In the 1970s, the TV movie “Sybil” introduced much of the nation to multiple personality disorder and launched a controversy that continues to resonate.

Get our weekly newsletter
In partnership with Yahoo News

Is Multiple Personality Disorder Real? One Woman's Story

Producer: Barbara Dury
Editor: Bret Sigler
Reporter: Sarah Weiser

In 1976, millions of viewers tuned in to watch “Sybil,” a television movie based on the best-selling book of the same name, and were introduced to the agonies of a young woman said to have 16 different personalities.

The TV movie elevated a rarely diagnosed mental illness – multiple personality disorder – into a cultural phenomenon and a talk show staple. By 1980, The American Psychiatric Association officially recognized the disorder. And soon thousands of patients were being diagnosed with it.

But as the case numbers rose in the 1990s, so too did questions about the disorder, and the woman who had become the face of it.

Today, the controversy over Multiple Personality Disorder – now called Dissociative Identity Disorder – continues to shape mental health issues.

Debate Persists Over Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders, Long After ‘Sybil’ by Clyde Haberman
New TV Series Explores the Debate Over a Multiple Personality Diagnosis by Sarah Weiser

Additional Information:
Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

TranscriptLesson Plan

More on the Story

Chris Costner Sizemore, the Patient Behind ‘The Three Faces of Eve,’ Dies at 89The New York Times
The Film That Birthed Multiple Personality DisorderThe Takeaway
Related Coverage
Debate Persists Over Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders, Long After ‘Sybil’The New York Times
A New, Skeptical Look at ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’Science of Us
Sybil: A Look Back at the Most Famous Case of Multiple Personality DisorderThe Absolute
Debate Persists Over Personality Disorder, Long After 'Sybil'New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services