Dec 13, 2017 in Medicine

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a psychiatric condition that was previously called Multiple Personality Disorder. When a person has this condition, he (or she) has two or more distinct identities that repeatedly take control of his or her behavior at different times. Interestingly, such a person is unable to recall behaving in certain ways during their alternative personalities .This lack of memory is too much to be described as ordinary forgetfulness. Interestingly, this disorder does not occur due to any direct physiological effects, abuse of a substance or any general medical condition.

The 1973 film Sybil is the story of a graduate student, Sybil Dorsett, who had this condition. In the film, Sybil is depicted as having several different personalities that take charge of her actions at different times (Field, Sara). Interestingly, Sybil cannot remember her actions at any time that she has a different personality.

The entire story revolves around Sybil and her psychologist, Cornelia Wilbur. Throughout the entire film, Dr. Wilbur attempts to fathom what Sybil is suffering from. However, as the movie progresses, he comes to a deeper understanding of Sybil’s condition.

In the movie, Sybil holds about thirteen different personalities whose ages cut right across from childhood to her grandmother’s age. Interestingly, some of the personalities that Sybil displays are male rather than female. The most interesting of these personalities are Vickie, who calls Dr. Wilbur warning him that Sybil is about to commit suicide; Marcia, the suicidal personality; Peggy, who has artistic abilities, and whom Sybil is afraid of, and Vanessa, who has musical abilities.

Sybil’s psychologist also discovers that Sybil cannot remember her actions when she assumes any of the other personalities. This is a common feature of Dissociative Identity Disorder. In fact, it is one of the diagnostic criteria for this condition (Herman). Sybil’s memories are repressed to the extent that some of her personalities are unable to remember the way that her mother abused her as little child. However, Dr. Wilbur takes pains to find evidence that enables Sybil to recover her memory.

Things come to a head when Sybil tries to throw herself off the roof. Dr. Wilbur is called to the scene and he helps Sybil come down from the roof top. All this time, Dr. Wilbur has been collecting information that would be useful in finding out the cause of Sybil’s condition. He gathers that Sybil’s mother had been diagnosed with paranoid Schizophrenia, and that Sybil had also suffered intense physical abuse from her mother during her childhood. All these are risk factors for developing the condition of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Indeed, the condition is known to develop among people who have experienced traumas of different sorts during their childhood. Apparently, Sybil is one such person.

Once Sybil’s psychologist gathers enough information, he helps Sybil recover from her condition. First off, he administers hypnotics to her. Next, he tables enough information as evidence for Sybil in order to help her remember what she does when she assumes the other personalities. Next, he helps her vent out her rage against her mother. Then he introduces her to her other personalities, thereby helping her to understand herself more. Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorders is not definitive (Kluft). However, some treatments may help reduce the effects of the condition or eliminate it altogether. One is to offer the patient hypnotics, which help them to get tranquilized. Thereafter, the clinician can convince the patient of their other personalities and help them to manage it.

Sybil is the prototype of a person suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her story enables the viewer to understand this condition in greater detail.

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