Sybil

Dissociative Identity Disorder.


Sybil (2007) is a true story in Hollywood style: a young woman whose abusive childhood results in her developing a multiple personality disorder, specially, dissociative identity disorder (DID).  Several famous books and movies have portrayed dissociative disorders. Two classics are The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil, each about a woman with multiple personalities. The topic is so fascinating that most television drama series seem to include at least one case of dissociation every season, creating the impression that the disorders are very common. Many clinicians, however, believe that they are rare. (Comer, 2010, p. 202).

According to Oltmanns and Emery (2012), DID was not that common; most cases of dissociative disorders are diagnosed by a handful of ardent advocates. However, the frequency of the diagnosis of dissociative disorders in general, and DID in particular, increased rapidly after release of the very popular book and movie Sybil.  The number of personalities claimed to exist in cases of DID grew rapidly, from a handful to 100 or more.  Unfortunately, dissociative identity disorder is often trivialized or sensationalized in the arts and media, as this movie poster of the 1957 movie The Three Faces of Eve illustrates. Such treatments contribute to the public’s skepticism about the disorder (Comer, 2010).  Interest in dissociative disorders declined beginning in the middle 1990s (after Sybil), as specialized treatment units closed and professionals withdrew from organizations and journals devoted to the topic. (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012, p. 181).

References

Comer, R. J. (2010). Abnormal psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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