Fight Club and Dissociative Identity Disorder

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The 1999 film Fight Club, based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name, was received as one of the most controversial films of the year, and has since gained a strong cult popularity. The movie places strong emphasis on the evils of modern consumerism, and adopts a “fight the system” attitude throughout. The setting is bleak and degraded – the main character, who remains unnamed for the entirety of the film, inhabits a city that seems perpetually dark and run down. All in all, the film attempts to make a statement on the effects of society norms and “the system” on an individual’s pursuit of happiness; at its center, it employs dissociative identity disorder to do so.

“This is your life and its ending one minute at a time”. The first line of the film not only sets the dark mood for the entire film, it also breaks the fourth wall and establishes a relationship with the audience directly. The narrator is a white-collared employee of a nameless firm, plagued by insomnia and the feeling of being trapped. He medicates himself through consumerism; through the steady acquisition of “things”, he attempts to cure his anxiety and depression. “I flipped through catalogs and wondered: What kind of dining set defines me as a person”, he once asked of himself. However, these things do not help, and his condition worsens until he meets Tyler Durden.

When the narrator’s house burns down mysteriously, he moves in with Tyler Durden, who is portrayed as free-spirited, impulsive and all-in-all a revolutionary. The decide to start “Fight Club”, where men gather each week in a basement to brawl, for no other reason than to sooth the sense of entrapment that they all feel. The more time the narrator spends with Durden, the more he lets go of the material obsession that he clung on to in the past. Finally, one day, Durden leaves with no word or warning.

The narrator travels around the whole country looking for him; he is egged on by mysterious clues, such as plane ticket stubs that he somehow knows where to find. Finally, in a hotel room, Tyler Durden appears to him, and reveals that they are one and the same person; when the narrator falls asleep, he dissociates into Durden.

Delirious from the encounter, the narrator flees from the room, only later to be “captured” by Durden. Bound to a chair, he watches his imaginary identity point a gun to his head. Forcing himself to break the illusion, he finds that the gun is instead in his own hands; he shoots himself in the jaw, which “kills” Tyler Durden and frees the narrator. The film ends with the narrator in an empty office building with the song “Where is my Mind” playing in the background.

Although Fight Club utilizes DID as an important aspect in its plot development, in some regards it is inaccurate in the development of the psychological disorder. Most importantly, the narrator did not (to the extent of the viewer) undergo any form of childhood trauma. Rather, his anxiety and feelings of entrapment – spurred by the structure of modern society – caused himself to dissociate. In this sense, the movie makes a statement about the intensity of the psychological damage that is caused by such a materialistic culture.

One important parallel between Fight Club‘s DID and the real disorder is the idea that the alternate identities are present as a coping mechanism for the individual. A stronger, more confidant personality will oftentimes take over for the benefit of the individual. “I’ll bring us through this. As always. I’ll carry you – kicking and screaming – and in the end you’ll thank me,” Tyler told the narrator. In the film, since the greatest psychological abuse is the domination of consumerism, Tyler Durden must represent the narrator’s inward urge to break free from the system. While the narrator was not aware of this until the climax of the movie, Durden knew his role the whole time: “All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.”

Thus, the film uses DID as a hyperbole, or a metaphor – everybody has this repressed angst against the structure of modern consumerist society, even though few will go so far as to construct a separate identity to fight it. In this sense, DID did not play a negative role in the movie; rather than a disorder, it was portrayed as a saving grace. “People do it everyday, they talk to themselves… they see themselves as they’d like to be, they don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it.”


Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

•April 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

-By Dereck

Dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, is basically a condition that causes a person to display multiple personalities that are each distinct and that behave differently in the environment.  As the name suggests, someone with dissociative identity disorder displays very different personalities that take over at different times, and that each personality doesn’t typically remember what the other personality did while “in control”.  This disorder has many symptoms which resemble other psychological disorders, including schizophrenia. One of the symptoms of this disorder can be described as sudden and uncaused anger.

