, Sheppard Pratt and Johns Hopkins. Sheppard has one of the best trauma disorder units in the world. Hopkins, on the other hand, does not recognize DID as a diagnosis. Hopkins’ diagnosis is borderline personality disorder.

    The key for me has been to separate my roles with her and maintain my role as husband. I am not her therapist. It’s vital to find therapists and doctors you trust and are professional. Because of the rarity of the diagnosis some therapists find it interesting and don’t really understand how to handle these patients. They treat them as a curiosity and can do more harm than good.

    Even though I am near Sheppard, it was years before we were aware of their programs. Luckily, we had good insurance at the time and she was able to get in for a few weeks. However, shortly after that our benefits ran out and we were not able to return. She had to go to a state hospital. This is not a good place for trauma disorder patients. It’s not that they are bad. It’s just they are not equipped to handle these patients. So, as I’m sure most others can attest to it takes a lot of persistence and feather rustling. DO NOT be afraid to question doctors, therapists, or administrators.

    Fortunately for us things have stabilized and we have insurance now. She has a great therapist who is used to working with DID and I have one too. For my benefit, we don’t talk about her or her DID. But, it’s important to talk to someone who is familiar so you don’t get a lot of questions about what it is like.

    We have two kids and are working on a third. I don’t really think about most of the time. It just is. She’s a wonderful mother and wife. And while it has been crazy at times, no pun intended, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I often laugh when I hear people complaining at work, or parties, or whatever about how stressful their lives are or how demanding their spouses can be. They have no idea.

    Only a few know of her diagnosis. It’s not out of embarrassment or shame. It’s mainly out of respect to those individuals. They have no reason to suspect she has it and, quite frankly, since most professionals can’t handle it I wouldn’t expect them to.

    Again, we are blessed to be so close to such fantastic health care. We went broke and filed bankruptcy and are always living check to check. The care isn’t cheap but it’s well worth it for us. In fact, as I was typing this my wife called and let me know they turned the cable off. Oh well.

    I know we’re lucky. What’s important to us isn’t what’s important to most people our age and our situation. As I’m sure a lot of you will agree when you’ve been through and dealt with this it doesn’t make sense to stress the little things. We are truly able to focus on what is really important. And that truly is a blessing. We don’t have much, but, we have our family and that’s all that matters.

    Forgive me if ran on too long or repeated myself. Oh, and my grammar.

    I’m not qualified to give advice other than to say it’s important to find a therapist you trust. Keep going and going and searching and searching. Find out what’s available in your area. Don’t be afraid to question people. Fight. Fight. Fight. It’s worth it.

    And, most important, smile. We deserve it!

    April 15, 2008 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. AG

    My partner of 8 years and I just split up. I believe that he may have DID. Seems like this may be a fit because he does some crazy things and his voice even changes, like a different persona, as was described in this article. During the past two years, I suspected that he had severe depression and he has admitted to that but won't seek help. For a long time, he has said he doesn't know who he is and has made me think I was going crazy myself.

    April 15, 2008 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sharons

    I have a friend who was diagnosed by a therapist who told her she had numerous alternate personalities DID.

    I'm not saying that DID does not exist, but it turned out it my friend's case that she had a very extreme form of epilepsy and her bouts of 'lost time' and frequent car crashes from when she blacked out were all attributable to the epilepsy.

    She had to have brain surgery in order to treat the epilepsy but since that time has not had another seizure (or incidence of lost time) ever since.

    I think people need to be very insistent that all other medical conditions are ruled out before they accept the DID diagnoses.

    My friend was furious that there was treatment available and because of her therapist she was not able to access it because the DID's diagnosis is not treatable. She said she spent seven years going to this therapist who featured her in all sorts of papers and articles only to find out that she could have had an operation which would have alleviated her symptoms.

    I'm not saying that this is the case for everybody with DID, but again, I am putting it out there just so people make sure to check it out.

    April 15, 2008 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sherry

    I am very grantful to Hershel for having the courage to speak out. I myself suffer from D.I.D. and have my whole life, but was only diagnosed last year. (I am 35). I am undergoing integration (bringing the parts together) right now through weekly counseling. I will say this... the past 17 months of integration have been the most difficult of my life, but I have more peace now than I ever have or could have imagined. I have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. Thank you Hershel for telling your story. It will help alot of us not feel embrassed anymore and to reach out for support. God bless.

