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Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  4,415 ratings  ·  596 reviews
Sybil: a name that conjures up enduring fascination for legions of obsessed fans who followed the nonfiction blockbuster from 1973 and the TV movie based on it—starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward—about a woman named Sybil with sixteen different personalities. Sybil became both a pop phenomenon and a revolutionary force in the psychotherapy industry. The book rocketed ...more
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Naomi Rhode
Oct 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
Concerned..Nathan's book full of untruths:

As Shirley Mason's closest living relative, I was close to her for the 30 plus years through the saga of her life journey. In fact, I was with her the weekend of her death, at her request, and was one of the only people that was in constant contact with her all those years. I kept her identity confidential at her fervent request. Through all these years up until literally the day before she died, she verified the complete accuracy of the book, 'Sybil'. I
Stacia (the 2010 club)
...or was it?

A few decades back, there was a movie called Sybil which was sort of a buzz movie. Before that, the story was a book. I've never read the original book, but I have seen the movie a few times. Basically, the book was about this woman (whose named had been changed) and her experience with Multiple Personality Disorder (as it was called back then).

The movie was Crazy with a capital C. This chick had been raised by the mother of bizarre and had suffered thr
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in the history of psychology, society, and/or women.
Books I am reading do not usually give me nightmares, but this one did.

Long ago, when I was in graduate school studying psychology, I was known to say that the problem with a condition like multiple personality disorder (MPD) was that if a psychologist or psychiatrist suspected that a patient _might_ have such a condition, it would be nearly impossible not to imagine the potential gold mine (books, movies, publicity) that the patient could provide. Well, it turns out that in the case of one of
Pat Goodwin
Oct 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I remember when I read "Sybil". It was during my first year of college. Things were so different back then. We have to remember when reading Nathan's book that child protective laws were nil during that time. Children were considered chattel. Children and/or adult survivors didn't dare report child abuse to anyone. They were either punished or called liars. The idea that a person could 'tell' someone, especially privately, was brought to life in 'Sybil'. Dr. Wilbur listened and believed. It wasn ...more
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I abandoned this book one-third of the way through. The case of Sybil and her diagnosis of multiple personality disorder sounds interesting, and Debbie Nathan's writing is based on documents archived from the case that reportedly show the original story of Sybil was fabricated and the woman may have been coached to exaggerate her behavior and memories.

However, Nathan's book jumps all over and wasn't written coherently. Often I will try to push through on a nonfiction book, but this one just didn
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, biography
I was quite taken with the book Sybil when I read it years ago. It seemed to present a plausible explanation for a run-away semi-street teen I knew who could easily be hypnotised into various supposedly past-life personalities. Sometimes these personalities even broke through on their own. It was kind of scary to be around her at times. The book Sybil presented such "others" as multiple personalities created by childhood trauma. The scientific trappings and cure made for a neat package that appe ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Back in 1974 I read a book called Sybil. Starting in 1973 and continuing on through today millions of people worldwide have read that book. The only difference is now there's a disclaimer on the book.

Sybil tells the story of, well "Sybil" (a pseudonym) and how she had "blank spots", "lost time". She'd black out and wake up days later in a different city. It tells the story of how Sybil and her heroic psychiatrist battled for 11 years+ to reconcile Sybil's 16 separate personalities into a single
Kym Gamble
May 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
So everybody jump on the bandwagon there's another book denying the reality of multiple personality well, it's called Dissociative Identity Disorder now, the MPD label was dropped back in 1994. This time it's the new book by Debbie Nathan called "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case".

In interviews, Nathan states she has fact-checked the book and done years of research so I think to myself, much of it must be true right? Well, if it was, in a way yes
Jenny Brown
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant book that should be read by anyone who trusts a psychiatrist, because they didn't stop being like the woman profiled in this book when the 80s ended.

