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Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  69,394 Ratings  ·  1,161 Reviews
Here is the unbelievable yet true story of Sybil Dorsett, a survivor of terrible childhood abuse who as an adult was a victim of sudden and mysterious blackouts. What happened during those blackouts has made Sybil's experience one of the most famous psychological cases in the world.
Mass Market Paperback, 460 pages
Published May 25th 1989 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1973)
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Naomi Esrig I've read it a million times, and it is kind of tough to read, so I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Though, it is a very good read for those who…moreI've read it a million times, and it is kind of tough to read, so I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Though, it is a very good read for those who are interested in the subject because it is phenomenal at explaining the odd phenomenons that occur throughout the book. (less)
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Oct 02, 2007 Brooke rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anybody who is interested in the mysteries of the human mind
Another old book review from my blog:

This was one seriously fucked up book. I have never seen the movie but, of course, knew what I was in for when I got the book. The name "Sybil" is very well known, and carries some stigma, in pop culture.
However, I had no concept of the extent or the perversity of Sybil's mother's abuse which had been the prime instigation for Sybil's dissociations. When I was reading the sections describing what she had done to her daughter, I was literally beating my head
Oct 30, 2011 Alessandra rated it did not like it
A nasty piece of work. What's worse is it's a fraud. "Sibyl's" doctor manipulated her with drug dependency and emotional blackmail into agreeing with the doctor's pet theories about multiple personalities, which had catastrophic effects on psychology for decades.

It's like reading a transcript of a witch trial confession.

This book does a serious disservice to abuse victims.
Mandy Blair Crider
Nov 29, 2015 Mandy Blair Crider rated it it was amazing
I had to read this in high school for my Psychology class. I'd never heard of Sybil or multiple personalities. I was so skeptical about all of it that when I read the book I had a hard time stopping with the class. We weren't allowed to read ahead and I was chomping at the bit to read the ending. Great book and side note... the movie is just as good. Sally Field was superb in it.
May 29, 2013 Kathryn rated it did not like it
Shelves: fake-scams
This book is one of the most disgusting books ever written. For all of you about to read this book, thinking it's a true story, please read the following:

This book was the brainchild of three women: Cornelia Wilbur, Shirley Mason, and Flora Schreiber. Shirley, or "Sybil" as she's known, did not suffer from DID. She actually had Pernicious Anemia. Extensive research has been done on Sybil's case, and it has been proven that the entire book was fictious.

Shirley developed all of her "personalities"
Sara W
Apr 13, 2008 Sara W rated it liked it
This was a very fascinating and at times very disturbing book. I probably would have given it 4 stars, but I made the mistake of looking up details about this woman online prior to finishing the book which really changed my feelings about the actual author and doctor involved. Apparently this woman's story is very controversial in the mental health field. Had I known that, I would have finished the book prior to looking up details online (more on this under "spoiler"), and I would suggest that i ...more
Apr 02, 2008 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As a YA librarian I get tons upon tons of requests for A Child Called It, a fantastically horrible memoir about a childhood spent living with an abusive mother. I frequently get questions from other librarians that go something like "why do teens like to read that junk?" Well, it wasn't that long ago that adults all over the country were caught up in Sybil, a book that is the grandfather of the tragic childhood memoir.

When Sybil came to Dr. Wilbur for analysis, there wasn't a lot of material on
Jul 20, 2014 Shaun rated it really liked it
Sometimes when my kids are really pushing my buttons, I remind them if they don't want the "mean" mommy to make an appearance they had better knock it off. And to be sure, the "mean" mommy, the one who loses her composure and who feels as if she could literally pull her hair out, is far removed from the the loving and patient mommy I identify with, the mommy who also happens to be fascinated by the science of brain and behavior and the origin and experience of consciousness.

So this true story (w
10/8 - I have been wanting to read this for nearly two decades, since I first heard about the 'case' when I was 12 or 13. In those intervening 18 years I've seen the Sally Field movie and learned the truth behind this story, but I'm still fascinated by the idea of true DID and even if I have to treat it as a fictional account of DID I'm excited to start reading it tonight. To be continued...

Later - The fraudulent nature of this book aside, the writing is annoying the hell out of me - it's way to
I don't know if I can give this a fair review. I only picked it up because I was curious to read "Sybil Exposed" and thought I should read the original "Sybil" first. As such, I went in with preconceived skepticism which, according to goodreads trolls, is a mortal sin and means I have no moral right to review this book. So feel free to skip my review if that bothers you, or read on and take it from who it comes.

