Culture Feature

Don't Listen to Trisha Paytas' Nonsense: What to Watch Instead

Known for her outstandingly ignorant comment on trans issues and mindless content, the 31-year-old has received a backlash for her new claims to have DID.

YouTube personality Trisha Paytas has ignited new controversy with her new self-diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Known for her outstandingly ignorant comments on transgender issues and mindless content like "making out with my couch," the 31-year-old has received a backlash for her new claims to have DID. Her recent video, "MEET MY ALTERS | Dissociative Identity Disorder," has been viewed 851,000 times as of this writing, and her following video, "My Alters SWITCH (Caught on Camera) LIVE FOOTAGE!" received 275,000 views within the first 14 hours. While it is no one's place, other than her doctor's, to judge whether or not Paytas has the disorder, she admits that she has never been diagnosed by a professional. The influencer then goes on to spread alarmingly incorrect–and outright dangerous–information about DID.

Formerly known as "multiple personality disorder" (a generally inaccurate term that has not been used by mental health professionals for decades), DID is a complex disorder that's often been misrepresented in the media. As Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Robert Muller writes, DID is very real: "DID is formally recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-V. The patient must show at least two identities/personalities, also known as alters which routinely take control of the individual's behavior along with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness."

But too often, mental illnesses have been used as dramatic plot devices with little regard for scientific accuracy or their stigmatizing effects on society, from the best-selling book and '70s TV miniseries Sybil to the 2017 superhero movie Split. In reality, Sybil was based on a sensationalized story that was later revealed to be fabricated, while Split is a damaging representation of DID that implies "alters" (the "altered states of consciousness" that manifest with DID) can be homicidally dangerous and criminally insane. In truth, people with DID are no more likely to be violent than any one else; in fact, they are more likely to become the victim of a crime due the brain's responses to trauma.

In the last decade, representations of DID in the media have become especially common. From 2009 to 2011, Showtime's United States of Tara starred Toni Collette as an average suburban mother who struggles to accept and cope with her disorder while raising a family. The award-winning 2010 film Frankie and Alice stars Halle Berry as an exotic dancer who discovers she's developed, among others, an alter of a racist young woman named Alice. Both Collette and Berry were nominated for a Golden Globe for their performances. However, individuals diagnosed with DID had mixed views, pointing out inaccuracies and general dramatizations of the disorder and denouncing press coverage that negatively described individuals with DID as "deranged" and "damaged." Conversely, FX's Mr. Robot has been generally praised for its accurate depictions of dissociative states. Rami Malek plays a troubled young man whose past trauma has induced retrograde amnesia, causing him to hallucinate fantastical clues about his past. In an anonymous essay titled "I Am Mr. Robot," a writer with DID commended the show's "fantastic job of theatrically reproducing the experience of navigating interactions with dissociative 'parts.'"

It's because of that history of misrepresentation and stigmatization of mental disorders that Trisha Paytas isn't just another clickbait YouTuber desperate for attention; she's dangerous. Her recent videos claiming that she has DID and spreading misinformation about the disorder have been widely debunked, both on

YouTube and by mental health professionals. Among her factual errors, she referred to the condition as "multiple personality disorder" and inaccurately defined what an "alter" is. As an individual with nearly 5 million You Tube followers, using that platform to describe a mental disorder as "crazy" while spreading misinformation only further stigmatizes that disorder and undercuts all activism that works to destigmatize all mental health issues.


So rather than giving her more revenue for clicks (and rather than contributing to the outrage or calling to "cancel" her), why not walk away from the mayhem and tune in to one the following sources about DID:

1. Anthony Padilla

Padilla's trending video is what prompted Paytas' announcement that she had DID. However, unlike Paytas, Padilla uses his platform to speak to individuals diagnosed with DID and highlighting their voice to describe their own experiences.

Highlights include:

  • The first recorded case of DID was in 1791.
  • An estimated 1 - 3% of the world population has DID (which is the same percentage of people who have red hair).

I spent a day with MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES (Dissociative Identity Disorder) youtu.be

2. The Many Sides of Jane (Hulu)

A&E's docuseries follows Jane Hart, a single mother of two boys, who was recently diagnosed with DID.

Highlights include:

  • Different "alters" develop in order to fulfill specific needs
  • DID develops as the result of sustained and repeated childhood trauma (Trigger Warning for Childhood Abuse and Vague Descriptions of Sexual Assault).

Many Sides of Jane | Premieres January 22nd at 10/9c | A&E youtu.be

3. Multiplicity and Me (YouTube)

As a prominent voice within the active DID community on YouTube, a young woman named Jess uses 360 video technology, scripted monologues of real conversations between her actual alters, and actors to create a visual depiction of what life with DID is like.

Highlights include:

  • Alters work together to manage daily life and process trauma from the past.
  • Different alters hold different memories from the past.

