ALEX FORREST


(Fatal Attraction)

What’s the Matter with Her?
To the untrained eye, Alex is a little unstable (Just ask the bunny). She throws tantrums, stalks Dan, and becomes violent after a weekend love fest doesn’t turn into anything more substantial. Alex’s behavior can be explained by a personality disorder that specifically focuses on interpersonal relationships.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Despite its name, the border implied by this diagnosis is not explained (It probably doesn’t relate to the Madonna song, but who could say?) This particular personality problem is marked by impulsive behavior and teeter-totter interactions with others. Alex’s symptoms that support this diagnosis include the following:

*Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

*A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships
Alex2

This one isn’t clear. The only relationship we get to witness is the one between Alex and Dan, so whether she has a pattern of this is not well-known. One could argue that the only reason an attractive, successful woman is single and alone is because she is crazy (Those people are called ignorant). It is obvious that merely a few days’ fling with a married man puts Alex in an unusual frame of mind. She doesn’t ever discuss friends or family or exes and none of them make appearances. The presence of a pattern can’t be determined, but she is certainly unstable and intense with Dan.

*Impulsivity in at least two areas that are self-damaging
This one is also a little sketchy (Not unlike Alex). She both kidnaps Dan’s child and sleeps with a married man she works with, so both of these could be constituted as potentially self-damaging. Alex also mutilates herself in an effort to keep Dan around.

*Suicidal behavior

That one explains itself.

*Chronic feelings of emptiness

That one also explains itself (Although the electric company probably has a few questions).

*Inappropriate, intense anger
Anyone could argue that being tossed around by a married guy might make somebody angry. However, Alex knows from the get-go that Dan is taken. She seems to acknowledge what she’s getting herself into, but does not want to let go. Instead, her behavior escalates to the point of violence in the name of a relationship between her and Dan that essentially lasted for three days. She inflicts emotional distress on him and his family, as well as physical harm on one of their beloved pets.

Is Alex a Liar?
Alex1
It’s hard to say (Let’s just go with probably). She tells Dan that she is pregnant, but does not actually show any pregnancy symptoms after the fact. Alex even offers alcohol to Dan when he unexpectedly comes over, though she is not drinking it herself.
Dan tells his friend at work that he called the gynecologist himself and the doctor confirmed the results and he finds a pregnancy test among Alex’s possessions.
Not definitive symptoms of BPD, lying and manipulation sometimes accompany this disorder. In this case, Alex does not appear to be lying about her health state, but she may have intentionally not used protection as a means of manipulating Dan into something more permanent later. Regardless, not insisting on use of birth control definitely constitutes impulsivity on both their parts (The moral of this story is always use protection, ladies and gentlemen).

What Do You Think?
Alex3
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CONRAD JARRETT


(Ordinary People)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Conrad’s brother recently died in a boating accident (in the middle of Illinois somehow). Since Conrad was there when older brother, Buck met his demise, he struggles with overwhelming guilt and sadness following the accident.
His emotional state led Conrad to try and kill himself, but fortunately his father and mother were home and were able to save him. Finally deciding to go to a therapist once he is released from the hospital, Conrad is trying to understand himself and to feel better.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A disorder that receives a lot of attention is commonly called PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Military veterans returning from combat sometimes go through this, but anyone recovering from a traumatic experience can suffer the same condition. Some indications Conrad may have PTSD include the following symptoms:

*Exposure to Actual or Threatened Death
Obviously, Conrad experienced both when Buck (Seriously, who named these children?) died and Conrad almost died.

*Recurrent Distressing Dreams in Which the Content of the Dream is Related to the Traumatic Event
When we first meet Conrad, he wakes up from a disturbing dream about the accident. He continues to have them throughout the movie.

*Avoidance of or Efforts to Avoid People that Arouse Distressing Memories, Thoughts, or Feelings About or Closely Associated with the Traumatic Event
In a conversation with his friend, Joe, Conrad tells him that he doesn’t want to hang around with Joe anymore because it hurts too much. This is after Joe reveals that he, Conrad, and Buck were all close friends.

*Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood
Conrad1.png
…This one seems obvious.

*Irritable Behavior and Angry Outbursts (with Little or No Provocation)
This one doesn’t happen a lot in the movie, but it is there. (Mary Tyler Moore brings out the rage).

*Reckless or Self-Destructive Behavior
This one is self-explanatory. Other than his suicide attempt however, Conrad is a pretty careful guy (When he’s not yelling at his mom, of course).

What About Beth?

That’s a tricky one.
She definitely had a hard time with Buck’s death and it’s even implied that he may have been her favorite (Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but even parents are not perfect. I know. I was shocked too). Although her husband does go to see Conrad’s therapist in an effort to help out their remaining son, Beth refuses to go and becomes angry when husband Calvin (One of those kids should have been named Hobbes) tells a friend of theirs about Conrad’s therapy.
Since the focus of the film is on Conrad, it’s not clear what Beth is thinking (Ever), but it may be that her cold demeanor and avoidance of getting in touch with her own mentality are products of her own, normal grieving process. It’s hard to say for sure since she is so closed off from Conrad, but grief does strange things to us all.

Is There Hope for Conrad?

Yes! Going to therapy and opening up to his father (And trying with his mom, but she’s hopeless) are good signs that Conrad is going to be okay. He even gets a second chance with Jeannine. Anxiety disorders like PTSD are not touted as curable, but they can be managed if the person with them makes an effort to do so. It looks as though Conrad is finally willing to make the effort and forgive himself.

What Do You Think?
Conrad 2
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NATHAN GARDNER


(Charlie Bartlett)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Other than being the principal of a high school, Nathan’s dilemma is a pretty common one: He drinks too much (Alcohol, not coffee). An ex-wife that doesn’t get along with him and a daughter who attends said high school do not seem to make his life any easier.

Alcohol Use Disorder
The DSM-V has taken the “drinking problem” of the average Joe (In this case, Nathan) and classified it according to dependence. Since we don’t see the principal go through withdrawal or his first foray into drinking (A fraternity of some sort was probably involved),  this diagnosis makes the most sense.

*Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
robert downey jr charlie bartlett1
Upon arriving at Charlie’s house to punish him (Totally not weird for teachers to show up at your house, right?), Nathan admits that he had a drinking problem and just decided he didn’t need to drink anymore. Of course, this is after we know he stashes alcohol in his study. (No one who actually has a study uses it to study, everyone knows that.)

*Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at home

Susan confesses to Charlie that her dad’s drinking has caused a rift (That boats couldn’t fix) between the two of them. It appears that she and her father have not had a heart-to-heart on the matter. Naturally, that makes her a good candidate for stall-to-stall therapy in the school bathroom instead (Apparently high-schoolers don’t have great health insurance).

*Continued alcohol use despite having persistent social or interpersonal problems

It’s clear that the principal’s principles need some adjusting. He keeps up the drinking even though things with him and his daughter don’t appear to be going well.

*Alcohol use is continued despite knowing he has a persistent recurrent problem
Hiding alcohol is a dead giveaway (Not dead, just drunk) that someone knows they have a problem. This is usually their way of telling themselves they know it’s bad, but not letting the rest of the world know yet.

Is There Hope for Nathan?
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Yes! Between falling into a pool and seeing his daughter sing out, Nathan will probably stick to getting help more seriously this time around. He could always try bathroom therapy with Charlie, if all else fails.

What About…Literally Everyone Else?

In a film about a kid writing prescriptions to be popular, there are a lot of interesting characters to be found. Other disorders are highlighted briefly, but Nathan gets the most screen time so he makes for a more thorough case study than say Kip, Charlie’s mother, Whitney, or Murphy. Considering it is high school (And almost everyone attended Degrassi before showing up in this movie), there’s bound to be a lot of insanity floating around. In fact, there’s a lot of insanity floating around after high school too (And before, really always).

What Do You Think?
robert downey jr charlie bartlett 2
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SARA GOLDFARB


(Requiem for a Dream)

What’s the Matter with Her?
There really isn’t anything wrong with Sara at first; she just wants to lose a few pounds, misses her husband and wishes she saw more of her son, Harry (And she has bad taste in television). Sara falls prey to a doctor who prescribes pills quicker than he listens to his patient, and it is ironically a medical professional that initiates a serious mental illness.