The story of "Sybil" is certainly dramatic but not particularly credible. The book de
Sonia Gomes
Mar 18, 2016 Sonia Gomes rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone, the grit and determination are amazing
The hard work that goes in trying to get your life back on track is heart warming but also heartbreaking.
Rearing a family is hard work and kids never know what their parents will be like.
Will they be abusive as Hattie Dorset was ? Will they be happy people putting in a lot of effort to rear their children with love and concern. Kids never know.
Hattie Dorset may be one of the extremes in society, but to some extent everyone abuses their kids, in benign ways like pushing them for those endless c
Mar 05, 2008 Sara rated it liked it
REALLY INTERESTING if you're at all into psychology or childhood trauma. This book is a true story, but it reads like a science-fiction at times just because it is so so sad and horrible.

If this book were better written and a little quicker paced I think it could easily become one of my favourites.

Only read this if you can stomach reading about horrible things happening to little children... Actually, I think everyone should read this just to realize how hard some people have it due to no fault
Nandakishore Varma
I read this book as a teen, and it left a lasting impression on me. It was brought back to my mind after reading The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson.

This story of a woman with sixteen personalities, purportedly based on real life, hooked me at the time of reading it. It was one of the factors getting me interested in "pop" psychology. Now I hear that it has been challenged (like so many similar books), but that does not take away from its fascination.

The book is well-written, even though the scen
Jun 03, 2012 Kathryn rated it really liked it
I read this in my freshman year of college, and it gave me nightmares, and really made me think I was going crazy. I saw the movie first in psychology class in high school. Then, when I took psychology in college, this book was brought up, and I was intrigued.

I have heard some say this isn't a true story, but even if it isn't, it is still frightening. The whole idea is just....beyond bizarre.

If you are looking for an interesting, can be scary to some, just....crazy story, this might just be th
Jun 19, 2012 Psipsipsi rated it did not like it
I started to read this book many years ago - never finished it as it was undoubtedly a big con. The ingredients were obvious - a disturbed and suggestible young woman, a grossly inadequate fame-seeking psychiatrist, and an unethical journalist. It's amazing that despite its exposure as a fraud (e.g. Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan) the book is still being marketed, read, and believed.

What is particularly sad is that all "Sybil's" psychological problems were easily avoidable. Debbie Nathan, while
Sep 02, 2007 n rated it liked it
Recommends it for: writers
While really unsettling, Sybil allowed me to realise the importance of the psychology of characters in one's writing. An interesting read of a somewhat controversial diagnosis (multiple personality/dissociative identity), Sybil is a must read for anyone interested in psychology.

How each personality is constructed reveals intimate details on how to create fictional characters or how to borrow from real people into characters of one's own.
Lisa Vegan
Aug 06, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy fiction/nonfiction about mental illnesses
I read this book in the mid 70s and I reread it a few times throughout the next decade or so. It tells a heartbreaking, fascinating and absorbing story of a woman with multiple personality disorder, which is a dissociative disorder. I’ve heard over the years that the story is more fiction than non-fiction, but I still like the book just as much as I did when I believed it was 100% true. A really sobering look at how childhood trauma can seriously affect one’s mental health. Extremely disturbing ...more
Sybil is the story of Sybil Dorsett, one of the first documented cases of multiple personality disorder as diagnosed and treated by her psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (all names changed to protect the identities of the individuals). Sybil experienced a lot of blank moments in her life – time lapses where she didn’t know where she had been or what she had been doing. These lapses were what eventually made her seek out psychiatric help. She grew up in a very restrictive and religious environmen ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
I'd long heard of this book from my mother, who'd read it when it was more new in the literary world. So, in a sense, I was prepared for what lay ahead.

Sybil is a troubled woman who's led a rather... well let's say unusual life. Small town girl full of close-minded religion with a mother who abuses her in the most perverse ways for reasons that remained her own and a father who basically plugged his fingers in his ears to everything. All these traumas, betrayals, and fears both real and not begi
Jul 30, 2015 Jack rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jack by: Mr. Hollman
I noticed that someone mentioned that this book is more fiction than fact and also another about how unbelievable the story was.