Dissociative Identity SIMULATION | 360° video! youtu.be

4. DissociaDID (YouTube)

As one of the individuals featured in Anthony Padilla's video, "I spent a day with MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES," DissociaDID was criticized by name in Trisha Paytas' video. The channel is run by a young English woman named Nin (formerly called Chloe), who posted her reaction to Paytas and debunked the misinformation and factual errors in the video. The entire channel is dedicated to destigmatizing DID, as well as other related mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.

Highlights include:

  • There is no one "original" personality. All alters are parts of one whole
  • "Alters" are whole personalities–whole people–by themselves.

Meet SIX Alters! THE GIRLS OF DISSOCIADID | Meet The Alters | Dissociative Identity Disorder youtu.be

Music Lists

Slept On: New Releases from UnoTheActivist, SahBabii, and More

SahBabii, UnoTheActivist and more make up this weeks under appreciated releases

Juice WRLD's posthumous release, Legends Never Die, has already sold over 400,000 copies, putting it in the running for the biggest release of 2020.

Meanwhile, Summer Walker confidently returns with a sleek new E.P., Kid Cudi and Marshall Mathers unite for the first time, James Blake quietly dropped a shadowy new track, and H.E.R. added a splash of reggae flavor to her new track "Do To Me." While it was a big week for the mainstream, it was equally as massive for the underground. Upcoming mumble emcee SahBabii's released an infectious collection of wavy, levitative hip-hop, and the iconic Fresh Veggies duo of Casey Veggies and Rockie Fresh return for their second outing. Check out the latest underground releases below.

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Music Lists

In “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway Shows Us Love Can’t Fix Bipolar Disorder

The show, based on Terri Cheney's column of the same title, provides a uniquely nuanced depiction of mental illness—and highlights the gaps that still exist in the ways we tell stories about it.

On the episode of Modern Love called "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am," Anne Hathaway's character Lexi spends half her time in bed.

She spends the other half of her life gallivanting around New York City, wearing sparkles and styling herself after famous actresses, asking out men in grocery stores and making up for the time and the lovers she lost while she was catatonically depressed.

zeleb.es

At best, the episode is a uniquely nuanced depiction of real mental illness, emphasizing the fact that Hathaway's illness may not be easily curable, refusing the temptation to glamorize her symptoms or suffocate her with pity and pessimism. At worst, it still falls into some old traps and perhaps could've done a better job of explaining the specifics of Lexi's diagnosis and the actuality of what bipolar is and is not.

Like all the episodes of Amazon Prime's new series Modern Love, it's based on a real-life story published in The New York Times' column of the same name. Hathaway's character is based on an essay by a woman named Terri Cheney, who specifies in the first paragraph that she suffers from what she refers to as "ultrararidian rapid cycling."

There are many different forms of bipolar disorder, far more than the typical binary of Bipolar I and II imply. Bipolar I, the best-known type, involves periods of severe mania and severe depression, whereas with Bipolar II, the manic episodes are usually slightly less severe, though periods of depression can be extremely intense. With both of these types, lengths and symptoms of manic and depressive episodes can vary, though most people experience one or two cycles per year, with episodes lasting around 13 weeks, according to a 2010 study. Episodes can be triggered by events such as seasonal changes, trauma, or grief, but they can also happen naturally due to to the vicissitudes of brain chemistry and daily life. Sometimes symptoms of mania and depression can co-occur, and this is referred to as a mixed episode.

There are many other variants of bipolar disorder, including cyclothymic disorder, which describes brief periods of mania and depression that are slightly less severe than full-on Bipolar I or II. Then there's the kind of extremely rapid switching that Hathaway's character experienced. Affecting 10-15% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, rapid cycling is officially diagnosed when someone experiences four or more cycles in one year. Ultra-rapid cycling is when a person cycles through episodes in one month or less, and the sort that Cheney and Lexi have is called ultra-ultra-rapid cycling or ultradian cycling, which means that cycles can occur within a 24-hour period.

As with most mental illnesses, every person's diagnosis is different. For Cheney, ultradian cycling means that she'd often spend days or weeks in bed, only to awaken suddenly to the sound of birdsong and a feeling of euphoria. Like her TV adaption, Cheney tells us that she tried dozens of treatments, including dangerous electroshock therapy, while keeping her illness secret from friends and family and making up for her down periods by exceeding expectations when she was up. She was able to pull together a life, but all this didn't make dating easy. "When dating me, you might go to bed with Madame Bovary and wake up with Hester Prynne," she wrote in her Times column.

Refreshingly, neither Cheney's essay nor the TV adaption equates the right treatment or the perfect person with a cure and a happy ending. Instead, after following their protagonist through a failed relationship that began during a manic episode and quickly tanked when her mood turned, the essay and show end with a bit of realistic hope. "I've finally accepted that there is no cure for the chemical imbalance in my brain, any more than there is a cure for love," Cheney writes, lines that Hathaway repeats in the episode's conclusion. "But there's a little yellow pill I'm very fond of, and a pale blue one, and some pretty pink capsules, and a handful of other colors that have turned my life around."

