Girl, Interrupted: Borderline Personality Disorder
Girl, Interrupted is a thought-provoking film that accounts the struggles of a teenage girl, Susanna, who is trying to come-to-terms with her illness in the 1960s. She is committed to a mental hospital when she tried to commit suicide. The film portrays her relationships with her distant parents and intense relationships with other patients while she is hospitalized. She encounters many troubled souls like her, such as her pathological liar roommate, a sociopath, a girl who is addicted to laxatives and obsessed with chicken, and a girl with a disfigured burned face. Later in the film, Suzanna learns she is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized as instability in many aspects of daily functioning, including mood, self-image, behavior, and interpersonal relationships (Seligman, Walker, & Rosenhan, 2001, pg. 401). People with BPD have intense shifts in mood like depression, anxiety, and anger for few hours to few days. They are prone to intense aggression, substance abuse, unsafe sex, binge eating, reckless driving, and mutilation (Seligman, Walker, & Rosenhan, 2001, pg. 401).They typically attempt suicide impulsively due to the unpredictable moods and have intense, unstable relationships with people. Chronic feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and boredom are common. It is not unusual for them to put frantic efforts to avoid being alone because of their feelings of abandonment. A possible cause is childhood trauma, such as divorce, neglect, or abuse. Paranoid thoughts and dissociative symptoms can also occur. In order for a person to be diagnosed with this disorder, he or she must display at least five of the symptoms, according to the DSM-IV. It is more common in women, starts in early adulthood, and is by far the most prevalent of personality disorder diagnoses (Seligman, Walker, & Rosenhan, 2001, pg. 401- 402). Psychologists often are reluctant to give borderline diagnosis since many of the symptoms are from Axis I. The diagnosis of BPD is too broad and is open for interpretation. Thus, DSM-IV requires the evidence for at least five of the symptoms (Seligman, Walker, & Rosenhan, 2001, pg. 401-403). Susanna’s mental illness affects the people in her life including herself. She displays few symptoms in the movie. She has unstable interpersonal relationships from the beginning and she is only friends with a few men whom she had affairs with before she was committed. Her parents are emotionally distant and seem to only care about her going to college like most of her graduating class, even though she wants to be a writer. Her controlling father is inappropriately angry and aggressive at times. Her mother’s mood shifts a lot from happiness to tears. This unstable environment contributes to Susanna’s well-being. It is not clear, but there is a speculation that her parents may have a hint of BPD because BPD is hereditary. Her unstable relationships continue when she becomes friends with the girls in the hospital, especially the sociopath Lisa. She alters between idealization and devaluation in her relationships. Susanna keeps switching her feelings about Lisa back and forth. She thinks that Lisa is the perfect friend and then keeps switching back to hating her. This is shown when Lisa read her diary to the other girls about Suzanna’s criticizing thoughts about them. This gets them angry at her and turns against her because they feel betrayed. However, she does mainly like them since she enjoys hanging out with them and considers them her friends. One of her impulsive behaviors is sexual activity. She used to have sex with her high school teacher. This degrades her family’s reputation and ruins the parents’ friendship with the teacher and his wife. At a time of privilege, Susanna is in the ice-cream shop with her friends when she...
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