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