MODERN LOVE Extended Trailer (NEW 2019) Anne Hathaway, Love Comedy Series www.youtube.com

Battling the Stigma Onscreen: Violence, Love, and Bipolar Representation

While illnesses like depression and anxiety have become more socially acceptable and widely understood (although too often they're still not viewed as valid illnesses, instead treated like something that can be willfully overcome with a little yoga), bipolar and other personality disorders are still heavily stigmatized and misunderstood.

For example, people who suffer from personality disorders are far too frequently blamed for things like mass shootings, when actually only 3-5% of violent crimes are perpetrated by people with mental illnesses (and 97% of mass shooters are white males with histories of misogyny and domestic violence).

In reality, bipolar disorder has absolutely nothing to do with violence. It's also completely untrue that people with bipolar are unable to have relationships. Everyone is different, and people with bipolar disorder are just as capable (or incapable) of loving and being loved as anybody else.

While Hathaway/Cheney's illness appears to be unusually unpredictable, many people with mental illnesses can and do thrive in relationships. While unstable relationships can have particularly negative and triggering effects on people who suffer from mental illnesses, stable relationships of any kind can be incredibly beneficial. And while no one should use their mental illness as an excuse to use others as therapists or sole support systems, supportive friends, partners, and family members can be vital in terms of providing the kind of acceptance and structure that people with mental illness may have trouble giving themselves.

Still, it's a blessing that "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am" doesn't over-glamorize the effects or importance of relationships. Anne Hathaway's Lexi finds relief in confessing to a coworker about her illness, but there is no implication that the coworker will be able to heal her or support her in any way. Confession and interpersonal love are perhaps over-emphasized in some forms of modern mental health discourse, but premature or forced confessions can have negative consequences, and confession by no means make up for actual treatment, large systemic changes, or genuine external and acceptance. Sometimes, acceptance means accepting the reality of illness and treatment in all their ugly and unpalatable forms, a reality that is too often forgotten in exchange for the more palatable narrative that tells us that love can heal all wounds.

The Future of Bipolar on TV: Hopefully More Diverse, and Created by People Who Really Suffer from Mental Illness

For her part, Terri Cheney, a prolific writer who has written several memoirs about her experience with mental illness, is apparently very satisfied with Hathaway's nuanced portrayal. "When you think of the illness in terms of a familiar face, it's less frightening and easier to understand," she told Glamour. "That's why having someone as famous as Anne portray a woman with bipolar disorder is so terrific: It's an antidote to shame."

As in her essay, Cheney is quick to emphasize the fact that sometimes there is no cure to mental illness; it's not like you can just confess that you have it and expunge it from your brain chemistry. "After a lifetime of living with a mental illness, I've discovered that the most helpful thing someone can say to me when I'm suffering is, 'Tell me where it hurts,'" she added. "I don't want advice. I don't want to be cheered up. I just want to be listened to and truly heard."

Terri Cheney

Hathaway also seems to understand the importance of her role. "I have people in my life who I love so deeply who have received various mental health diagnoses, and that's not the whole story of who they are," she said. "But in many cases, because of an intolerant society, that's the space of fear they're kept in."

As there's more mental illness representation on TV, hopefully we'll see more nuanced portrayals of people with mental illness. Many Hollywood shows and movies have heavily exaggerated the symptoms of bipolar disorder, giving characters who suffer from the disorder violent narratives or dramatic breakdowns (Empire, Silver Linings Playbook), painting them as anti-medication (Law and Order: SVU) and using episodes as plot devices (Homeland), despite gaining praise for featuring characters who suffer from it.

Perhaps in the future, shows will also begin discussing the disorder in more precise terms and becoming as open and explicit about treatments, medication, therapy, and the messy vicissitudes of daily life as they are with dramatizing mental breakdowns and choreographing manic episodes.

Maybe they could also try to focus on people of different race and class backgrounds, as mental illness is frequently whitewashed, though it cannot be separated from things like race and class, and certainly not everyone with bipolar has a swanky entertainment law job or lives in an apartment like Anne Hathaway's utterly absurd one. Perhaps Modern Love itself shouldn't be expected to get real about mental illness, for even this episode does feel lost in the show's saccharine, wealth-buoyed rom-com vibe, caught up in the "permanent delusion that New York makes people fall into a special kind of love, unattainable anyplace else (unless on a brief trip abroad)," as The Washington Post writes, a delusion that anyone who actually lives in New York knows is utterly untrue (but that always makes for a hit TV show).

Still, when all is said and done, there will never be a singular or perfect depiction of bipolar disorder, and a depiction of mental illness on a show like this one will certainly expose lots of people to a sympathetic narrative they otherwise might not have encountered.

Like all illnesses, bipolar disorder is an ongoing process that affects everyone in a completely unique way, and there is no quick fix for it. But with medication and support, it's something that's possible to live and thrive with—and yes, to love with.

Though Lexi never finds true love, she finds something else. She finds self-acceptance, openness, a growth mindset, and the belief that she isn't in need of fixing. And in this life, perhaps that's the best kind of fairy-tale ending we can ask for.