This is something that is seen quite regularly with the character Mr. Hyde in Robert Louis Stevenson’ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a classic and widely popular novel.  In it one of the main characters, Dr. Jekyll, finds a way to “transform” into a person without a conscience.  This second form is known as Mr. Hyde.  Mr. Hyde exhibits strangely violent tendencies (such as murder) which force Dr. Jekyll to flee from the police, who are trying to hunt him down. What’s different about the two split personalities in this novel, as compared to Dissociative Identity Disorder, is that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde actually remember what the other person does, and that Dr. Jekyll knows what crimes were committed when he was Mr. Hyde.  This is one of the major plot elements that does not tie in with multiple personalities.

However, the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has much similarity to Dissociative Identity Disorder in that the characters interacting with Dr. Jekyll and/or Mr. Hyde see very different people that take over at specific times.  They are different to the point where even physical appearance changes when Dr. Jekyll transforms. Another interesting aspect of the relationship between the two characters is that one personality is ultimately “winning”.  Dr. Jekyll in the novel becomes increasingly desperate to create more potion in order to revert back to his normal self.  This is because he begins to transform automatically into Mr. Hyde involuntarily and later against his will.  The end of the novel reveals that Dr. Jekyll was about to transform into Mr. Hyde for good before he finished writing the letter.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a familiar story that has many of the elements of a story about Dissociative Identity Disorder.  Through its slightly different twists and additions, the story portrays the struggle of someone dealing with other identities not in their own control.  In the end, Dr. Jekyll is ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts to regain control over his self as his final letter bids farewell to the world.  Fortunately, this is not necessarily the fate that people with multiple personalities have to face!

“Always giving parties to cover the silence,” Depression in ‘The Hours’.

•April 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

by cooper.

Based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours is a 2002 film staring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore.

The film is set in three different locations and years, with three different women living their lives.  Clarissa, played by Streep, is living in New York City in 2001.  Laura, played by Moore is living in Los Angeles in 1951.  And lastly, Virginia, played by Kidman is living in England in 1923.  All three women’s lives are connected by the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf.

The film, which mostly depicts just one day in the lives of all three women, has a major common theme of depression throughout.  Two characters, Virginia and Richard, commit suicide and Laura also recurring thoughts of suicide throughout her day.  Although Clarissa did not exhibit any suicidal thoughts, it is easy to tell that she is going through a lot of pain.

From start to finish, there are many symptoms of depression displayed by the characters.  At times, all three women are shown laying in bed, with a striking sense of grief and melancholy.  Added heavily by the music in the film, there is an extreme feeling of sadness in the film.  Other signs that appear during the film are extremes in emotion, irritability, and a general sense of frustration and the desire to be left alone.  Suicide is also a main theme.

Virginia is a writer in England in the 1920’s.  It is mentioned in the film that she has tried to commit suicide twice before, and she eventually succeeds in her third attempt at the end of the film.  During the movie, Virginia is portrayed mostly alone working on her writing, and always with a sad feeling surrounding her.  Her history of depression and suicide is known by those around her, and everyone seems to tread pretty lightly because of it.  Virginia makes it very clear during the film, that while other people might sympathize with her, no one knows what she is going through.  This appears to be a very common aspect of depression.  Towards the end of the film, Virginia mentions to her husband, “Only I can understand my own condition.”  A very powerful statement.

For the pregnant Laura, her day is spent with her young boy at their home in Los Angeles.  Although she has the company of her son, and for a brief moment an acquaintance who stops by, the viewer can tell that Laura is very much alone in the world.  She appears extremely sad, and seems to just “get by” with her day, rather than actually living it.  At one point in the film, Laura drops her son off with a friend and heads to a hotel, where she contemplates suicide.  At the end of the film, an elderly Laura and the middle-aged Clarissa meet each other in New York City, and the film very much comes full-circle.

