Celebrities and Famous People with DID
In spite of the fact that many people have never heard of dissociative identity disorder (DID), there are celebrities and famous people with DID. It is a rare disorder and one that not many people would likely choose to share with the world, but pro football star, Herschel Walker, has. Counting Crows frontman, Adam Duritz, has also opened up about having a dissociative disorder. Finally, the extremely famous best-selling book and miniseries, Sybil, tells of the dissociative identity disorder suffered by Shirley Mason. (Also see Real Dissociative Identity Disorder Stories and Videos and Dissociative Identity Disorder Cases: Famous and Amazing)
Shirley Mason and Sybil's Tale of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Shirley Mason, born January 25, 1923, describes having a horrible childhood with the actions of her mother being nothing less than barbaric. This transcript from a therapy session speaks to its horror:
"What about Mama?" the psychiatrist asks her patient. "What's Mama been doing to you, dear? . . . I know she gave you the enemas. And I know she filled your bladder up with cold water, and I know she used the flashlight on your, and I know she stuck a washcloth in your mouth, cotton in your nose so you couldn't breathe . . . What else did she do to you? It's all right to talk about it now. . . ."
"My mommy," the patient says.
"My mommy said that I was as bad little girl, and . . . she slapped me . . . with her knuckles."
As an adult, Mason spoke to her therapist of "coming to" in antique shops, her mind blank, facing dishes or figurines that were smashed to pieces. She also spoke of finding herself in strange hotels with no idea of what city she was in. These types of symptoms initially provoked a diagnosis of fugue states – a state in which a person may forget who they are entirely and go on to do things completely out of character, after which they "wake up" with little or no memory of what has happened.
It was only 10 days after that diagnosis that Mason appeared in an alternate personality in her therapy session. This new personality, "Peggy," was said to be more confident, had the ability to get angry and could also stand up for herself, whereas Mason couldn't. It was after this that multiple personality disorder was diagnosed (now known as dissociative identity disorder).
Countless therapy diaries and therapy session transcripts were turned into the best-selling book Sybil about Mason's dissociative identity disorder in 1973. The book was turned into a miniseries that was seen by one-fifth of all Americans making Sybil and dissociative identity disorder extremely famous. (Sybil DVD)
Since Mason's death in 1998, however, many questions have been raised about Mason's diagnosis and the book, Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, has challenged the facts of the case saying that much of it was fabricated.
Celebrities with Dissociative Identity Disorder: Herschel Walker
It was in 2008 that the world learned of Herschel Walker's dissociative identity disorder diagnosis in his book: Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. This 1982 Heisman Trophy winner said his life went off the tracks shortly after his football career ended. Walker said to CNN, "My life was out of control. I was not happy, I was very sad, I was angry and I didn't understand why."
In his book, Walker talks about his alternate personalities (alters) in terms of their function. He has: the Hero, the Coach, the Enforcer, the Consoler, the Warrior and the Daredevil, just to name a few.
Not all alters were negative parts of Walker's life, but some caused extreme and violent behavior which Walker mostly doesn't remember.
According to CNN:
"Walker said a competitive alter caused him to be a danger to himself, playing Russian roulette more than once. In the book, he describes another incident, the very late delivery of a car, that made him so angry he had thoughts of killing someone. It was that moment that he realized he had to seek help, he said, which ultimately led to his diagnosis."
After his diagnosis, things got worse and, ultimately, DID symptoms led to the end of his 19 year marriage to Cindy Grossman. Grossman says that Walker held guns to her head, threatened her with a straight razor and threatened to kill her. Walker doesn't remember these events but doesn't deny them, as blackouts are a part of dissociative identity disorder (read about dissociative amnesia).
After 10 years of therapy for DID, Walker is doing much better. Walker told CNN, "I'm okay. I love me -- Herschel Walker. You know, 10 years ago I probably couldn't say that. But today, I can say that. I'm not going to say I'm great or I'm good, but I'm okay."
Last Updated: 16 October 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD