How three women fabricated the most famous case of multiple personality disorder and damaged thousands of lives

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    Oct 17, 2011 7:31 PM GMT
    http://www.salon.com/2011/10/16/sybil_exposed_memory_lies_and_therapy/

    Debbie Nathan’s “Sybil Exposed” is about psychiatric fads, outrageous therapeutic malpractice, thwarted ambition run amok, and several other subjects, but above all, it is a book about a book. Specifically, that book is “Sybil,” purportedly the true story of a woman with 16 personalities. First published in 1973, “Sybil” remains in print after selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. alone.

    A work of high Midwestern gothic trash, “Sybil” might have been purpose-built to enthrall 14-year-old girls of morbid temperament (which is probably the majority of 14-year-old girls, come to think of it). I would not be surprised to learn that it is circulated as avidly on middle-school playgrounds today as it was in my own youth. My sisters, my friends and I all devoured it, discussing its heroine’s baroque sufferings in shocked whispers before promptly forgetting all about it until the TV movie starring Sally Field came along.

    That should have been the end of “Sybil,” another flash-in-the-pan “true life” paperback shocker that people sorta believe but mostly not — rather like “The Amityville Horror.” Instead, the book, written by journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber, became the catalyst for a psychotherapeutic movement that ruined many lives, beginning with the woman whose story it claims to tell.

    Nathan, a reporter who was the first to challenge the nationwide panic over the “ritual sex abuse” of children in the 1980s, was already familiar with the damage caused by the enormous upsurge in diagnoses of multiple personality disorder linked to the same scare. In “Sybil Exposed” she has painstakingly pieced together the most comprehensive account yet of the case that did so much to promote that diagnosis — that of Shirley Ardell Mason, the woman on whom the character Sybil was based. Mason; her psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur; and Schreiber were the three principals in an enterprise they called Sybil Inc., founded on a precarious yet strangely long-lived melange of fabrications, exaggerations and downright lies.

    “Sybil Exposed” utilizes a cache of Schreiber’s papers archived at a New York City law school, letters collected from a far-flung variety of sources, and even some interviews with (now very aged) friends and relatives of the three women. Mason grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist family in small-town Minnesota during the 1920s and ’30s, a painfully thin child whose religion made her a misfit at school and whose imaginative, artistic yearnings were regarded as sinful by her church. She suffered from phobias and other neurotic complaints, but also from a constellation of physical and sensory symptoms that Nathan believes can be attributed to a lifelong and largely untreated case of pernicious anemia. Those symptoms — tingling in the limbs, spatial disorientation and confusion among them — were, as was often the case at the time, blamed on psychiatric problems.
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    Oct 17, 2011 10:30 PM GMT
    Funny they say "amok"... thats a mental condition in South East Asia
  • DCEric

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    Oct 18, 2011 2:03 AM GMT
    Wow... I remember seeing the movie in a high school psych class. Of course that was more than a decade ago.
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    Oct 18, 2011 2:28 AM GMT
    Manufactured "disorders."
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    Oct 18, 2011 2:29 AM GMT
    DCEric saidWow... I remember seeing the movie in a high school psych class. Of course that was more than a decade ago.


    Well, rest assured. Your pysch teacher still believes Sybil was a true story.
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    Oct 18, 2011 2:39 AM GMT
    Shit_is_Fucked_Up_and_BS saidJust reinforces the "don't believe what you read" ideal that I have had at least since my 20's. Although, you have to agree that Sybil was great entertainment. I still think Ken Lay didn't die of a heart attack and is in the witness protection program LOL...



    When I read "dont beleive what you read"... I just READ it.... should I not believe it? So I should beleive what I read... but it is telling me NOT to believe it... but if I dont... then... it means....

    :confused: .... at least I am pretty....
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:01 AM GMT
    JackNWNJ said
    DCEric saidWow... I remember seeing the movie in a high school psych class. Of course that was more than a decade ago.


    Well, rest assured. Your pysch teacher still believes Sybil was a true story.


    You are such a tool.... with your big assumptions and talking like you've got a clue about such things when you really do not.

    There's huge debate about the existence of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) (What was once known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

    Not all people believe in it, and there is compelling evidence either way.

    There are over 220 full text scholarly articles that come up in a search for it....

    I wonder how many of them you read? Let me guess... 0?

    There are articles that talk about personality characteristics that are very different between many different personality disorders, and which use complicated psychological assessment tools (i.e., ones that are admissible in courts) to measure the differences..... this includes important differences between people who are said to have DID and people who have other personality disorders that may overlap. . . .

    Anyway.... not that you give a shit about all of this, you just like to talk out of your ass. A fact well documented by your posts....
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:03 AM GMT
    ZbmwM5 said
    JackNWNJ said
    DCEric saidWow... I remember seeing the movie in a high school psych class. Of course that was more than a decade ago.


    Well, rest assured. Your pysch teacher still believes Sybil was a true story.


