Debbie Nathan

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

Published by Free Press

Jan 16, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Imagine an impressionable young girl reads Sybil, the 1973 bestselling examination of a woman said to have 16 different personalities, and finds, to her amazement, that she identifies with the woman. Then imagine this scenario over and over, with girls being diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, "recovering" memories of horrific abuse, and seeing their abusers go on to be prosecuted for those crimes. Now imagine that Sybil herself, the woman whose case revolutionized the psychotherapy industry and psychology study since that book's publication, actually never had multiple personality disorder, and that the witch hunts that began with the publication of the book and subsequent TV movie were a result of manipulations, wildly inappropriate drug use, and a patient/therapist relationship so convoluted that the two actually began living together. Sybil Exposed is a fascinating study of ambition and denial, of women who would stop at nothing to achieve and protect a diagnosis that will make them famous. Never mind that the drugs Sybil was treated with caused hallucinations, or that she herself wrote a letter confessing that she had fabricated her "personalities" to keep the attention of her adored therapist.  Never mind that the neighbors and husband of Sybil's mother, Hattie, never observed any of the abuse that Sybil "remembered" dominating her childhood.  Sybil Exposed moves with exquisite pacing, preserving and throwing its bombshells with admirable restraint. A sad, desperate picture emerges, not of a severely mentally ill woman, but of a livable life taken away, and without lasting happiness for anyone involved. (

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