Multiple Personality Disorder: Background information when reading A Fractured Mind

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A Fractured Mind

My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder

by Robert B. Oxnam

A Fractured Mind by Robert B. Oxnam X
A Fractured Mind by Robert B. Oxnam
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 304 pages

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    Oct 2006, 304 pages

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Multiple Personality Disorder

This article relates to A Fractured Mind

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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, the primary characteristic of Disassociate Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is the existence of more than one distinct identity or personality within the same individual. The identities will ‘take control’ of the person at different times, with important information about the other identities out of conscious awareness. This differs from Schizophrenia, the symptoms of which include delusions and hallucinations, disorganized behavior and/or speech.

The most famous MPD sufferer is arguably Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998), better known as "Sybil". In the early 1950s, having been plagued by blackouts and breakdowns for many years, Mason visited Dr Cornelia Wilbur who diagnosed her with MPD, and during 11 years of therapy found 16 personalities inside Mason, which she helped Mason integrate into a whole. In 1973, journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote Mason's story, changing her name to Sybil to protect her privacy. The publication of Sybil opened the doors to a massive increase of diagnosed MPD cases (according to one source there were 50 known cases in the USA in 1973, by 1990 20,000 cases had been diagnosed).

In 1998, after reviewing some of the original interview tapes, psychologist Robert Rieber told the American Psychological Association that he'd found tape recorded conversations between Sybil's psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber that document "the fraudulent construction of a multiple personality."

Rieber was in possession of the tapes because he was a former friend of Shreiber who gave him the tapes in 1972 for a research study he was considering doing. The project didn't happen so the tapes remained in his drawer for 25 years until 1997, when comments by Herbert Spiegal, who had been Mason's therapist when Wilbur was out of town and had also used her in hypnotism research (and had long questioned the case), triggered Rieber's memory. The truth will never be known as Schreiber died in 1988, Mason in 1992 and and Wilbur in 1998. For more information read these 1998 Articles from The San Francisco Chronicle and Reuters.

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

This article relates to A Fractured Mind. It first ran in the February 7, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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