    You are such a tool.... with your big assumptions and talking like you've got a clue about such things when you really do not.

    There's huge debate about the existence of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) (What was once known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

    Not all people believe in it, and there is compelling evidence either way.

    There are over 220 full text scholarly articles that come up in a search for it....

    I wonder how many of them you read? Let me guess... 0?

    There are articles that talk about personality characteristics that are very different between many different personality disorders, and which use complicated psychological assessment tools (i.e., ones that are admissible in courts) to measure the differences..... this includes important differences between people who are said to have DID and people who have other personality disorders that may overlap. . . .

    Anyway.... not that you give a shit about all of this, you just like to talk out of your ass.


    Correct, I actually don't give a shit.
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:04 AM GMT
    JackNWNJ said
    ZbmwM5 said
    JackNWNJ said
    DCEric saidWow... I remember seeing the movie in a high school psych class. Of course that was more than a decade ago.


    Well, rest assured. Your pysch teacher still believes Sybil was a true story.


    You are such a tool.... with your big assumptions and talking like you've got a clue about such things when you really do not.

    There's huge debate about the existence of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) (What was once known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

    Not all people believe in it, and there is compelling evidence either way.

    There are over 220 full text scholarly articles that come up in a search for it....

    I wonder how many of them you read? Let me guess... 0?

    There are articles that talk about personality characteristics that are very different between many different personality disorders, and which use complicated psychological assessment tools (i.e., ones that are admissible in courts) to measure the differences..... this includes important differences between people who are said to have DID and people who have other personality disorders that may overlap. . . .

    Anyway.... not that you give a shit about all of this, you just like to talk out of your ass.


    Correct, I actually don't give a shit.


    Yes, because you are an ass and you probably have a personality disorder of your own.

    Woo, girl you know how to make me angry. That's a tell tale sign of personality issues. Doesn't happen easily.
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:05 AM GMT
    Oh hey look more "I don't have it so it must not exist" people!
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:16 AM GMT
    In more relevant conversation, aside from my "friendly banter" from my favorite person on the forums...

    Even if DID (AKA Multiple Personality D/O) does not exist as a disorder in its own right, there is something pathological about someone who would then be "inventing" alters. If its not a disorder and people present as having this set of symptoms, then one would presume that they are consciously showing themselves as having the disorder.... which... is like faking illness. And is pathology in and of itself. So even without a diagnostic moniker such as DID... one has to ask, why would people behave this way? What's really going on in those cases.

    It's complex and multi-layered.... really compelling stuff.

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    Oct 18, 2011 3:21 AM GMT
    If I have mutliple personality and I enter fugue states when i switch from one to the other, how can I ensure that only one of my personalitiies is a bottom? I dont want each one taking over and getting dick all of the time. that would begin to hurt.

    Trying to lighten the mood.
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:34 AM GMT
    Alpha_Muscle saidIf I have mutliple personality and I enter fugue states when i switch from one to the other, how can I ensure that only one of my personalitiies is a bottom? I dont want each one taking over and getting dick all of the time. that would begin to hurt.

    Trying to lighten the mood.


    lol. Sadly you cannot ensure it. But if your present personality is a top, the bottom personality has been split off (is unconsciously) and would be represented as a alter bottom. LOL. No guarantees on what's what!
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:30 PM GMT
    ZbmwM5 said
    Alpha_Muscle saidIf I have mutliple personality and I enter fugue states when i switch from one to the other, how can I ensure that only one of my personalitiies is a bottom? I dont want each one taking over and getting dick all of the time. that would begin to hurt.

    Trying to lighten the mood.


    lol. Sadly you cannot ensure it. But if your present personality is a top, the bottom personality has been split off (is unconsciously) and would be represented as a alter bottom. LOL. No guarantees on what's what!


    altar bottoms?

    I wanna join that church. !



    Oh.


    Never mind.
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    Oct 18, 2011 3:46 PM GMT
    My mother has multiple personalities... DID or MPD or whatever the latest acronym is for a dissociative disorder. Never had the blackouts or anything that made the Sybil case so interesting, but you can clearly tell when another personality has emerged to handle whatever situation is happening. What made my mom's case so different from Sybil, apart from the no-blackouts business, was that each personality is not that radically distinct, though you can tell them apart. She doesn't have different genders or anything like that, just different ages and different strengths.
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    Oct 18, 2011 5:31 PM GMT
    Larkin_PLR saidMy mother has multiple personalities... DID or MPD or whatever the latest acronym is for a dissociative disorder. Never had the blackouts or anything that made the Sybil case so interesting, but you can clearly tell when another personality has emerged to handle whatever situation is happening. What made my mom's case so different from Sybil, apart from the no-blackouts business, was that each personality is not that radically distinct, though you can tell them apart. She doesn't have different genders or anything like that, just different ages and different strengths.


    That's almost the entire premise of Dollhouse...