"Sybil" and the History of Multiple Personality Disorder

YouTube / The New York Times
YouTube / The New York Times / YouTube / The New York Times

In the 1970s, a patient known as "Sybil" was the focus of a popular book exploring a condition then called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). While cases of MPD had been described previously, Sybil was special because she reportedly had 16 distinct personalities. The book was a hit, as was the TV movie made a few years later (as if that wasn't enough, a second TV movie was made in 2007). In this extensive Retro Report, the New York Times examines the story of MPD, Sybil, mid-century psychiatric practices (sodium pentothal, anyone?), and how the media reacted. This is a riveting story. Enjoy:

Don't miss the NYT's story accompanying this video, which does a nice job summarizing the film. My favorite quote is from Dr. David Spiegel:

“The problem is fragmentation of identity, not that you really are 12 people,” [Spiegel] said, “that you have not more than one but less than one personality.”