Theravive Home

The Latest in Therapy News

August 23, 2016
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

R.I.P. Chris Sizemore: A Look at Dissociative Identity Disorder

August 23, 2016 20:02 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

In 1957 the movie, "The Three Faces of Eve" starring Joanne Woodward had a tremendous impact on the viewing audience. Ms Woodward won an academy award for her performance.

“Eve” was actually a woman named Chris Sizemore who suffered from what was then called “Multiple Personality Disorder”.

The first documented case of what has been renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was in 1584. A woman named Jeanne Fery, a twenty-five year old Dominican nun, wrote about her own exorcism. In the 16th century if an individual exhibited strange or disruptive behavior it was believed that that person was possessed by demons. Because of this, Sister Jeanne faced numerous attempts at exorcism.  Not all of  Sister Jeanne’s  “alters” were demonic. In fact, one of her “alters” was Mary Magdalene, who was helpful and appeared to assist at times of crises.

Two of Sister Jeanne’s demons were Namon and Belial. They were associated with the Seven Deadly Sins. These and other evil spirits that were part of Sister Jeanne’s reality played dual roles — they were blamed for perceived sacrilege, while, at the same time, acted as protectors.

Sister Jeanne’s alters could, at times be heard arguing. When put in restraints due to fits of rage, Sister Jeanne was always able to escape — something that in her “normal” state she would not have been able to accomplish. She suffered from painful headaches (a common symptom in DID), suffered blindness, mutism and eating disturbances, along with a host of other symptoms.

In the early 20th century the condition was first acknowledged to be a mental disorder which was called, first, Dual Personality an then, Multiple Personality Disorder. The condition was renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder in the DSMIV. This presents a more accurate description of this type of mental illness and suggests its causes.

It is believed that Dissociative Identity Disorder is primarily caused by traumatic experiences in early childhood. The age of development is generally between 3 and 6. As with most psychiatric disturbances, date of onset and severity are on a continuum from very to less severe in terms of interference with the functioning of daily life.

It has been noted that 9 times more women are diagnosed with DID than men. Despite the case of Sister Jeanne Fery  in France, some believe that DID is  primarily a North American occurrence. This is due to the fact that most reports of DID are generated in North America. Thus, it is thought that cultural influences contribute to the diagnosis.

Chris Sizemore was, in the 1950’s, in treatment with Dr.s Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Clerkly. She complained of severe headaches and no memory of events in which she had reportedly participated.

The doctors hypnotised Chris, and over time it appeared that she had a core personality and two “alters”. It was unclear which one was the governing individual. The doctors named the three personalities Eve White, who was quiet and obedient. Eve Black, who was a more flamboyant risk taker. Finally, there was Jane, who appeared to be an amalgam of the other two. In time, it would be revealed that Chris lived with a total of 22 “alters”.

It was not until the age of 46 (in the 1970’s) that Chris Sizemore actually integrated all of the alters and was able to discover her “real” self. The process was painful and Chris reported feeling empty after the conversion of her twenty-two alters into one core personality.

Some in the psychiatric community contend that DID is not a genuine psychiatric condition. Dissociative Identity Disorder often mimics PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder in it’s presentation. 

When an individual, especially a young child, encounters a horrific event such as sexual abuse, violence and the upheaval of all that is familiar, the reality is too hard for the child to integrate. The psyche protects itself by splitting the memory of the event away from consciousness. This allows the individual to continue with what had been ordinary life. In cases of DID, the “forgotten” incident is held in the unconscious until something triggers the memory and the alternate personality emerges.

Chris Sizemore died on July 24, 2016 in Ocala, Florida. Although her 22 “alters” were not unified until the 1970’s, Chris was able to lead a surprisingly normal life. She was married twice, once divorced and once widowed. Chris had two children, Taffy and Robert, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Her son, Bobby, has reported that some of her alters could accomplish tasks that Chris, herself, could not. On more than one occasion she was able to drive him to a mall, experience the emergence of another alter who did not know how to drive, and then would need assistance getting home.

Most of her alters had kept diaries and journals, which helped in the healing process. There were disparate hand writings and attitudes. Most of Chris’s notes and journals are archived at Duke University (1952-1989).

Some of the alters were talented painters, some were chefs. Her son, Bobby, described the “Retrace Lady”. This alter was fearful of travelling in the same path and would, as a result, take long, complicated detours.

Chris reported that at one time her weight ballooned to 175 pounds because she was feeding three different alters three different meals. Her alters had a range of ages, attitudes, and belief systems. They were various ethnicities and both male and female.

Following the integration of her alters Chris asked to see her father. She did not have the memory that he had died some time before that.

Patients report that some of their alters are aware of the others and some alters exercise more control than others. Reports of waking up in a strange place and not remembering where they are or how they got there are common.  When they are accused of lying or stealing  or exhibiting behavior that is unusual it is puzzling, as they have “blackouts”, during which time they are consciously unaware of their actions. 

At times these alters cannot recognize themselves in the mirror. This is because they take on numerous physical attributes.  They are different heights, have varied coloring in hair, eyes and skin, and, as noted above, are both male and female.

It is the job of the alters to protect the “host” from unbearable memories that threaten to destroy. Both psychotherapy and hypnotism are used to help patients build the strength to deal with the past. Little is know about the efficacy of these treatments.

Considering the significant emotional and physical pain that patients report it is remarkable that Chris Sizemore was able to spend her later years speaking on behalf of individuals suffering from mental illness. Chris Sizemore had the strength of character to use her travails to help others. An extraordinary life that, fortunately ended quietly and peacefully.


Bernstein, A. (2016, July 29). Chris Sizemore, Whose Many Personalities Were The Real Three Faces of Eve Dies at 89. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

Dryden-Edwards, R., MD. (2016, February 12). Dissociative Identity Disorder. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

Kaminski, J. (2015, December 29). Case Study: The Three Faces of Eve. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

Lowell, J. (n.d.). What is it Like Having Dissociative Identity Disorder. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

Muller, R., Ph.D. (2013, January 19). The Media and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

Weber, B. (2016, August 5). Cris Costner Sizemore, The Patient Behind the "Three Faces of Eve" Dies at 89. Retrieved August 11, 2016. 

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

A practical approach to problems encountered in daily life. A confidential and comfortable atmosphere in which we will use humor to help you gain perspective on current concerns. Enhance your skills for creative problem solving.

Ruth Gordon has a clinical practice in Naples, FL

blog comments powered by Disqus