Sybil Exposed

Journalist Debbie Nathan gives proof that the true story of a woman with multiple personality disorder as told in the bestseller Sybil was largely fabricated.

Debbie Nathan

Sybil: a name that resonates with legions of obsessed fans who followed the nonfiction blockbuster from 1973. The book rocketed multiple personality disorder into public consciousness and played a major role in having the diagnosis added to the psychiatric bible, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But what do we really know about how Sybil came to be? In her news-breaking book Sybil Exposed, journalist Debbie Nathan gives proof that the allegedly true story outlined in the bestseller was largely fabricated. The actual identity of Sybil (Shirley Mason) has been available for some years, as has the idea that the book might have been exaggerated. Now Nathan reveals the trio of women behind the legend: the willing patient, her ambitious shrink and the imaginative journalist who spun their story into bestseller gold. 

Sybil Exposed draws from an enormous trail of papers, records, photos and tapes to unearth the lives and passions of these three women whose story exploded into an epic movement with consequences beyond their wildest dreams. Set across the twentieth century and rooted in a time when few professional roles were available to women, this is a story of corrosive sexism, bold but unchecked ambition, runaway greed, utter human vulnerability, duplicity and shared delusion. It explores how one modest young woman's life turned psychiatry on its head and radically changed the course of therapy — and our culture. (From Free Press)