Ampehtamine-Induced Psychotic Disorder with Onset During Intoxication
(Say that five times fast.) An Amphetamine is a stimulant that often works as an appetite suppressant. Though we don’t know exactly what Sara is taking, she is probably taking some sort of Amphetamine (Sometimes called Speed, but not affiliated with Keanu Reeves or Sandra Bullock). The primary symptom of her wordy illness is:

*Prominent hallucinations as a result of substance intoxication
Sara keeps hearing disturbing noises from her refrigerator as it moves toward her (It’s coming to get you, Sara…). Finally, her favorite television star and members of his guest audience appear in Sara’s own living room – only to make fun of her living situation (Because everyone on TV is a jerk).

Sara’s hallucinations clearly develop within the time frame that she starts taking the colorful pills, and though she visits the doctor a second time when she worries about the pills’ side effects, her insight into their pitfalls is not enough to keep her from using, then abusing, the drugs. (She tasted the rainbow; it was gross.)

What About Everyone Else?

Harry and Marion as well as Tyrone partake in their fair share of substance ingestion during the film. While Tyrone is a dealer, and gets into a slew of trouble related to that, Harry and Marion find their relationship in tatters over substance use.

Substance Abuse
Harry and Marion

It’s interesting to note that substance abuse itself is classified as a mental disorder (Peer Pressure = Crazy Talk). Since Harry, Tyrone and Marion use a variety of substances throughout the film, their disorder, collectively (Sharing is caring), can be identified by it simplest classification, which still has a few key symptoms:

*Recurrent Substance Use Resulting in a Failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home
Harry consistently forgets to see his mother or to make her a big priority in his life; he holds no full-time employment and does not actively seek to find any. Marion, on the other hand, has no contact with her parents other than to ask them for quick cash.

*Recurrent Substance-Related Legal Problems

Tyrone is nearly killed and arrested for his drug use; Harry, meanwhile, is denied for employment when a potential employer spots his gangrene-infected arm.

*Continued Substance Use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance
Marion
While Marion’s behavior crosses into the realm of prostitution to gain money for fixes, Tyrone’s brush with the law and Harry’s heartfelt conversation with his mother have no effect on their substance abuse issues.

Dependence vs. Tolerance
There is a lot of confusing drug lingo out there (It’s even more confusing if you’re high). Dependence is the name for the pattern of use; as in, someone drinks a lot of coffee in the morning and then gets cranky right around noon after their last cup has long been sipped. Tolerance and withdrawal are the symptoms used to gauge dependence.
Tolerance is one of the symptoms of dependence that means someone has more of something to achieve its desired effect. For example, instead of having two cups of coffee in the morning, someone now drinks three to feel like they’re really awake. Tolerance means requiring more of something to feel a certain way; dependence means tolerance has developed and there is a noticeable change in mood or demeanor when someone is not using the substance at all.

The Drug Problem
What the film clearly illustrates is that drugs are bad (Mmkay). Sara’s concerns are met by another prescription that only makes her worse. All the behaviors of the key players spiral negatively due to substance abuse. It’s an interesting take on a constant challenge: How do you make people feel better without medications?
The truth is that some problems require certain medicines to cure, but the other truth is that many, if not most, medications cause  new problems in the wake of solving one major problem. While it never hurts to get a doctor’s perspective, it also never hurts to evaluate whether a diet or exercise or stress-related problem could be the real source of discontent. The fact is that most problems are not all physical or all mental: They’re a little bit of both, so you have to tackle both pieces to solve the whole puzzle.
Drugs can, in fact, be good! But they can’t solve everything (Like Rubik’s cubes, nobody can solve those).

What Do You Think?
Sara Goldfarb

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JENNY CURRAN


(Forrest Gump)

What’s the Matter with Her?
The easy answer is that Jenny has a problem dating a guy like Forrest (even though he’s sweeter and let’s face it, cooler than pretty much every other guy she’s ever dated). While her point of view is understandable, especially in a small, Southern society like hers, Jenny continuously shirks Forrest’s advances in favor of men that are abusive and impatient.
In addition, Jenny experiments with a lot of hard drugs throughout the movie, and believe it or not, her experimentation constitutes a mental disorder.

