Personality Disorders in Movies

Human body and mind are manifestations of a personality within the boundaries of society and beyond them. That what does not meet certain requirements is to be deleted from the view of what is considered to be normal until causes and consequences are known and dealt with. The paper aims at analyzing the matter of the portrayal of personality disorders in media. The issue under consideration is discussed on the example of the movie Girl Interrupted.

The main character of the film is a girl named Susanna Kaysen. She has checked herself into a hospital where she spends more than a year. She meets other girls like her with some mental disorders in the institution. The theme of the “mentally dismissed people”, if we can put it this way, is subtly illustrated in the phrase “there is a place for people like you” (Wick, 1999). It means that Susanna is considered to be not suitable to live in the society; she scares her parents, and together they make a decision to let her have a rest in Claymore psychiatric hospital.

It is interesting that patients of the hospital watch television every day when they have free time. We can observe how a small society of people with mental disorders is influenced by the media (does not matter if it is a movie they watch or a blog of news about Martin Luther King). It portrays them to us as a separate community that is a part of life in the outside, but cannot reach life in the inside. They are just put away.

At that place, Susanna finds a way with a girl Lisa Rowe. Lisa is a character we have chosen to examine. She is a sociopath. In medicine the term “antisocial personality disorder” (ASPD) is used. The disorder goes under the code 301.7 (F60.2) according to DSM-V. The disease is characterized by a failure to follow the rules of society and aggressive behavior. That is why the patients who suffer from this disease have to be hospitalized.

We do not have a lot of background information on Lisa. It is said that she has spent ten years in that hospital and did not seem to be leaving it in the future. Her family history is revealed in a notion that parents want her dead and do not care about her. Lisa is a drug addict (she does drugs when she runs away once in a while). It suggests thinking that Lisa has had the antisocial personality disorder since she was a teenager and has always behaved herself violently and aggressive like she acts now. She likes her way of handling things, and even her diagnosis does not set limits for her. She can stay herself no matter what happens, and this insures an interesting life for her. In a conversation with Susanna, Lisa says: “You think you're free? I'm free! You don't know what freedom is! I'm free. I can breathe. And you... will choke on your average … mediocre life!” (Wick, 1999).

In order to diagnose Lisa, her disease is evaluated based on the DSM-V criteria. There are four criteria for diagnosing the antisocial personality disorder. According to the criterion A that is disregard and violation of rules and rights, Lisa exhibits the following symptoms:

  1. Failure to obey norms and rules by behaving in a way that may result in arrests (Lisa often escapes from the institution and is brought back by a policeman).
  2. Lisa is a known manipulator and succeeds in making people do things that she wants them to do for personal benefit or amusement.
  3. She acts rather impulsively and on her emotions.
  4. The girl disregards safety of others around. She is even more threat to other people than herself.
  5. Lisa has a pattern of irresponsible actions.
  6. The patient clearly demonstrated a lack of remorse for things that she does and the influence she has. For example, a girl hangs herself shortly after a conversation with Lisa. Lisa has “pressed her buttons” (Wick, 1999).

Among other criteria of DSM-V Lisa corresponds to B – she is more than eighteen years old; C – her disorder has a history that started before she was fifteen years old; D – Lisa’s antisocial conduct pattern is not associated with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (Porter, 2014).

These symptoms meet the criteria of the antisocial personality disorder. She is not bipolar, depressed or suicidal. Lisa states her idea about suicide “razors pain you, rivers are damp, acid stains you, drugs cause cramps, gun aren't lawful, nooses give, gas smells awful, you might as well live” (Wick, 1999). The antisocial personality disorder is comorbid with other personality disorders. It may share symptoms with substance-related and addictive disorders, or those that cover the criteria for the antagonistic cluster.

It is interesting how the disorder is depicted in the movie. Lisa illustrates the whole spectrum of symptoms of the antisocial personality disorder, and she has some bright features that she has developed on her own. She is a leader. She can organize other patients and make them do something together (play, run, read etc.). The girls with disorders, who are in the same hospital, respect her. Despite her diagnosis, Lisa has friends who miss her when she is away. Only in the end of the movie, Susanna despises Lisa for cruel behavior and not caring about others.

The paper has analyzed the character Lisa from the movie Girl Interrupted. Lisa has a serious medical condition that is the antisocial personality disorder. She lives in a mental health hospital. One can recognize Lisa’s symptoms that are fully demonstrated in the movie. It helps to diagnose her in accordance with the DSM-V criteria (she meets them all). There is not much information in the plot of the film about the past of the character, but the events show that Lisa’s future is not likely to change as she does not accept therapy and medication. The film appeals to the audience as it shows a picture from life that people usually avoid and dismiss. The mental institution on the screen is like a small world that includes a society with its rules and nature. The film accurately depicts the idea of life within the “mentally disabled” walls. It gives us an opportunity to understand people with personality disorders better. A given above case description is based on the fictional character though people in different hospitals suit the profile.