    April 15, 2008 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. JBug

    I was diagnosed with DID and PTSD 18 years ago. I had 33 alters.

    I have been in intensive psychotherapy for all of those years, with two different, incredibly loving, compassionate therapists; who have been so patient for such a long duration of therapy. I am almost at the end of the integration process. Praise God.

    My marriage ended when my spouse didn't/couldn't believe the trauma happened with my father and the KKK. I couldn't take it anymore, because the longer I was in therapy, the more I started having horrific flashbacks.

    What someone needs in a marriage with a spouse with DID is compassion, support, and a good sense of humor. Those with DID are incredibly creative, passionate about life after depression lifts, and have survived what is equivelent to active wartime combat for several years.

    I want to testify that I was born again with Jesus in my heart in 1990, when I could no longer go on as usual. I had graduated from college, married, and had a child. After her birth, I became severely depressed, and couldn't come out of it, even with medication.

    I voluntarity checked myself into a psychiatric in patient hospital, and spent a month there. Good medical insurance paid for all of it. That's when my journey to recovery and restoration began.

    For all of you out there, struggling to make decisions, and get help, I want you to know that even if you can't feel His help, God wants to help you. He is a God of restoration. All you have to do is ask.

    He provided me with the money, with insurance, for the entire 18 years of therapy. I have always been able to work, but I have had many jobs during that time, which is a miracle in itself. I earn a low to middle income level. I've never been without insurance, despite many job changes. God provides.

    In other words, the payments for 18 years of 3-4 times/week psychotherapy costing an ave. $ 125/hour is astronomical. Only God can do that.

    I have taken medication for Major Depression for the 18 years. Slowly, and with more and more integration, I am also coming out of the depression. Praise God.

    Never give up. Never give in to the torment. God wins in the end. And you can too.

    You can do it!

    April 15, 2008 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. ab4u

    Interesting diagnosis. I'm wondering if any use of steroids contributed to his behavior as it sounds typical of documented cases.

    April 15, 2008 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Aks

    I have DID. I get really tired of it.

    April 15, 2008 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. A Partner

    My partner of 8 years has six alter egos. The youngest two are 4 and 7. The rest range in age from 17 to 70. It's not frightening or at all bad. Sometimes it can be comical. The 7 year old drives...and not very well. The cat is getting enormous because the 4 year old gets up in the middle of the night to play with him, then feeds him. Another one takes the wheel of the car when my partner and I have had too much to drink and I guarantee if he was pulled over, the officer would judge him perfectly sober. One sleeps all the time (because he is old) and one is an African American nanny that takes care of the two youngest (my partner is a middle aged white male).

    The medical community should do more studies on this as I truly believe there is a physiological aspect to this condition. My partner wears glasses, in fact he is legally blind in one eye. But his alters see perfectly normally and drive without glasses or contacts. Furthermore, if an alter emerges while he is driving, the alter will remove my partner's contacts and place them in my hand. We haven't had a wreck yet! There are other physical differences I have noticed (he gets leaner and more muscular when the teenaged alter emerges and his alters have different blood pressure then his).

    My partner is the best person I know. And considering all the trauma he experienced (which began while he was a a small child and continued well into his adulthood), I am just glad he is alive and that none of his alters are a danger to him or us. In fact, I like his alters and thankfully, they have grown to love and trust me. They are all in therapy with a professional who has treated over 120 patients with this condition. It is a condition, not a mental illness. My partner has a Ph D and is a well accomplished and completely functional member of society. The worst part of this for him is that he has little memory of the times he dissociates (sometimes he regains the memory at a later date or knows something happened because he experiences it as though it happened to someone else, not to him). I think in the past it has caused him relationship problems and it is sad that since this condition is so subtle, it is hard to diagnose and harder for those of us who live with a multiple to figure it out to begin with. For a long time, I thought I had joined up with a man who had difficulty telling the truth. In fact, I had hooked up with a man who experienced life in a completely different fashion than most. He had to live his life each day, trying to figure out what happened the day before, the week before, month before or year (s) before.

    A gentleman asked earlier if a relationship was possible long term. Well, I haven't and have no plans to go anywhere. We were together for 5 years before I knew there was anything wrong. I have just taken on different roles as needed by my partner when his alters emerge. And I have remained fully supportive of him and grown to understand his "quirks".