Substance Abuse Disorder
Jenny and Forrest
Not specifying any particular drug for diagnosis, Substance Abuse Disorder is marked by a few symptoms. Since we spend most of our time with Forrest (hanging out with the good kids), it is hard to decipher whether Jenny exhibits most of them. Her behavior overall argues for the diagnosis, since she shows no positive improvement for a long time. There is one symptom for this illness, however, that Jenny demonstrates loud and clear.

*Continued substance use despite recurrent interpersonal problems
Jenny gravitates toward abusive boyfriends. While it is unclear what the role of substance abuse plays in these relationships, it is clear that once Jenny cleans herself up, she finally realizes that she’s been dating the wrong guys. Perhaps Jenny dated bad boys so they could introduce her to new substances, or perhaps she used substances to quell the effects of their repeated physical abuse (It might have been a little of both).

Child Abuse and Substance Abuse

While little Forrest is definitely in good hands, Jenny was definitely not in good hands as a child. The most recent statistics reveal that as high as 60 percent of people in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse were neglected or abused as children. While Jenny suffers from a mental disorder because of her childhood, she is unfortunately not alone, and as far as children of abuse are concerned, Jenny is not that unusual. The only thing that really makes her unusual (Not to mention, lucky) is her friendship with Forrest, and his unyielding capacity for love and forgiveness.

What About Forrest?
Forrest Gump

The DSM-V highlights mental illnesses as anything that impairs social or occupational functioning; learning disorders of any nature are no exception. Mental Retardation is probably the closest mental disorder that would explain Forrest’s low IQ, but to be considered mentally retarded, a person must have an IQ of 70 or lower. Forrest’s IQ is just too high for him to qualify for that kind of diagnosis.
And as he demonstrates again and again, a low IQ doesn’t at all mean that someone can’t make great opportunities for themselves. (Stupid is as stupid does, right?).
While Forrest’s infatuation with Jenny makes him look a little stupid, he is certainly not the first or last person to be the victim of unrequited love. In fact, his tolerant nature probably makes him smarter than anyone who’s ever held a grudge about it.

What Do You Think?
Jenny and Her Flowers
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PAT SOLATANO, JR.


(Silver Linings Playbook)

What’s the Matter with Him?
We meet Pat upon his release from a hospital, where he was treated for Bipolar Disorder. He discovered that something was seriously wrong with him after he caught his wife in the shower with another man (He also discovered that something was wrong with his marriage). Instead of managing to keep himself under control, Pat became violent with the man and nearly killed him.

Bipolar Disorder
Pat on a Pillow

Bipolar Disorder is characterized by two types of symptoms, depressive and manic. One type – Bipolar 1 – leans more toward mania and one type – Bipolar 2 – leans more toward depression (It’s the Kinsey scale for crazy people). Pat’s symptoms are more manic than depressive, so he would be diagnosed as someone suffering from Bipolar 1 Disorder.

*Manic episodes
Manic episodes, or mania is identified by mood elevation, but this doesn’t necessarily mean someone extra-happy. Irritability or edginess is also classified as mania when it persists for at least one week. Based on Pat’s hospitalization, he has experienced at least one manic episode in his life (And it had nothing to do with holiday shopping).

*Decreased need for sleep

Not only does Pat show no concern for his lack of sleep, but he immediately wakes his parents to express his frustration with the book’s ending (Now I guess I don’t have to read it…Suck it, English class).

*Pressure to keep talking

…It doesn’t really help that Tiffany keeps egging him on, but Ronnie and Veronica clearly seem uncomfortable.

*Increase in goal-directed activity
Pat begins his life post-hospital by announcing that he wants to stay in shape and reads Nikki’s entire English class syllabus (Which is more than any of the kids are going to do). Most of Pat’s goals are directed at reconnecting with Nikki, who currently has a restraining order against Pat.

Pat, Sr.

Pat, Sr. has a condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He doesn’t run around cleaning everything in his home, but his superstitious behavior involving his favorite football team points conclusively to Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies. It’s most obvious when he is straightening remote controls and insisting Pat wear certain apparel during Eagles games.
Though it’s possible that Pat, Jr.’s illness developed as a way to cope with his father’s, Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are not very similar, and mental illness is not contagious (It’s not like the flu, where if you sneeze on me I’m going to maybe get sick and maybe not. Also, you’re disgusting if you sneeze on people.)