Like the other two women, Clarissa does not appear to be in a good place.  Although she tries not to show her sadness and depression, it is quite apparent that she is experiencing something.  During her day, Clarissa is planning a party for her friend Richard, an AIDS patient who also is deeply depressed.  Richard eventually commits suicide before the party, in the presence of Clarissa, seemingly his only friend in the world.  Unlike the other two women, who did not really have any friends in the world, Clarissa was surrounded by people during her day.  A key sign that depression can be affecting anybody.

The Hours seems to have portrayed depression quite well, and would be a beneficial film to anyone interested in the subject.

“No one gets left behind,” Depression in Little Miss Sunshine

•April 29, 2010 • 1 Comment

by cooper.

Little Miss Sunshine is a 2006 film about a family and their atypical road trip from New Mexico to California, in hopes of having their daughter Olive win a children’s beauty pageant.

Although not a large scale theme in the film, depression is brought up numerous times, and in many different scenes.  Frank, played by Steve Carell, is a middle-aged scholar who just recently lost his job, went through some relationship problems, and eventually tried to commit suicide.  The effects of his suicide attempt, heavily bandaged wrists, are seen consistently throughout the film.  Frank’s suicide attempt occurred two days prior to the adventure, and because he could not be left alone, he makes the trip with the family.

Although not really seen in too much depth by the viewers, Frank’s depression seemed to be heavily caused by his partner’s abandonment, and the ensuing crippling of his life that soon followed.  He appeared to have internalized his thoughts and feelings until it became too much to handle.

Although the viewers did not see Frank physically receiving any prescribed treatment for his depression in the film, his moods and attitudes did seem to become better as the film progressed.  Being around his family, being preoccupied, and staying active all seemed to really help skew his mental state.  Frank’s moods went from a complete melancholy and morose state in the beginning, to being upbeat and fixated on helping Olive in her quest to win the pageant.

Depression did appear to be portrayed in a very real light in the film.  From the beginning, when Frank was seated in the hospital with his wrists bandaged staring mindlessly out the window, to the manner in which he led his life in the film, there did appear to be a lot of realness about Frank’s condition.  More importantly, I think the film did a great job in showing that depression can be treated, and those suffering can get better with time and help.

Depression- General Information

•April 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

by cooper.

Mood disorders are mental disorders that have mood related problems as their main symptoms.  There are two forms of mood disorders, depression and bipolar disorder.

While everyone has felt sad, melancholy, or depressed at one time or another, clinical or major depression is characterized by prolonged bouts of intense or severe depressive moods.  Many common symptoms of major depression include extremes in eating and sleeping patterns, sense of guilt, lethargy, and a highlighted sense of failure or worthlessness.  The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 6.7% of the United States adult population is affected by major depression.  Also noteworthy, women are diagnosed with depression at twice the rate of men.

Depression can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or other doctor by way of evaluation.  Unlike many other ailments, depression cannot be diagnosed by a simple lab test.  The most common treatment for major depression is a combination of prescription medication and psychotherapy.  Physical exercise can also be a very helpful treatment in depression.  An integral aspect of treating depression is finding the right balance and type of treatment, as different treatments work for different people.

Depression is a very serious illness, and when left untreated can cause serious outcomes.  Fortunately, the stigma that has seemed to surround the disease has gradually appeared to diminish with each passing year.  There are many resources available for people suffering from depression, and the good news is that when treated, many people’s symptoms do subside.


Psychology- Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner

A Beautiful Mind

•April 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

-By Dereck

A Beautiful Mind is in many peoples’ opinions one of the best movies ever made.  Even my roommates, when I told them I was going to watch it, said that they remember that movie vividly and that it was one of their personal favorites.  The key psychological disorder, as well as the main plot twist, is that the main character – John Nash, a brilliant Mathematician – has schizophrenia.