I grew up among the psychiatrists of NYC in the 1950s, as my father worked with them, so nothing you would tell me about how screwed up and sexually abusive they were would surprise me. I also got involved with a very popular local therapist in the 1990s who was planting false memories in her patients using hypnosis. What an extremely u
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
In the course of reading this book, I went back and looked at summaries for the original Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities. I was in high school when I read the book but looking back from 2012 and my own age and experiences, I'm quite surprised anyone still believes this book to be true. The abuse is so outrageous and diverse nothing makes sense. It's like someone tried to think of every horrific thing anyone could every do to someone and fit it into the ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Hmm. How to review this book. First, I am an informed reviewer in that I have a doctorate and have worked for many years in the mental health field, both in academe and clinically. Second, as any good scientist, I will put my biases out there. I think that MPD is a bunch of hooey that has never been shown empirically to be anything other than behavior. I read this book because I have published in the scholarly literature on the hooey and hysteria and extremism that has taken place around this ve ...more
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
One of the best books I've read in a long time is a non-fiction piece titled The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

A major point made in the book is that we often start out with beliefs and then spend our time reinforcing those beliefs, eventually accepting them as truths. I's obvious...or at least it becomes obvious when we routinely seek out sources that reinforce our bias while dismissing anything
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I saw that Net Galley was offering “Sybil Exposed” by Debbie Nathan for review, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. Ms. Nathan describes in different chapters, the lives of Shirley Mason (Sybil), Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber (the author of Sybil), and how they come together to form Sybil Inc.

MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) or DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) as they call it now has fascinated me since I read the book Sybil and saw the Sally Field television movie in
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
I'm not sure about the author, but when I saw the movie Sybil and read the book at age 12, I didn't think it was an absolute literal account of the story. Even in 7th grade, I realized that movies took some liberties to tell a more interesting story. The book fascinated me even more than the movie. I still have my original copy autographed by Flora Rita Schrieber, who I met at a signing for a different book. I never took the book to be an exact account of the story any more than I thought my Lit ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Debbie Nathan, the very fine journalist who wrote Satan's Silence (with Nathan Snedeker), neatly eviscerates the Sybil myth. And yes, it is a myth.

Although I'll confess to being surprised that there are still people who believe that Sybil was non-fiction, such people apparently do still exist, and they should read this book. I can't guarantee that cognitive dissonance won't prevail (it usually does, thus explaining the continuing belief in stuff like supply-side economics and multiple personali
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
I read the book Sybil when I was a teenager, before the real Sybil died, so I like many others, had heard about the speculation that Sybil's story was false/fabricated/exaggerated. I've also seen both of the Sybil movies - the one with Sally Field and the one released after Ms. Mason's death.

I think this author tries too hard to discredit the Sybil story. It made sense to question things at the time, but after Ms. Mason's death, and a testimonial from a relative who knew her for many years, I'm
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I was very disappointed in this book. I should preface by saying that I have no strongly held views about MPD one way or the other. As a lawyer, I, like the author, have been appalled by the injustices wrought by recovered memories, sexual abuse hysteria and the like. ON the other hand, child abuse, including sexual abuse, is all too real, still not easily acknowledged or addressed, especially in middle-class setings, and can cause very real and lasting psychological damage. So, my general bias ...more
Anita Dalton
This book is a long overdue examination of the infamous multiple personality case that spawned the MPD and later the recovered memory movements in the United States. With sympathy for everyone involved, Nathan takes a hard look at the bizarre methodology and ruthless behaviors of Dr. Connie Wilbur, the willingness of Flora Rheta Schrieber to bend and make up facts to make her book seem more credible, and the life of Shirley Mason, the real Sybil, whose life was ruined and whose physical and ment ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I remember reading Sybil and seeing the movie. Horrified and intrigued, I felt for Sybil's pain and fear. Then I started hearing the rumors of it being faked. So I read this book with an open mind. I will say that Ms. Nathan really seems to have done intense research and made a strong case for Sybil being primarily fictionalized. A very sad concept for me to accept.

I will start by saying, the three women involved were each a mess on their own, but once they met and came up with idea for the book
Oct 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
I read this book and found it to be very biased, attacking the original Sybil story and the reality of MPD. The book "Sybil Exposed" left out important details of the story and MPD that did not back the book's agenda. Several factual inaccuracies have already been found in the book.