    I am pleased that someone as accomplished as Herschel Walker has had the courage to come forward and give this condition another face, vs. the standard Sally Field/Hollywood version of the disorder.

    April 15, 2008 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. maggie

    I was diagnosed in 1994. I have been hiding this from everyone I know because I am afraid of my own diagnosis. I have had many wonderful therapists over the years who have helped me, dealt with my alters, but I tell no one. I am a professional and would not be able to continue working in my field if anyone knew. I am not crazy I am just an adult who survived horrible child abuse. I'll keep the PTSD diagnosis but will never share about my "alters". I am glad that Mr. Walker can come forth with his story. But, he has the money to do so without losing a job. I do hope it does some good because we who
    deal with this every day are ordinary people with very difficult but ordinary lives.

    April 15, 2008 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tom

    Paul
    The woman I have been seeing has this disorder. Because of past trauma our relationship is platonic. It has been a real struggle for me to understand and deal with it. I had to seek counselling myself in order to cope. I can understand why most people would walk away from someone with this disorder but then there is something else that becomes stronger. At least that is how it is for me.
    Good luck and I do wish you the best. Stay strong. Find support for yourself as well.

    Tom

    April 15, 2008 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. HM

    My Grandmother had many personalities. 4 that I know of. One she called Norma Jean, after Marilyn Monroe, who would sleep around quite a bit, and would urge my mother around men to not call her mom. A few of the personalities hated my mother and would abuse her. Another would be what my mom calls "the nice mom", who was completely in love her children and would love them more then anything. Then there was the business and acccounting one. This one was like a math genius who could do business and acounting really well. My mom says that there were many more but she doesn't remember them all. Like some of the other stories, this started with abuse. My grandmother was sexually and physically abused as a child. I think this is a disorder that isn't spoken about much. So it's interesting to hear about what they have learned about it over the years.

    April 15, 2008 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Us

    I am a 34yr mother of 3 and happily married most of the time. and resently been diagnosed with CPTSD-DID. There is a spectrum of DID from daydreaming and playing roles such as mother at home, professional at work etc. to a complete separation of parts. I believe I am moderate to severe and too tired to explain how or why. There is no one absolute DID; the personal expereince is as unique and the trauma experience that started the whole thing. You can say there are simularities and commonality but it is a rainbow of gray. My understanding of the start is a traumatic experience as a child usually before the age of 6 when the child mentally checks out to survive the experience. The dissociation usually manifests itself later in adult hood. I have not yet understood or found explanation for this later unveiling but I do know that for me the protection this dissaccociation provided as a child is no longer helping me but hurting me. I feel as though I have been robed of my life because only a little bit of it has been lived by each part (loss of time). There is also no specific type of trauma experience although there is more DID related to sexual abuse which supports the hugh number of women diagnosed with DID since it is prodominantly females who are sexually abused. It is not necessarily the "what" as it is how one experiences "what".

    April 15, 2008 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sm

    As a psychologist, I am somewhat dismayed at the unbalanced reports that have been part of the new revelation with regard to Herschel Walker. It should be noted that not only is there some degree of controversy with regard to the existence of the disorder itself, but that there is also the question of accuracy with regard to its diagnosis. Many psychologists consider it to be the byproduct of a personality disorder, most prominently Borderline Personality Disorder, which is often seen as a dramatic expression of labile mood, relational problems, self-harm, and unstable sense of self that is also often associated with trauma and includes the criterion of “severe dissociative symptoms” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). I have read some comments on other news sites that mention such a diagnosis must be real and accurate because it is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to determine diagnostic criteria. However, it should be noted that these disorders change with research and societal norms and that Homosexuality used to be considered a disorder in a previous version. Furthermore, the DSM also indicates that some professionals believe that the disorder is frequently overdiagnosed in highly suggestible individuals. Other respondents have expressed praise for his therapist. However, when researching information on the therapist, his degrees are largely in theology and one religious manuscript I read indicated he believes that demonic possession and spiritual issues should be ruled out in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Is this therapist even licensed to provide mental health services? I realize that his website lists his involvement in many projects but I did not notice any mention of licensure. Furthermore, was Walker’s diagnosis verified by any psychological test data or was it derived solely by his self-report, his therapist’s gut feeling, and the determination by his therapist that there is an absence of any demonic possession. I believe there should be more balanced information presented with regard to Dissociative Identity Disorder and whether or not there are possibly other issues at work that may be further influenced by the motivation to sell a book. I am not saying the disorder does not exist at all and will admit that it is possible that Walker is afflicted by a dissociative disorder. However, I believe there should be additional attention paid to the issue rather than perpetuating semi-accurate or one-sided information. I appreciate the efforts by a few respondents on various sites who have included some of this additional information.