For the first half of the movie, this disorder is not blatantly obvious to the viewer, though on a second time through it you would definitely notice the hints.  Several characters, such as John’s roommate Charles and the mysterious Mr. Parcher, are later on proven to be fictional characters in John’s mind although in the movie, they are visual and auditory parts of John’s life.  When it is finally revealed in the psychiatric ward that John has schizophrenia, and that several characters in fact don’t exist in reality, John eventually begins to battle against seeing and responding to his delusions.  Over a period of a few decades John finally manages to permanently ignore his hallucinations, rather than become dependent on the medication.

What the movie portrays about schizophrenia is John’s paranoia and the realness of his hallucinations.  They talk, they move, they even seem to have an effect on physical objects.  At several points in the movie, John interacts with several delusions at once, each doing work on imaginary machinery.  Eventually, John has to take shock therapy and medications in order to combat his disorder.  The side effects of the medication upon his ability to do his work and take care of his family prove to be too great of a cost, which the movie portrays as almost worse than having the hallucinations.

What struck me most about watching A Beautiful Mind is how real the delusions seem to the person with the disorder, and how difficult treatment is after its been discovered.  As the viewer, you definitely feel compelled by the delusions and struggle to come to grips with them as well when the disorder is discovered in John.  The viewer also feels heavily connected to the personal struggles John has to face in order to overcome his disorder and lead a “normal” life.  There was a glimmer of hope, however, in that the real John Nash did in fact win the Nobel Prize after learning to control his responses to the delusions, and was able to return to his great work in Mathematics.

Musings about “The Silence of the Lambs”

•April 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

-by Alex

Silence of the Lambs is a heart-racing thriller that has arguably one of the most interesting characters in cinema history, Hannibal Lector, a famous psychologist who also has Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Hannibal Lector is played by Anthony Hopkins and at the beginning of the movie, he is approached by a young, rising FBI agent, named Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster.  Clarice has come to interview Hannibal, because she is currently on the hunt for a serial killer, nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who kidnaps young women and skins them in order to make a “suit” made out of human skin.  Since he is both a psychiatrist and a ruthless killer himself, Hannibal is the perfect person to ask for help to catch Buffalo Bill, and the rest of the movie is devoted to Hannibal’s relationship with Clarice as he helps her catch Buffalo Bill and as he toys with her psychologically.

Hannibal Lector only appears on screen for 16 minutes and yet, he has such a commanding presence over the entire movie.  Before the viewer even meets Hannibal, we hear that he is manipulative, dangerous, a monster, and a cannibal, and yet, when the viewer finally has the opportunity of meeting him, he appears genuine and even caring.  However, it soon become evident that this charming persona is only a disguise used to get what he wants, whether that is his freedom or traumatic memories from Clarice’s childhood.  He has no trouble tricking people into trusting him, and seems to enjoy that he is able to cleverly manipulate people to get what he wants from them.  On top of that, he is rude and makes very offensive remarks towards others without any regard to how offensive his comments are.  Again, he seems to enjoy being able to offend people so much with the words.  Finally, perhaps the most telling of all is his murderous nature.  Hannibal enjoys eating people (cleverly nicknamed Hannibal the Cannibal), and had been arrested for serving his dinner guests the liver from a man who he had killed.  In one scene, he is seen brutally attacking two guards, biting off one person’s cheek and then savagely beating the other to death, and then after the killing of both guards, he begins to sway peacefully to the classical music that had been playing in the background.  It was the exact same persona as he saw him standing in his cell when we first meet him, cool, calm, and collected, thus indicating his complete lack of guilt for the serious crime that he had just committed.

As I said above, the movie does an excellent job of creating Hannibal Lector, and his behaviors are consistent and similar to the behaviors of people who have Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Like most other people with this psychological disorder, Hannibal shows no remorse for hurting others, especially the people who gets in his way, and he is certainly fine with committing murder.  He manipulates people to get what he wants and amuses himself by offending and toying around with others, displaying a common symptom of people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, a disregard for other people’s rights.

Silence of the Lambs would have been an excellent movie if it only had Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lector, but it also has a great performance from Jodie Foster and an unbelievably well shot movie.  It is definitely worth watching, and it does a good job with showing how creepy and scary a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder can be.