The book has several conclusions that do not fit the facts, especially the one that states Sybil admitted the story was "fake." Like many people, she briefly denied she had MPD, like other people deny other diagnoses
Nov 18, 2011 rated it liked it
If you need to take a comfort from this book, you can be thankful that the complete fabrication of Sybil means that no, that little girl did not suffer that sadistic abuse, as millions of readers were led to believe. That's about all the comfort that can be had. It is astonishing the lengths that Dr. Wilbur went to perpetrate multiple personality disorder, considering that according to this book she basically made the disorder up. It's fascinating to see the evolution of psychiatry over the year ...more
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
I truly could not finish this book. For someone reporting on the inadequacies of someone else's book, this reporters work is incredibly poor. Her reporting consists of statements like, "She PROBABLY met him when..." and "She MOST LIKELY went to..." What kind of reporting is that, particularly if your one and only goal is to discredit your very subjects? Gah, what a bad book. ...more
Cindy Knoke
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a young person I read the book, “Sybil,” with morbid fascination and some anxiety.

As a retired psychotherapist with over 27 years of clinical experience, I read the book, “Sybil Exposed,” with a combination of disgust, anger and sorrow.

I was licensed as a therapist in 1982 when the Multi-Personality-Disorder “movement” among mental health professionals was in full swing. I went to multiple symposiums and trainings on the subject, many required, due to the nature of my work with perpetrators a
Once in a while, a book comes along that provides a jaw dropping moment in almost every chapter. This is one such book. Nathan's methods of research and the manner in which she dissects the myth of Sybil are so fantastic that I cannot help but hear Kelso's voice (from That '70s Show) saying, "Burn!" every time she chips away at another dearly held belief. The evidence presented is so solid it will destroy your previous notions. So many people fell in love with the story, the fragile but surprisi ...more
Oct 28, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading about "Sybil" back in the 1970s and being so caught up in it. I can't say the same about this book. I got as far as Chapter 4 which is about the psychiatrist that treated "Sybil" and the things I read just turned my stomach; not so much about Dr. Wilbur but the treatments that were done to unsuspecting patients in the 1930s. They were quite brutal and quite disturbing.
I didn't like the writing style at all. It almost seems juvenile to me.
Scott Freeman
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-books
I remember being freaked out by the Sally Field TV Movie of the story of Sybil when it came out. This book attempts to tell what really happened. Highly illuminating and well researched account of what really happened in the famous Sybil case.
The Wee Hen
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers of popular psychology non-fiction books
I was 6 years old in 1976, the year the movie "Sybil" aired on television. I'm not quite certain why my mother allowed me to watch this movie as I was a rather overprotected child who was never exposed to anything disturbing if she could help it. Perhaps she didn't know exactly what she was letting me watch. But I do remember the movie vividly. And I remember watching it when it showed up as a rerun. I was fascinated, horrified and frightened by this story of a young woman, shattered into pieces ...more
Caidyn (he/him/his)
So, you know how I rarely annotate the books I read? That I barely write up things that I want to remember for a review? I go by the idea that if it's meant to be in my review, then I'm going to remember it without needing to write it down. However, I used up quite a bit of sticky notes on this one, mainly because I really wanted to remember certain things that came to mind.

I tried reading this when I was a senior in high school, right after watching the made-for-TV movie "Sybil" and reading the
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Debbie Nathan's book is the exploration of the very popular and controversial book written by Flora Rheta Schreiber titled Sybil: The True Story of a Woman Possessed by 16 Personalities. It was published in 1975, but I probably didn't read it until a few years later. It described horrific child abuse and the subsequent therapy which brought out Sybil's 16 personalities. Fast forward to 2012. I read and saved a magazine article which described Nathan's book and had a somewhat local twist. It incl ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I read the original Sybil as a teenager. The Seventies were chock-full of psychiatric girls -- Lisa Bright and Dark, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and of course Go Ask Alice. But Sybil was always the crown jewel. Who could argue with sixteen personalities? Well, as it turned out, there was plenty to argue with.

This is a horror story. Not the fabrication that Flora Rhetta Schreiber originally told, but a tale of sheer arrogance and ignorance displayed by one Doctor Cornelia Wilbur. We forge
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