    April 15, 2008 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Kate

    I work as a therapist in NYC. In response to Vivian – schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. It is sometimes mistakenly called "split personality" but this is inaccurate. The term schizophrenia actually means "split mind." The mind is unable to differentiate what is real from fantasy. Schizophrenics may have paranoid delusions, or may sound nonsensical when they speak, or may experience hallucinations, i.e. voices speaking to them. Schizophrenia is primarily genetic in origin, though environmental stress does play a role.

    DID is caused by repeated, severe trauma during childhood. The emotions and memories that result from these traumas are overwhelming, and are dissociated from the conscious mind. Over time, this dissociation actually becomes part of the personality structure of the child. This is the brief version – reading _Sybil_ might be really helpful.

    I agree that Hershel Walker is very brave to come forward to speak about his illness.

    April 16, 2008 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Branwyn

    You ask, "Have you seen or heard of anything like this?" My answer is yes.

    I have DID, was diagnosed with it, or rather, MPD, in the early 1970's. Sometime between 1974 and 1976, my parents took me to counseling for a year. I only remember going twice, but according to them, I went for over a year. It was during that time I was diagnosed with MPD.

    My parents did not tell me of my diagnosis, and it wasn't until either 1989 or 90 when I was hospitalized for suicidal tendancies that I was diagnosed again. At that time, the name was still MPD.

    I am very glad to see that Herschel Walker is "coming out", talking about his experiences with DID. It helps to show that those of us with DID can be "functional" members of society. No, that doesn't mean we are necessarily "sane" (by the DSM-IV standpoint of sane), but we aren't all like "Sybil" or "The Three Faces of Eve" either. We can hold jobs, and be responsible members of society.

    As for me, I have a 'normal' life. I am married, stepmother to my husband's child. I am active in a time consuming hobby. I don't have a job now only because I've recently undergone knee surgery and am still in recovery from that. But until the knee surgery, I held a part time job to get me out of the house.

    I also just happen to have 3 alternate personalities besides "me". No big deal. At least, my husband and friends don't seem to mind.

    April 16, 2008 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. m peters

    I am so very proud of Herschel to have made it this far. But I am equally disappointed that Cindy and Herschel are no longer together. I met Herschel and Cindy after a Cowboys game once, and it was the thrill of my life. He was such a kind and accommodating person, and she was equally gracious. I have suffered my own similar issues with mental, although not to the extent of Herschel's challenge, and I know how hard it is to train yourself to put things into perspective. I can honestly say that I am more of an admirer of Walker than before. It takes great courage to let others know of something that is afflicting you that is not tangible to them. I am glad that he has gotten help. I pray that both Cindy and Herschel will continue to find peace in their respective lives. Thank you.

    April 16, 2008 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Donna

    I am sad to hear that Mr. Walker has struggled with the problems of alters, although I understand how adaptive they can also be. I used to be dissociative and like others did not know what was wrong (for sure) until young adulthood. Unlike most of the posters here, I had very little formal therapy; I had some extraordinarily supportive friends and a loving husband. I actually felt more secure in what I did remember because I knew no one had coached me and I had not been hypnotized- the usual charges of the "False Memory" advocates. (yes, false memories can be implanted- but horrific things also do happen, no matter how difficult for outsiders to believe)
    I now work in the mental health field and speak up against stereotypes or misconceptions about MPD/DID when I encounter them. I do not tell most people, though, because of those reactions.
    Final integration happened for me when I did not expect it, and living that way was also a big adjustment. It gets tiring being the same person all the time! I can say it is worth the work of healing, and that I have been able to accomplish things that honestly would not have been possible while still fighting myself.
    Thank you to all those who have had the nerve to step out of the shadows. The best thing about this article and those like it is a new normalization of DID as just another type of disorder rather than a freak show or dramatization and lies.
    Healing from trauma is like grieving; there is no one right way, no set timetable, and does not work better if others rush it. People at this end of the dissociation spectrum deserve to be treated as people while they still have alters, helped to manage intrapersonal conflict better, heal from their trauma and find additional healthy ways of handling life problems. Integration is not the only valid endpoint, but it is worth working toward. You will always be who you truly are.

