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Sybil is a movie made in 1976, based on a true story, about a girl living with multiple personality disorder. Sybil has sixteen different personalities that each come out at different points throughout the movie depending on what she is going through. For example, when Sybil is angry, Peggy Lou comes out and expresses the anger that Sybil herself cannot. When the different personalities show, Sybil thinks she is experiencing blackouts because she remembers nothing for certain periods of time. She will come back to paintings she started finished or an entire meal cooked and have no recollection of doing these things. One of Sybil’s professors notices she is strange acting at times and sends her to a psychiatrist, Dr. Wilber. Dr. Wilber diagnoses Sybil with multiple personality disorder as a result from extreme abuse from her mother as a child.
This movie is very good at showing how physical and psychological abuse can affect people for their entire lives. In Sybil, she uses each of her personalities to deal with the emotions that she is unable to every day. Sybil herself blocked out any memory of her mother abusing her as a child and denies that her mother would ever do such a thing. It is her other personalities that remember everything and have to deal with the trauma. Sybil shows the daily struggle of someone dealing with a psychological disorder and how it can completely alter a person’s life. She cannot even maintain a normal relationship because her disorder has taken over her life.
Multiple personality disorder is when there is more than one personality inside one person and it is also a dissociative disorder. Dissociative disorders are defined as disruptions in a person’s memory, consciousness, or identity. In Sybil’s case, there are disruptions in all three. Sybil is the “host” personality and her sixteen other alternate personalities have different experiences, traits, and memories than her. In the movie Sybil, it seems that her personality switches under feelings of stress or anxiety. This common in dissociative disorders because the host is trying to block out those feelings that bring back the memories of trauma and project them somewhere else. A fight between two of Sybil’s personalities is what prompts her to give Dr. Wilber a chance. Sybil’s father always taught her not to trust doctors because they will just try to hypnotize you and give you medications. Once Dr. Wilber starts talking to Sybil she realizes Sybil is hard to get information out of, but some of her other personalities are not. Dr. Wilber concludes that stress is what causes these changes in personality when Sybil tells her that she blacked out when her grandmother died, which is a huge stress, and woke up two years older. Dr. Wilber eventually ends up taking Sybil back to her home, hypnotizing her and all her personalities finally come together.
While watching Sybil, I found the depiction of the psychological concept to be very accurate. Although multiple personality disorder is not a common disorder that you meet people with every day, it is still a major disorder that mental, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse can form. This movie is an excellent example of how childhood trauma can stay with a person throughout their entire life. At the end of the movie, Dr. Wilber meets with Sybil’s childhood pediatrician and she confirms the clear evidence of abuse Sybil showed from her mother and that her mother was always fidgety and nervous acing at the doctors. Sybil made me realize how hidden disorders can be and you never know what other people are going through. If you think about it, Sybil grew up being abused so badly by her mother and no one ever helped her. All the trauma she endured her whole life could have been stopped and she would not have needed to create these alternate versions of herself to help her deal with her experiences if someone would have helped her earlier on in life.
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