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What makes a person a legitimate multiple is the creation of the alter personalities who have their own distinct characteristics. An alter can be male, female or even an object as well, but no matter what that alter is, there is a reason, a purpose and a function that he/she or even it was created for.
Each alter personality has their own unique handwriting! Some may need glasses, and even different prescriptions from one another where others may have 20/20 vision. There may be an alter personality or two with eating disorders, and the food preferences are just as unique amongst the rest.
The alter personalities have their own likes and dislikes and each acts and talks age appropriately (The age that they are on the "inside"). Some can paint, while some can sew and some can write beautiful poetry or stories, there may even be a decorator and even an architect. They even make the body feel the same size as they are on the inside.
The original person (the one who was born) is usually not present during the abuse in childhood, she/he will usually dissociate from traumatic experiences. This is usually the person who creates the first alter personality to experience the abuse while she/he (the original person) dissociates and becomes amnesiac to the event; and the alter personalities as well.
Therefore while this created alter personality is present and aware of the abuse; time stands still for the original person causing her/him to "lose time." I might add also that because this is an automatic defense mechanism used to protect the body and mind in childhood, that new alter personalities can even be created in adult hood to experience adult trauma or even just to perform functions that the younger alter personalities are not capable of.
After a traumatic episode comes to an end the original person may or may not associate herself/himself back to the conscious mind but may (and probably will) stay amnesiac to the trauma or episode that had just occurred. If the trauma continues and the traumatized alter personality cannot take any more abuse, then another alter personality is created and the latest alter personality will retire or just not be present anymore; and may not even appear again until years later, at which time she/he may still be back in the past and does not even know that the body has grown up.
One or more of these alter personalities will become host personalities, who are the alters who "stay out" the majority of the time to take care of every day tasks that other alters are not able to do because they have faced too much trauma or other reasons. When the body is faced with more traumatic episodes then the host will usually "go inside" to protect themselves from being tarnished with any negative memories. This procedure of going in and out of the sub-conscious mind causes the host to even lose time.
Usually the "original person" (The one who was born to the body) is extremely confused because she/he is the one that all of the other alter personalities are protecting. In fact in some cases the original person will simply die off and the mind is left with the surviving alter personalities who appear to function quite well in society whether the original is dead or not. These alter personalities usually remain the same age as when they experienced their abuse, which explains the reason for so many different ages of alter personalities.