Girl Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted was the movie I chose to watch for my experiential paper. This 1999 movie, directed by James Mangold, tells a true tale of a woman’s eighteen-month stay at a psychiatric hospital. This woman, Susanne Kaysen, appears to be depressed and aimless as she finishes her high school career. After a suicide attempt, she finds herself trapped in a mental institution called Claymore Hospital. Although I’ve seen this movie many of times, it always makes an impact on me.
Now that I know more about psychology, I feel as though I watched the movie from a different perspective. This new perspective allowed me to analyze and critique the film from through the lens of psychology. The movie ‘Girl Interrupted’ is a story of a nineteen year old girl Susanne in the 1960’s who, after being suspected of trying to commit suicide, gets sent away to the Mental Institution for a short ‘resting period. Her psychiatrist had suggested to her that the affair with one of her parents’ friends, along with her misconception that chasing a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka is anything other than a suicide attempt, could be signs that she may be suffering from ‘borderline personality disorder. ‘ Now she must struggle to remain as sane as possible while being immersed in the hospital with many unstable patients. At the Claymoore Hospital, Susanne quickly becomes friendly with a number of the institution’s residents.
These residents include Georgina, a pathological liar, Polly a terminally fearful burn victim, Daisy an incest victim and extremely withdrawn agoraphobic, and Lisa, a charming, but manipulating sociopath. The only character to really portray the characteristics of their disorder accurately was Lisa, the sociopath. Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by chronic behavior that manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are often angry and arrogant but may be capable of superficial wit and charm.

They may be adept at flattery and are very skilled at manipulating the emotions for their own personal gain as we discussed in class. I thought Lisa’s disorder was accurately portrayed because even with her total disregard for the concerns and even the lives of others, she still manages to some how charm the audience with her blunt brutal honesty and her ‘I don’t care what people think of me’ attitude. People diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder seem to have no emotional connection to any one or anything, and seldom show any signs of emorse for their intrusions on the rights of others like we talked about in class.. Lisa’s power of observations gave her the uncanny ability to sense the weakness in other people, which as most sociopaths do, used them for her own personal gain. Another character in the film was Daisy, an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic whose ongoing affair with her father had left her with a number of various personality disorders to choose from there weren’t many disorders that she didn’t show symptoms of.
Her character did a wonderful job portraying a neurotic recluse whose various disorders took over her life to the point she felt she no longer had any hope for living independently of her sexually abusive father. Other characters include Polly, with her self-inflicted burns that have kept her forever childlike, and Georgina the pathological liar and roommate of the borderline Susanna. It was amongst these characters that Susanna found the strength to confront her own turbulent mentality.
Susanna’s character did a good job with allowing the narrative to paint a picture of the thought processes of someone who suffers from depression or other personality disorders. Even though she did show signs of having a borderline personality, I personally felt that she showed more signs of depression than anything else. A person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks; a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day as we learned about in class.

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