Sybil (1976)

Sybil (1976) is a film based on a real life character named Shirley Mason (1923-1998). Shirley Mason took on the name, ‘Sybil’ and this name became the title of the national best seller book, “Sybil” written by Flora Schreiber in collaboration with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur.

Shirley Mason (1923-1998)

What sparked the interest of many to read and know more about her was because she was diagnosed with Dissociative identity disorder (DID). However, there were controversies surrounding her as to whether her alters really existed (Look below under “references” for more information). Nevertheless DID is indeed a fascinating phenomenon! Below are some of the terms you should know before I continue:


Dissociative identity disorder (DID) 

Alternative name:

Multiple personality disorder.


“the personality breaks up into 2 or more distinct identities or personality states, each well integrated and well developed, which then take turns controlling the person’s behaviour“ (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005)


Host: the personality state of the individual before the onset of the disorder

Alters: the identities that developed/emerged later


Well, you can imagine the wonder which the audience experienced when they were told that this film was based on a true story! However, being a film, there might be exaggerations of the symptoms or events which happened. Therefore, under this section, I will analyse the film to determine how accurate the symptoms were portrayed.

Symptoms Portrayed in Film: True or False?

1.      The alters knows about the host, but the host might not be aware of the existence of the alters.

2.      The host only gradually becomes aware of the existence of the alter when presented with evidence of the alter’s activities.

3.      The alters can make up of different personalities.

4.      It is possible to possess one or more alter who is in the form of a child.

5.      It is possible to possess one or more alter who is of the opposite sex.

6.      Traumatic childhood experience could be a possible trigger for the formation of other personalities as a form of defence mechanism.



All the statements above are true (Alloy et al., 2005) + the film was able to portray these accurately.



However, it is important to note that not ALL children who were abused were more likely to be diagnosed with DID. Childhood abuse could lead to other types of disorders as well, such as depression and borderline personality disorder (Alloy et al., 2005).

 Fascinating as it is, we have to be cautious, and not get over excited about it because this particular disorder has been faced with many controversies. Some people even tried to use DID as an excuse for the crimes they have committed (Alloy et al., 2005). Therefore, it is difficult to proof this disorder.


Interestingly, my group produced a film on this disorder for our Abnormal Psychology class.

Do take a look~! (I’m very proud of it)



Alloy, L. B., Riskind, J. H. & Manos, M. J. (2005). Abnormal psychology. New York, NY: The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

Real ‘Sybil’ Admits Multiple Personalities Were Fake




I have no idea why the format of the text is so…all over the place. I tried many times to fix it but failed… So I apologize for the messy-ness.

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