What About Tiffany?

It’s hard to gauge Tiffany’s troubles, although hers stem from grief for her husband. Since grief in its own way makes people do crazy things, it is not characterized as a mental illness in the DSM-V. In fact, most mental illnesses – including Depression – are dismissed in the DSM-V when symptoms have a direct cause, such as the loss of a family member or loved one.
However, Tiffany’s increased sexual behavior after the passing of her husband is considered one symptom of Bipolar Disorder, since sexual promiscuity is high-risk behavior. One symptom is not enough to make a full diagnosis though, so Tiffany’s behavior is probably a marker of her own, natural grieving process.

Is There Hope for Pat?
Pat and Tiffany
Yep! He takes his medication and attempts to connect with people that actually want him in his life, instead of people that have given him reason to believe they do not have room for Pat. With a little help from his friend (With a capital F), Tiffany, Pat should probably be okay in his own time.

What Do You Think?
Pat in a Crowded Room
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HANNIBAL LECTER


(The Silence of the Lambs)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Well, he eats people (Gotta get your protein somehow, man). Hannibal Lecter or “Hannibal the Cannibal” is a notorious serial killer who has spent time both in jail and in an asylum for a personality disorder.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder
This personality disorder is concerned mainly with how the sufferer thinks and perceives situations. While it does not outright explain Hannibal’s murderous tendencies, it can explain his cannibalistic ones – which seem to be the basis for his murder madness anyway. Some symptoms that Hannibal exhibits include:

*Magical thinking that influences behavior
Based on the way he interacts with Clarice, Hannibal seems to think that he can read her thoughts – that he knows more about her life than she reveals. Unfortunately, the innocent Miss Starling does not understand that Hannibal’s manipulation techniques only make it seem as though he is reading her mind. Instead, she is forthcoming with information about herself, and thus the more Hannibal gets, the more his strange beliefs are fed (He’s eating her mind).

*Odd thinking and speech
While having an agreeable discussion with someone, Hannibal might suddenly make the conversation obscene.

*Suspiciousness or paranoid ideation
Hannibal and Dr. Chilton

Especially when referring to Dr. Chilton, Hannibal exposes his paranoia that the doctor is tormenting his patient. While Dr. Chilton doesn’t exactly appear to be a genial fellow (He’s kind of a tool), he is certainly not trying to harm Hannibal outright.

*Constricted affect
Hannibal in His Cell
Hannibal Lecter Leers
Hannibal Looks Up
…That takes care of that.

*Behavior that is odd or peculiar

…Yeah. That one’s obvious too.

*Lack of close friends or confidants
Clarice & Hannibal

The Star-ling of the show is Clarice, who doesn’t glean too much information from Hannibal, but he definitely gets a few big clues about her. Other than that, Hannibal keeps to himself.

He’s Not a Sociopath?
No.
Not all serial killers are sociopaths –  a term for those with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Since Hannibal functioned well in society before he started biting people’s heads off (As a psychiatrist…), he would not fit the criteria that being a sociopath entails. His regard for the law up until he started in with cannibalism (That’ll get ya every time) means his problem is something else.

What About Bill?
Buffalo Bill
We don’t spend much time with Jame Gumb, alias Buffalo Bill (Since we’re not trapped in a hole in his basement), so it is difficult to pinpoint his ailment. One could argue that Bill is experiencing something called Gender Dysphoria. As of the fifth edition of the DSM, this is classified as a mental conundrum. However, Hannibal Lecter does not believe that Bill really would prefer to be a woman.
It is certain that Bill’s treatment of people probably denotes some mental dysfuntion, but his treatment of people does NOT pertain to any questions he may or may not have of his sexual identity.

Is there Hope for Hannibal?
Hannibal in His Mask
No.
He is having a friend for dinner (Gross), so he doesn’t seem to have made much progress. Hannibal’s lack of regard for others and apparent enjoyment at manipulating Clarice, added to his complete distrust of his doctor promise that he will not be improving any time soon.

What Do You Think?
Hannibal Grins

This is a horror classic, so we’d love to hear your thoughts…no matter how scary they may be!