    April 16, 2008 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. jillo

    If one percent of the population has this difference, then is it a natural variation or is it definitely always caused by outside abuse? Is it a sensitivity or coping mechanism that is "triggered" by abuse?

    The archetypal descriptions of personalities is especially useful and begs the question as to their dramatic origins...

    April 16, 2008 at 05:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Rabbit

    DID is a crippling disorder that can take years and years of intensive therapy to overcome. I was diagnosed with DID 13 years ago and am finally to the point where I can function as an emotionally healthy individual. I spent the first 40 years of my life as a miserable human being and I did not know why. Receiving the correct diagnosis and proper therapy has allowed me to understand what happened to me as a child and how it has affected every aspect of my life since that time.

    Kudos to Herschel for coming forward and for getting treatment.
    ******For Dr. Gupta: Herschel's psychiatrist has the reputation of being rather "far out there" in terms of his treatment methods. I cringed when I read who he was seeing. Has Hershcel considered contacting Dr. Colin Ross, who is considered one of the foremost experts on this disorder? Dr. Ross has a very good treatment program in Dallas at Timberlawn Hospital. I would encourage Herschel to check into this if he is not already firmly committed to Dr. Mungadze. Thank you.*******

    April 16, 2008 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Stacy

    My husband is DID. We have been married for 6 years. Sometimes he admits he has it and sometimes he adamantly denies he has it. Go figure! HA! Well, you learn to laugh about these things – when it’s not absolutely driving you crazy yourself! He has four alters, that I know of, and I’m pretty sure there are more. I haven’t been very patient and understanding about it as I didn’t understand it all. As a spouse, it can make you think you are the one who is crazy. My husband has an alter that is very, I mean very manipulative, so it’s taken a lot of work, on my part, to realize it is not me who needs the help. I have to think through events or happenings to get my head clear as to what really happened. I’m just now really learning about it all and it is helping me to see that it’s not me. He was definitely traumatized as a child. He remembers some things but doesn’t like to talk about it but I’m sure there are more trauma than he remembers and likely much worse than he can remember. He did therapy for a few months and I did see some remarkable integration but he didn’t like the work and the memories. It made him feel drained and he quit going, saying, “It did no good.” He doesn’t know who he is and he states that almost weekly. He detaches so easily and seamlessly when difficult situations arise. I get left holding the responsibility. He says he feels like he is in a movie and that nothing is real. Sometimes he will touch something and look at it, like a wall or desk, and wonder if it’s real or imaginary. I am very sad for him but the subject of DID is currently not up for discussion. I hope he will get help in the near future. No one knows he has this disorder but I know his family would recognize it if they were educated about it. I know that me gaining knowledge and support will be the key to open the door for him.

    By the way, that yahoo support group posted below is an email address not a discussion group. Could someone post the link instead of the email? Thanks!

    April 16, 2008 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rhea

    I am happy Herschel went public with this. It will bring much-needed attention to this devastating disorder. I hope it brings attention as well to the extreme trauma that sets off the disorder in the first place.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. karina

    Abuse. Severe, grotesque and brutal abuse is the hallmark of persons with DID. Remembering is so painful, that compartamentalizing is really the only way a scared little girl can go on.
    Wow. I feel so grateful that a guy like Herschel can share what many of us feel we woul be ridiculed for.
    I am a DID patient, highly functioning, high achieving and a wonderful community citizen. Yet, here I am with memories and memories of things that happened that I am trying to give voice to.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Samantha Nelson

    I was diagnosed with DID several years ago and have over 16 alters. I have found that a lot of people, including the medical field, do not understand or believe in DID. It is so hard for us that do have it to get help when we need it. I commend Mr. Walker for speaking out about DID and what he has gone through. I would like to say a big thank you to Mr. Walker and CNN for talking about this online and on TV. Maybe now more people can and will realize what people like me with DID go through on a daily basis.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. the crew

    Please tell Mr. Walker thank you.

