Kerrie's Reviews > Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan
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Sep 15, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: i-won-a-free-book, non-fiction, first-reads
Read from August 02 to 09, 2012

When I read Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities about 5 years ago I was completely unaware of the controversy that surrounded this case and assumed Schreiber's book was true (although the cartoonishly brutal tortures that Sybil's mother inflicted on her stretched my credulity). This expose opened my eyes, and to be honest, I really have no reason to doubt Debbie Nathan's allegations. She had access to Schreiber's copious files, and after "Sybil's" death the heretofore sealed files in "Box 37," which included transcripts of Sybil's therapy sessions, were opened and provided many needed pieces of the puzzle.

If what the author says is true, Sybil's case was one of the biggest exercises of fraud and unethical medical practice in the history of psychiatry. It also played no small part in sending the country into a frantic tizzy over multiple personalities and the horrible stories of child abuse that came out of these sessions. Now it is fairly well established that these horror stories were the result of false memories created while under the influence of drugs during therapy. Dr. Cornelia Wilbur was shooting up Sybil with a half dozen barbiturates and amphetamines at one point. Don't tell me that such a combo wouldn't produce some whacked-out results, especially when fed by Dr. Wilbur's solid conviction that multiple personalities were created by child abuse and the transcripts of the sessions show that Sybil was being asked leading question after leading question.

I wasn't expecting this book to be as compulsively readable as it was - Nathan's journalistic writing style was very engaging and the pages just flew by. A very well-done job looking at this iconic story with skepticism and evidence, something that was lacking in the first book when the trio of Dr. Wilbur, Flora Rheta Schreiber, and Shirley "Sybil" Mason were focused on making money off "Sybil, Inc." (The Sybil boardgame never came to be, despite all Shirley's efforts.)
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Reading Progress

08/04/2012 page 66
21.0% "I wasn't expecting it, but this book has really sucked me in."
08/05/2012 page 105
33.0% "I had no idea that Sybil was being injected by several habit-forming drugs for these "therapy sessions." No wonder crazy shit came out of them."
08/05/2012 page 112
35.0% "If what this book claims is true.... OH MY GOD." 12 comments

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Kerrie Woohoo!!! I actually won a giveaway!!! Since I've read Sybil and seen the movie (and loved both) this will be an interesting read.


message 2: by Karla (new)

Karla Congrats! :D


Kerrie The beginning was covering Sybil's (aka Shirley Mason) childhood in the Seventh Day Adventists and the history of that sect. LOONEY TUNES.


message 4: by Karla (new)

Karla Is it an ebook?


Kerrie Nope, dead tree. I've had it since October, felt I should get around to reading and reviewing. :P


message 6: by Karla (new)

Karla Better late than never. :D


message 7: by Willow (new)

Willow This doesn’t surprise me. I have a heavy dose of skepticism for the whole field of psychiatry even now. I don’t think they really know what they are doing with all the psychosomatic drugs they prescribe. Doctors still don’t really know how to treat mental illness.


Kerrie Not with the human brain being as complex as it is, and the medication not acting consistently (helps one person, makes another worse, doesn't do anything at all). I'm also skeptical of therapists (aka "shrinks"). I guess people sometimes need someone to "talk to" who (are being paid) to listen to them. However in my experience those people, despite saying that they feel better and are improving, are still difficult to deal with - as if they weren't going to therapy at all.


message 9: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac They've done a handful of "evul shrink" eps on Law & Order -- but it's sad to know those eps aren't far off the mark in some cases. I'm sure many shrinks have good intentions...but man, how can a patient or their family ever be totally certain? That's not even considering the mental effects of the drugs, let alone mixing pharma with leading questions & unhappy memories.


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