Chapter 10: Dissociative Disorders

1977 Sybil's Personalities


Dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is one of the most perplexing of all mental disorders. A resurgence of interest in multiple personalities occurred gradually over the middle of the 20th century, likely stimulated by the dramatic cases described in books and movies, such as Three Faces of Eve (Thigpen & Cleckley, 1957), Sybil (Schreiber, 1973), and The Minds of Billy Milligan (Keyes, 1981). Sybil, long considered the classic case study of DID as a 1973 book and 1976 movie, was about a young woman who allegedly had 16 different personalities, with a significant history of child abuse at the hands of her mother. In each of these accounts, stories of childhood trauma—often in the form of horrific child abuse—played a central role in the author’s explanation of why multiple personalities subsequently emerged. However, this diagnosis remains controversial today. Even in Sybil, questions regarding the story’s accuracy, billed as a true account, have surfaced. In a 2011 book, Sybil Exposed, author Debbie Nathan argues that most of the story is based on a lie. This video showcases Sally Field’s acting ability as she portrays a variety of Sybil’s personalities or alters. Run Time: 14:45