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Eileen Davidson's character, Ashley Abbott, has dissociative identity disorder (DID), and viewers are about to see a lot more of her multiple personalities.Sonja Flemming / CBS via Getty Images

‘Young and the Restless’ star Eileen Davidson says her character’s new storyline is ‘almost like an exorcism’

The Abbott family stages an intervention for Ashley this week on the daytime soap opera.

/ Source: TODAY

Viewers of "The Young and the Restless" will see a different side — or rather, different sides — of Ashley Abbott this week when her family stages an intervention to address her escalating mental health challenges.

"It’s almost like an exorcism because as they’re peeling back the layers, trying to find out what’s going on, it’s like she’s reacting to that, almost like she’s having water thrown on an evil spirit," Eileen Davidson, who first appeared as Ashley on the hit daytime drama in 1982, tells

Over the last few months, Ashley has struggled to come to terms with the end of her marriage to Tucker McCall (played by Trevor St. John) and has experienced memory lapses, mood changes and erratic behavior. Through it all, she has been disturbed by the unwelcome voices in her head.

In recent weeks, the Abbotts have noticed that Ashley isn't acting like herself, almost as though she has multiple personalities. And their instincts are correct. Ashley has a condition called dissociative identity disorder (DID), which the Cleveland Clinic defines as having "two or more separate personalities that control your behavior at different times."

Eileen Davidson.
Eileen Davidson is enjoying Ashley's current storyline.Courtesy John Paschal / JPI Studios

After Ashley fails to return home one night and says that she doesn't remember where she was, her sister Traci (Beth Maitland) urges her to seek professional help. One of Ashley's multiple personalities, aka her alters, isn't so keen on the idea.

When the Abbotts stage an intervention for Ashley, her alters are feeling particularly defensive.

“(One of them is) really striking hard and she’s mean. She goes for the jugular and starts bringing up how (Ashley's siblings are) saying these things about her because they’re jealous of her and how they’re bitter because she was their father’s favorite. She really gets down and dirty. It’s going to be stuff that the audience has never seen,” Davidson, who has also previously appeared as Ashley on "The Bold and the Beautiful," explains.

Abbott Family: Jason Thompson, Kelsey Wang, Beth Maitland, Peter Bergman, Eileen Davidson, Melissa Ordway and Michael Mealor from the CBS original daytime series "The Young and the Restless."
The Abbott Family on "The Young and the Restless."Sonja Flemming / CBS

Switching back and forth between her character’s multiple personalities has been “a lot of fun” for Davidson, who says each of her alters are “very different.”

“Ms. Abbott, the first one we’ve met, she’s kind of a ball-breaker, like a femme fatale. But you see her kind of metamorphose into somebody who’s scary,” she says of one of her alters.

The next alter is “younger and more innocent,” and the third one is “very flirtatious, very over-sexualized,” per Davidson.

What caused Ashley's DID?

It’s not fully clear what triggered Ashley’s DID — “It’s a mystery for me, too,” Davidson says — but the storyline has certainly had many twists and turns. For instance, an argument between Ashley and Tucker turned into a he said, she said scenario that left Ashley (and her family) questioning her sanity.

A few months ago, Ashley got into a minor car accident, which caused her to have flashbacks of a prior, fatal accident that took the life of her unborn child.

"I assumed it was the fight and I assumed it was the car accident, but I think there’s something greater. I think something more traumatic was the trigger," Davidson says. "She was already vulnerable because of what happened with Tucker, and she’s always been really, really, really lousy in relationships. It's her Achilles."

Entertaining while educating

This isn’t the first time Ashley has struggled with her mental health on the show, and Davidson says she feels blessed to have the opportunity to educate people while entertaining them.

“I grew up thinking, you know, when you saw 'The Three Faces of Eve' or 'Sybil' or whatever, that it was just kind of very unusual. But it’s really not as unusual as people think,” she says.

The actor once played multiple characters on "Days of Our Lives," but this is the first time she's played a character with multiple personalities and she's enjoying the challenge.

“I love playing fallible characters. It’s fun to play somebody who’s got issues and she’s wounded and she’s got trauma and she looks like her life is perfect on the outside, but it’s just not,” she explains.

Eileen Davidson
Eileen Davidson says she's "living the dream" with her character's current storyline.Courtesy John Paschal / JPI Studios

Davidson knows firsthand that on-screen storylines can have a tangible impact on viewers. In fact, when Ashley was diagnosed with breast cancer on the show in 2002, Davidson later heard from many fans who were inspired to take their health more seriously after tuning in to the series.

"I started getting letters from women all over the world saying the storyline saved their life because (Ashley) had breast cancer, and they got a mammogram because of it," she recalls.

As Ashley's DID storyline continues to evolve, Davidson hopes that it has a similar effect on viewers.

"The fact that we’re showing this (could make) people more open to going to therapy or having it be a topic of conversation. However, it’s brought up, I think transparency is everything, and if I can be a tiny, tiny piece of that while entertaining, it's a gift," she says.

What's next for Ashley?

Now that viewers have a name for Ashley's condition, the intervention will no doubt set off a series of intriguing events.

“It’s going to get more and more interesting, and there’s a lot going on. We enter Ashley’s psyche, and the way that Josh (Griffith, executive producer and head writer) and the art department created her psyche, I think it’s going to be extremely interesting for people,” Davidson says.

Only time will tell how long Ashley struggles with DID and what's next for her, but Davidson is in no rush to hurry up the storyline.

"I’m just kind of living the dream right now with this character," she says.