    Sincerely,
    a fellow multiple

    April 16, 2008 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Chris

    Reading the blog post for April 15th reached up and grabbed me. This is what I believe I have, but I remember more
    than Herschel does when he flips personalities. The phrase “the lack of one cohesive personality”is when I knew it. This sucks. To take so long to find out what I had. This doesn’t change my course of medicine, though, because I haven’t felt this good... since at least the age of 7.

    April 16, 2008 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Chris

    I just want to add that I'm on Seroquel and Strattera and it has been an awesome combination for me... the Seroquel in particular.

    April 16, 2008 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. ellen

    i did not like the segment on DID. i do not believe the tv people did their homework on this devestating disorder. multiple personality disorder is a misnomer . . . it has not been called this for years because there are not "multiple people" inside as it is implied. to call the disorder MPD is really only to get the audience attention and to sell books. to say that it is so controversial is also an antiquated view. 80 percent of psych professionals are comfortable with it being legitiment. the government also recognizes it as a disability. it can be a very painful, debilitating disorder. the disorder is also caused by poor parenting. if a child is bullied and he has a loving, comforting parent or caretaker to go home to, he will probably not develop this condition (from what i have read). i feel this show set back the progress of this disorder several years. i do not believe the incident about the gun at ex wife temple. is it any wonder i tell no one about this disorder? are they giong to think i could be violent and put a gun to their head??? are they going to think i am making it up when they see on a show such as this that it is so "controversial?" PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE PUTTING SOMETHING LIKE THIS ON NATIONAL TELEVISION!

    April 16, 2008 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. D. Banegas

    Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins has claimed that he has cured a couple of these people after they spent years in treatment with different therapists. He refers to the treatment as "integrating the personalities." I've never heard anyone challenge his assertion. Maybe Herschel should give him a call.

    April 16, 2008 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. sandy griffis

    I have had mental illness most of my life. It is a struggle. Most of the time ,even from my own doctors, it is treated as if it should be a secret.
    I am going through severe depression now and just hearing that others have the same problems and are willing to discuss them give me hope that one day mental illness will be treated as any other illness; with respect,help, and compassion. Most families have mental illness in their families and yet most deny that it is in their families or with themselves. 2008 and we still want to pretend that it happens to others and not ourselves.

    April 16, 2008 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Kesha Helmic

    For someone who had DID, it was sort of reassuring to my own system to hear about Herschel Walker. Having this disorder is not easy; and the people close to you do not know how to
    deal with it and a lot them do not believe it just like most of the world. I have been diagnosed for about six years; and since I was I can look back at the past with more understanding of what was going on with me. DID is a complicated system and works differently in everyone. There can be memory loss when other personalities have "taken over", sometimes it can be like watching your life through a window and not being able to control what is going on, some people are able to function in public, and (like me) some people are not. There are a lot of other aspects to this disorder. And it is hard to see it portrayed on television shows in very inaccurate ways. Hopefully this story will bring the disorder to the forefront and help people understand the DID is very real and that those of us who have it are not fakers or freaks.

    April 16, 2008 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. waselm

    I have come to believe that DID is not a devestating disorder as some have described it here. Rather, DID is a highly intelligent, highly creative survival mechanism. Without the development of alter personalities, those of us with DID would not have survived our (horrific) childhood.

    Splitting off into multiple personalities is a child's way of dealing with devastating situations the child's brain cannot (and is not yet developmentally equipped to) deal with.

    If the general population could view DID from this vantage point, it would not be nearly as scary, mind boggling, confusing, or bizarre. It is a coping mechanism meant to protect the child from the horror they faced.

    The problem comes when the child grows into an adult, and the personalities no longer need to function in the manner they did previously. Unfortunately, the personalities don't know they don't need to perform their previous functions, and so they continue in the roles they've become accustomed to.

    As an example: Where a threat to a child's body, say through a physical beating, might trigger a particular personality to come out to take the beating and then shield the child from the experience, now, in adulthood, a person of similar stature to the abuser, who may approach the adult in a *seemingly* threatening manner (but does not actually pose a threat to the adult) will trigger the same personality to come out in order to defend against the threat. The alter cannot tell the difference between a real threat and one that just resembles a prior threat – that personality simply fulfills its role as it has always done.

    Unfortunately, because of the automatic switching and the lack of knowledge on the part of the adult that the switching is occuring, the adult has no control.