During the 1970's I worked at an adult home where we had a female patient who held a doctorate degree. One day you could talk to her and she was marvelously funny an remembered everything you talked with her on previous conversations. The other twenty days she was a different character from the book "Anne Frank." She also mimicked the activities of guards that may of ha
Apr 10, 2009 Fu rated it did not like it
currently, i hate this book. i have read many, many horror stories of abuse...but sybil's mother, clearly mentally ill and forever to be undiagnosed, is pathetic and sad and horrific. i don't know if i'll finish far it makes me want to vomit. seen the movie with sally field...that's much more tolerable..the mother in that film is nothing like what is portrayed in the book.
Apr 25, 2012 Felicia` rated it did not like it
I made it about 100 pages into this book. The writing is so terrible and bad-young-adult-lit-esque that I just couldn't soldier through the rest. The story seems interesting from what I could filter out through the muck, but the poor writing kills any lingering concern with what happens to the dissociative-identity-disorder-affected protagonist.
Ksenia Anske
Feb 11, 2016 Ksenia Anske rated it really liked it
This story was fascinating to read. And frightening. And too close to home. It stirred up lots of darkness in me, and helped me get rid of some. That's what good books do.
May 14, 2008 Terri rated it really liked it
A very fascinating book about a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder. Her journey to find out what was happening, understand it, and integrate.
May 31, 2015 Annaliese rated it it was amazing
If I was a proper Goodreads member:
~Starts book
~Includes around 10-15 updates, usually with quotes from the book itself, offering my own insight into the value of the novel
~Takes about 2-3 weeks to finish a book, and continues to read at a steady pace
~Recommends book to others, starts group about it, and continues to explore the topic of the novel

Definitely not me ^^^^

Yes, I finished this book in about two days, but that's because it was sooo good! I didn't have time to update every second becau
Kristine Lopez
This book is really EXTRAORDINARY! The way the author wrote it, the ways that the Doctor tried and did everything, and of Sybil losing and having hope. It made me value what I have now--not only the material things but also, I became really really very thankful to have the parents that I have now. This book not only teaches us the analysis of a patient that has Multiple Personality Disorder, but also it makes us value friendship, our parents, and ourselves. It's really an AMAZING book!

One part o
Unisa Reni
Mungkin ini salah satu buku favorit saya sepanjang masa. Buku yang diadopsi dari 'kisah nyata' seorang gadis yang dilahirkan (tahun 1923) di keluarga dan lingkungan yang begitu menekan dirinya, baik fisik terutama secara kejiwaan.

Sybil kemudian mengalami MPD (multiple personality disorder) dan memiliki 16 kepribadian. Setiap kepribadian memiliki karakter dan nama sendiri. Kepribadian inti nyaris tidak mengenali pribadi-pribadi lainnya sehingga seringkali dia merasakan ada 'waktu yang hilang' dal
Axanna lucman
Sep 05, 2011 Axanna lucman rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 12, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Sometime in the late 70s, I watched a repeat of a popular TV miniseries aired just a few years before: Sybil. Even though at the time I didn't quite understand what Sally Field's mother was doing to her in the green kitchen (as I recall, network television never came out and actually said the word "enema"), I was thoroughly freaked out. Whenever I ran across it on television in the years since, I remembered Hattie, shuddered, and turned the channel to something else. I had no interest in reading ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Jessi rated it really liked it
" Do you think life is all sunshine, singing and colors when you grow up? I should say not. You are bad. You are spoiled rotten. You better learn quick." - Hattie Dorset Sybil's mother

Have you ever thought that your personality changes so often you could be multiple different people? For Sybil this is a reality. Many times she finds clothes in her closet that she never bought and people that she never met say they know her. Finally she meets Dr. Wilbur, a psychologist who diagnoses her with mult
Oct 26, 2010 Kathy rated it really liked it
I watched Sybil many years ago when the miniseries was on TV...maybe 35 years ago. Then I ordered the DVD and showed it to my abnormal psych students when I taught at our local high school. Finally, I read the book that tells a more complete story of Sybil Dorsett who suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Her disintegration into many "selves" began with the horrible, HORRIBLE abuse by her schizophrenic mother who was a pedophile, sadistic, and perverted. Add a father who was in denial or cl
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  • The Three Faces Of Eve
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  • Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities
  • First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple
  • I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos
  • Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case
  • Extravagance
  • A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain
  • Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Quattrocento
  • A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister
  • Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst: Growing Up Sane in a Decade Gone Mad
  • A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder
  • Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature
  • The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness
Flora Rheta Schreiber (April 24, 1918 - November 3, 1988), an American journalist, was the author of the 1973 bestseller Sybil, the story of a woman (identified years later as Shirley Ardell Mason) who suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

More about Flora Rheta Schreiber...

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“You're never ready for what you have to do. You just do it. That makes you ready.” 60 likes
“Isolated, she managed somehow to feel free—albeit with a freedom that made her want to smash a hole in the very center of the universe.” 43 likes
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