Conditions, Health and Wellness

Was Multiple Personality Disorder Patient Sybil a Fraud?

6 Comments 21 October 2011

Was Sybil the famous multiple personality disorder patient played by Sally Field and featured in a bestselling book all a fraud? Author Debbie Nathan thinks so in her new book Sybil ExposedBy Deborah Goldstein
When you hear about cases of profound child abuse, like Jaycee Dugard’s, those stories stay with you. They get under your skin. In the 1970s, the thoroughly upsetting story of Sybil—a girl who developed 16 different personalities as a means of coping with horrific abuse—freaked out an entire generation, put Multiple Personality Disorder on the map, spawned a bestselling book and even a TV movie starring Sally Field. What makes this story especially shocking today is that it appears to have been made up.

Debbie Nathan, author of Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, claims that Sybil (real name: Shirley Mason) was manipulated by her ambitious psychiatrist, Cornelia Wilbur, who wanted her own case of MPD, a relatively unknown condition back then. They signed a contract with journalist Flora Schreiber —who wrote the bestselling book, Sybil—agreeing to an equal split in profits from the book and any ancillary products. Talk about crazy.

According to Nathan, Dr. Wilbur willfully subjected Mason to years of heavy, mind-altering medication, which led to Sybil’s fantasized accounts of the abuse that Dr. Wilbur said caused Mason’s MPD.

VIDEO: Author Debbie Nathan discusses whether Sybil’s case was a hoax

Where is the proof? Nathan offers it in her expose as the first person to examine the Sybil archives, including countless documents, records, photos, and tapes, which were only recently released to the public.

And exactly how innocent was Mason? In her book, Nathan reveals the motives of the three women, which are as twisted, disturbing, and compelling as the story they doctored.

Tell Us: Do you think Sybil’s story was a hoax?

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  • Sue

    I remember this movie but never read the book. Think I will now!

  • kojala

    It’s a great behind-the-scenes look at a case we all were so fascinated by! Thanks for reading.

  • Jennifer

    The Sybil story is true.

    Nathan’s book is a one sided and biased interpretation of Sybil’s story. Dr. Wilbur helped Sybil get better and heal. She was able to function and live a much fuller life after her work with Dr. Wilbur.

    Mason (Sybil) at times may have denied her diagnosis at times with Dr. Wilbur. This occurs in addiction recovery, abusive relationships and many mental health diagnoses. The fact is that Sybil later stated that every fact in the book is true (conversations with Dr. Leah Dickstein).

    Nathan talks about Sybil, Inc. Mason and Wilbur were offered money, television appearances and media interviews, but they never accepted any of these offers. In a recent radio interview by Nathan, Nathan stated that Mason and Schreiber (the author of Sybil) died broke.

    Nathan also talks about Wilbur giving Mason (Sybil) Sodium Pentathol. In the original “Sybil”, it is obvious that Sybil was given Sodium Pentathol to make her feel better, like many psychiatric patients today are given medications to feel better. When Wilbur saw that Mason was becoming addicted to it, she stopped giving her the drug. This is a very different interpretation than Nathan tells in her book about this treatment.

    Wilbur didn’t encourage Mason to take on different personalities. Mason brought this material into treatment by herself and Wilbur helped her with these.

    Several professional colleagues of Wilbur have verified the diagnosis that Mason had before she died.

    MPD (now called DID) is a real diagnosis and has been scientifically proven with research.

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  • phillip
  • Larry

    Women love the story, because they like the idea of being able to do things without blame.


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