    And so a normally docile person can appear to be an extremely defensive person – disproportunate to the situation at hand – which leads to those on the outside viewing their behavior as bizarre or confusing.

    But once you, as the person with DID, understand what is happening, and why it is happening, it begins to make sense. At that point you can begin to gain some control over what is happening.

    It is true that in the process of becoming aware of the alters you will become conscious of the many horrors you survived. That is the painful, devastating part of having DID. But with support and understanding, you WILL get through it.

    I was diagnosed in my early 20s and came to know and understand over 30 personalities within me and the many horrors they experienced. I didn't consciously work toward integration, but as some of the alters told their stories, and had been heard and loved despite their experiences, they absorbed into me.

    After about 10 years, I spontaneously integrated most of the remaining alters through guided imagery. Out of any experience, I would have to say integration was the most devastating for me. As someone else here said, it is far more difficult living as one than it was living as many. What I found most difficult to get used to was having to stay present during difficult situations, and living without all the noise. I had no idea "normal" people don't live with constant noise in their heads. The silence is deafening.

    I believe, as someone else here talked about, that the medical aspects of DID are important to speak to. Prior to integration, I was found to have 2 different blood types. I have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition and not, depending on the alter present. I have Mitral Valve Prolapse, and I don't. One of my alters had an 8" scar on her leg, none of the others did. Their eye color would change. They have completely different facial and body structures.

    I too, as someone else talked about here, had alters of vastly different age ranges, different races, and different genders. I had a couple of alters who spoke different languages even though I only speak English.

    I have always been highly functioning, thanks to my alters. They got me through school, college and graduate school with high honors. I'm not sure I could have done it without them.

    I now live with an incredibly supportive, loving and understanding partner. Is it easy living with me (a stubborn, independent, highly opinionated woman) plus a 3yo and a fiercely protective older alter? No, I can't imagine it is. But as others have said, it can be quite comical, entertaining, and definitely not mundane. My partner learned very quickly how to talk to a 3yo – and given she was entering a relationship with me having a young child, having no experience with children prior to our relationship, the 3yo was an excellent teacher. As I had no memory of her encounters with the 3yo, my partner's understanding and learning came through not only talking to the 3yo, but then processing the conversations with me. It was an interesting process – me learning more about my 3yo alter, trying to figure out what her communications were about, and then trying to interpret them and explain them to my partner. It really was a very enlightening time for me.

    I would caution anyone looking for a therapist – either as a person with DID or as the SO of a person with DID – to avoid professionals who are less than 100% supportive (see an example above). If you run into a mental health professional who has even an incling of doubt, run in the other direction. It's hard enough to deal / live with DID, let alone having to justify yourself to someone who is supposed to be supportive – who gets PAID to be supportive.

    I would like to thank Mr. Walker for having the courage to come forward with his story. While I disagree with the emphasis on the violent parts of his personality, I hold no illusions that we "common" people could bring even a fraction of the validity to this disorder as Mr. Walker can / has.

    Let me say one final thing about violent personalities – they are completely normal. As children, we had to have fierce protectors in order to survive. They would go to any and all lengths to protect us.

    But think about the means a child has to protect themselves – they can't go and kill someone, even though that might have been an instinctive self-defense technique ... they don't have the means or the strength or the intellect to do such a thing. As adults, we *do* have that capacity, and thus the personalities who were the protectors do too. I believe that the vast majority of us who do have those violent protectors, also have enough non-violent protectors to counteract and talk the violent ones out of taking action. That certainly sounds like it was the case with Mr. Walker.

    April 16, 2008 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Skylark

    To jillo,

    Yes, DID is a natural capacity all individuals possess. It's a natural coping mechanism. Everyone who has experienced a powerful emotionally or physically stressful situations probably remembers a feeling of "distance" fromthe event at some time. When such stress is prolonged and/or very extreme that distancing can become extreme as in PTSD and in the case of children can become a permanent coping mechanism.

    As my therapists describes it (I am DID with half a dozen parts), DID is "a sane response to an insane situation."

