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

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  58,004 ratings  ·  1,009 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brooke
Oct 02, 2007 Brooke rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Alessandra
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.
Sara W
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
Kelly
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...more
Shaun
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...more
Kathryn
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"...more
Sarah
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...more
K
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...more
Sara
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...more
Psipsipsi
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...more
Sonia Gomes
Nov 01, 2012 Sonia Gomes rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
n
Sep 02, 2007 n rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Kathryn
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...more
Lisa Vegan
Aug 06, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Felicia`
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.
Arminzerella
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
Sara
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...more
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...more
Amy
Synopsis

Sybil Dorsett is a strange young woman working as a substitute teacher in New York City. She becomes incoherent while having a cut on her arm treated at a hospital emergency room. The psychiatrist on duty, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, examines her and finds her talking and behaving as if she were a nine-year-old child. She suddenly returns to normal, and when the doctor questions her, she admits to having had blackout spells most of her life. Sybil agrees to continue treatment. She asks her fath...more
Fu
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 this....so 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.
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...more
Axanna lucman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca
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
Jessi
" 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...more
Jack
Jul 11, 2011 Jack rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jack by: Mr. Hollman
Shelves: classic, and, non-fiction
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...more
Kathy
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...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Forget A Child Called It. This was the abused-child biography everyone was reading back when I was a teen. Heck, they even made a movie out of it starring Sally Field. Sybil had had such a terrible childhood, her personality had splintered into sixteen different people, even a couple of male ones.
Why are we so fascinated by books like this? Is it reassuring to know that one's own life wasn't all that bad in comparison? Or is it just morbid curiosity? I don't know, but I HAD to read this, and Go...more
Cass
Sybil blew my mind away. While the writing style itself could have used some work, it was very informative and I truly learned so much from reading this book. I have a certain "fascination," so to speak (for lack of better word), with mental disorders such as dissociative identity disorder, Stockholm syndrome, et cetera, and as horrific as Sybil's story was, it truly opened my mind to the many complexities of the human mind that we will never know about fully. To think that one's brain will actu...more
Sammantha
"Sybil" provided an extremely fascinating and captivating look into the life of a woman challenged with multiple personalities. This book is impossible to put down; I started reading it and just couldn't seem to stop. It is wonderfully written narrative, which leads to insights of the human mind and abnormal psychology.
Erin
An excellent read, a horrifying story. It makes you sad that people don't need a license to have a child. Quite disturbing at times, so another one that I wouldn't want to read before I went to bed...because I did and then I couldn't fall asleep.
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Is Sybil real? 5 107 Feb 15, 2014 11:05AM  
Did it really happen? 22 349 Dec 31, 2013 11:14AM  
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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.” 52 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.” 36 likes
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