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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MELVIN UDALL


(As Good as it Gets)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Melvin’s problem (Other than his name) is a type of anxiety disorder called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Most people recognize OCD when they see someone going out of their way to make sure certain things are clean. While there are other indicators for OCD, that is certainly one of the telltale markers for it. Like its name suggests, people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder harbor obsessions and/or compulsions. Since we never get inside Melvin’s head (There’s no room up there), we are left to analyze his behaviors…

*Compulsions: Repetitive behaviors that Melvin feels driven to perform, according to rules that must be followed rigidly
Between the way he packs for a trip to the methodical way he enters his home, Melvin definitely suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
What is interesting to note about Melvin is that he also avoids stepping on sidewalk cracks. While this has nothing to do with cleanliness, there is a childhood superstition that relates to breaking your mom’s back if you step on a crack in the sidewalk. Melvin’s mother is probably no longer alive (Because he’s like a hundred), but for whatever reason, this notion that he cannot step on any cracks still affects the way he walks on the ‘walk.

Obsessions
With people that suffer from OCD, obsessions are usually the driving motivation for their compulsions. They may have a strange belief – such as that they will break their mom’s back – if they forget to perform their compulsions, so many of them will start over if there is a break in their routine. Some people with this disorder even believe that they have to do things a certain number of times, and will start over if they lose count. Needless to say, that can be pretty exhausting (For everyone involved).
Melvin Knows How to Pack
In the case of Melvin Udall, his relationship with his father could relate to his mental illness; he doesn’t tell us a lot about his dad (Because he keeps interrupting Simon to try and talk about it), but he reveals a few qualities about his father that made Melvin’s childhood stressful. A person who slaps someone’s hands when they make a mistake playing the piano probably has a penchant for following the rules (Or hates the sound of pianos), and therefore Melvin’s upbringing could have played a role in his obsessions, and later, compulsions.

Is there Hope for Melvin?
Melvin & Verdell
Yes!
In the form of a no-nonsense waitress, Melvin meets his match. When she starts to point out the oddity of his behaviors, Melvin decides to visit his former psychiatrist. It is when Melvin takes medication for the disorder that he starts to see a marked improvement in his life: He forgets to perform pieces of his compulsive routine, and he even becomes a little bit nicer to his neighbor (And his dog).

What Do You Think?
Melvin Asleep

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NINA SAYERS


(Black Swan)

What’s the Matter with Her?
Nina suffers from a type of Schizophrenia. She loses touch with reality, experiencing hallucinations that she is having sex with a beautiful colleague (Awesome) to ones that convince her she is turning into a swan (…Less Awesome).

Paranoid Schizophrenia
A subtype of schizophrenia, a paranoid designation means that Nina believes people are out to do her harm, and that she sees and hears things that are not real.

*Preoccupation with delusions
When Nina believes that her new friend Lily is trying to take her place as the Swan Queen, she panics; Thomas appointing Lily as Nina’s alternate only exacerbates Nina’s turmoil.

Even though Lily tries several times to befriend Nina, Nina accuses Lily of manipulating her way into the spotlight, when the only person in Nina’s life actually trying to sabotage her moment is Nina’s clingy mother.

*Frequent auditory hallucinations
A little more difficult to discern are Nina’s auditory hallucinations. She hears girls laughing at her when they probably are not, such as after she first begins her performance. Nina’s hallucinations grow more sinister as she gets closer to her debut. From seeing her own face on passersby to believing she is turning into a swan, Nina’s stress levels raise and so does the number and intensity of her hallucinations.

Delusions vs. Hallucinations
Nina with Red Eyes
Since Nina suffers from both, it seems appropriate to highlight the difference between hallucinations and delusions.
Delusions are false beliefs or perceptions that don’t relate to someone’s culture or religion. Nina believes that Lily is trying to steal her role; there is no valuable evidence to support that this is true, but as Nina has the lead role, her belief is not hard to justify. What makes Nina’s delusion seem plausible is her own anxiety (And her mom).
Hallucinations are assaults on the five senses; someone might hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that are not real.
In a nutshell (Help, I’m in a nutshell!), delusions are bizarre ways a person thinks; hallucinations are when someone seems to experience something that is not really happening.

Incest
Nina and Her Mother
On the surface, this topic might not appear to have anything to do with this movie…but it does.
Nina’s mother’s behavior is a little inappropriate to only be classified as “overbearing.” She sabotages Nina’s performances; she calls 28 year-old Nina her “sweet girl;” she interrogates Nina about her sex life, and reacts angrily when Nina confesses to sexual encounters that are normal for someone her age (And are none of her mom’s business).
The implication of course is that Nina has been molested by her mother for awhile, and that the black swan part of her personality might in fact be out of reach because it requires Nina to face what her mother has done to her. This makes it very hard for Nina to get in touch with normal sexual feelings, even when her director tries to force them out of her.
Nina and Thomas
Studies have shown that victims of sexual abuse are more likely to develop severe psychiatric disorders than non-victims, so Nina’s situation makes more sense if we consider the possibility that her mother has been controlling Nina with abuse for a long time.

A Perfect Problem

Nina’s perfectionist attitude toward her dancing is fairly common with many anxiety disorders. Her sense of control over her technique is probably Nina’s of way of coping with what happens between her and her mother.
When someone is thrown into difficult circumstances like Nina, a way to compensate for a lack of control felt in an aspect of their life might be to control another aspect. Dancers are typically taught to have a sharp sense of discipline over their bodies, so it makes sense that someone with Nina’s perception of discipline would gravitate toward this profession.
Unfortunately, being perfect is impossible when you are human, so when people put a constant pressure on themselves for such control, there are often dire consequences. In Nina’s case, losing a little control has a snowball effect on her life – she loses a little control, and then she loses all of it.

What Do You Think?
Nina Many Times
Black swan or white, share your thoughts with us!