    April 16, 2008 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. baloney

    Dr. Gupta,
    Not only did you not no anything about multiple personality before, you still don't. Saying its now DID, like that makes a difference, is like saying Bi-Polar is not Manic-Depressive. Its just a name change to try to rationalize the condition like naming a brutal procedure a "cure" for mental illness and calling it the "trans-orbital" lobotomy. I can't go into all the details about this and many psychiatric conditions i have researched because i have a book almost finished about DID/Multiple Personality and a lot more. Doctors bled people as a cure for a variety of conditions including "mental illness" for over 2,000 years well into the 19th century. Psychiatry is still in the stone age. Looking for a publisher now.–had to make a couple of grammatical corrections as i wrote this comment so fast.. what would your explanation be. multiple personality.

    April 17, 2008 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Beth

    I also have this disorder, and let me tell you it is no picnic. I have been in therapy for many many years and now have a good Christian therapist who has learned bunches about the disorder. I have 33 alters and some not yet met ( this comes from the other personalities telling this ). The process to having DID is a tramatic one, most often physical, mental, spiritual, and most times sexual abuse. As a child I did not know I had this, even though I was accused many times by my parents of being a liar, not paying attention, being crazy and so on. My grades in school jumped around like crazy depending on which alter was in school that day or on test day. It was confusing to my teachers who noted the changes in me but had no idea what the problem was. I was sent to therapists for being "different ", and had alters who were abusive to my pets and actually set fire to the house when I was in grade school. My life was filled with abuse most could not even imagine, yet alone live through. I thank God everyday now for the DID because I know that that is what saved me from spending my life in a mental institution. My alters come out when needed and I have no control over that. Stress, even good stress can cause switching. Some alters are easy to recognize, some arent. I have been very fortunate that my husband has stuck it out with me. I have never had many friends and still don't. I have a couple of close friends, one knows the other wonders. I applaude Mr Walker for coming out with this diagnosis, because he will be open to much verbal abuse from people who don't believe this. It is not for us to judge whether he is really " multiple " or not. DID people just need support, not many therapists around. People like Rosanne Barr who claim to have this and then recant later hurt the ones that really do suffer from this and who come forward. Why can't society just come to grips with this ?? Because of movies, that's why. They display most DID people as crazy acting, and yes, sometimes I am crazy acting, but I have also held down a job for 11 years ( could not do that before ) have raised two children who grew up with my alters, and now have 3 grandkids I help with. DID people are not always out of touch. Some are, some arent'. I just want people to understand that true DID people have been through a horrible life, and only need to be supported through the intergration process, and treatment process, not made fun of or avoided. True friends are very hard for a DID to find, because you can hide this disorder to an extent, but close friends will notice something, just not know what it is. Thank you for letting me vent, and to Mr Walker, God bless you for coming out in the open. I only wish I had the nerve to do that. We are not freaks, we are people who have alot to offer society. I like to refer to it as Multiple Personality Gift because that is what it is, a gift. God Bless all who are healing from this and the ones who do not yet know what is wrong with them. Get good counseling, and be very careful in that area also, ask around, you will get good names of Dr's who believe you and can treat you.

    April 17, 2008 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Christy

    If only there was a way to protect all children from severe abuse so that this disorder never developed. While it's encouraging to know that awareness (and hopefully acceptance) of DID is growing, it is so sad to think of what caused it in thefirst place.

    April 17, 2008 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Marianne Miller

    I am glad to see a high profile person like Herschel Walker come forward to talk about his struggle with DID. I am 50 years old and have just this past year been diagnosed with this disorder. I like to think of it more as a survival technique.

    Naysayers would like to invalidate the existence of this disorder. I will tell you that there are some of us who have suffered so tremendously in our childhoods that we had to reorder reality in a way that could keep us alive. The torture and abuse of all kinds that I received are unimaginable to most of society, so horrible that even my own undeveloped brain could not make room for it all. Hence, the dividing off of parts of myself from other parts of myself.

    I agree with one writer who said that she is not violent. That is descriptive of me as well. I have anger, yes, but I have somehow been able to keep from inflicting harm on others as it was inflicted on me. I have learned that very few people who have DID are violent, in fact, and that is a point which needs to be made loud and clear because of the inaccuracies that abound.

    Awareness can help everybody. I hope as the conversation regarding this disorder continues, a more full-bodied understanding can develop that will help us all to move forward so that more victims can be integrated, both with themselves and with the whole of society.

    Loneliness is the heaviest burden that a person with DID carries.

    April 17, 2008 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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