Dissociative Disorders




Don’t Say a Word
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2001    Rating:  R
Actors:  Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment
The daughter of a psychiatrist is kidnapped and the abductors demand that he break through to a catatonic girl, who holds the secret to the location of a hidden gem, in order to get his daughter back.


Fight Club
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1999      Rating:  R
Actors:  Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Personality Theory
The film can be considered to be the personification of Edward Norton’s psyche. After you’ve seen it once, watch it again once you know what to look for. Not your classic psychosis/dissociative personality disorder movie. Tends to be a favorite of the males in my classes.

Genre:  Drama      Year:  2003      Rating:  R
Actors:  John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Forensic
A fast moving thriller with a major psychological twist. Another one to watch twice, much like “Fight Club.” Once you know what’s going on, how accurate do you think the portrayal is? Does it perpetuate mental health stigma? Interesting portrayal of a forensic mental health hearing.


Manchurian Candidate, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1962     Rating:  NR-PG 
Actors:  Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh 
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Personality Disorders
Great film. Assassination plots, hypnosis, and intrigue! Think just anyone can be hypnotized? See the original movie, rather than the remake.

Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating:   NR-PG
Actors:  Tippi Hedron, Sean Connery, Diane Baker
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
There is much to this movie. It exemplifies classic Hitchcock in its photography, use of color, and psychological storyline. The psychiatrist role was deleted from the screenplay, with Sean Connery, as the boyfriend, taking over the lines. Was this realistic? Was the ending realistic? Can you explain the theivery? What about a classical conditioning paradigm for the fear of the color red and thunderstorms? How, today, would Marnie be treated?

Nurse Betty 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  2000     Rating:  R
Actors:  Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Personality Disorders, Stress and Coping, Marital/Family Dynamics
I had a different expectation for this movie, thinking more of a light romantic comedy. Not so. Perhaps I’m spoiling the director’s design in wanting to warn you up front, but there are some especially violent scenes, often coming unexpectedly. Interpret these in light of the start of Betty’s fugue state. Plenty to do in comparing Betty and the Morgan Freeman character, as well as Chris Rock’s character. There is a bit of the Gilligan’s Island syndrome again – coconut hit one results in bizarre behavior, coconut hit number two fixes it and all is well. If it only were so easy…

Paris, Texas
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1984     Rating:  R
Actors:  Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Berry, Berhard Wicki
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Neuropsychology, Marital/Family Dynamics
Unusual movie about a man who wanders out of the desert with amnesia for his past. He is reunited with his brother, slowly his memory returns, he develops a relationship with his son, and eventually he finds his wife. How do you interpret the ending?

Primal Fear
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1996     Rating:  R
Actors:  Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Personality Disorders, Forensic
Richard Gere as the lawyer defending the altar boy accused of murder. Note the testimony by the neuropsychologist – within her sphere of expertise? Does Edward Norton accurately portray Dissociative Identity Disorder? Pairing this movie with the Frontline documentary, “Mind of a Murderer” (watch part 2) would allow for significant diagnostic considerations.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1960     Rating:  R-NR
Actors:  Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Dissociative Disorders
Classic Hitchcock. Think about Norman’s relationship with his mother.  Is the explanation at the end appropriate? Contains one of the most famous shower scenes. Watch the humorous Psycho trailer with Hitchcock for the movie on YouTube.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1965     Rating:  R
Actors:  Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Psychotic Disorders
The classic film by Roman Polanski about a sexually repressed young girl, who becomes psychotic and homicidal when left alone for a few days in her sister’s apartment. This is beyond cabin fever…

Snake Pit, The 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1948     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Stress and Coping 
Classic film nominated for many Academy Awards. A young woman is in a state insane asylum and can’t recall how she got there. The climate, patients, and treatments are likely accurate for their times, as well as the hospital politics and clashing between the treating psychiatrist and his administrative superiors, even before managed care. Well done portrayal of her inner dialogue. Not a particularly flattering portrayal of psychiatric nurses, though. What do you think of the conclusion regarding the causes of her problems? A great movie.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1945     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment 
One of Hitchcock’s best. A man shows up at a mental institution, impersonating the new psychiatrist. He develops a relationship with another psychiatrist, who then realizes that he is actually not the person he said he is. There are ethical issues, repressed memories, suspense, and humor. The downside is that this is yet another Hitchcock movie with a female lead blinded by love.  The movie includes a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali (artist of melting clocks/watches fame).

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1976     Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Sally Field, Joann Woodward, Brad Davis
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Stress and Coping
The TV movie that started it all – virtually no patients diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder (aka Dissociative Identity Disorder) before this book/film came out. Consider a PTSD diagnosis in a patient with a general dissociative disorder (I’d argue for a dissociative personality category). Dr. Henry Spiegel, who also treated Sybil, has spoken out regarding the iatrogenic (doctor-induced) components of this case. Read the interview with Speigel about Sybil.

Three Faces of Eve, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1957     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping 
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. Early story of psychiatric treatment to fuse multiple personalities. One of the “training films” used by the Hillside Strangler in his attempt to fake multiple personality disorder (see Frontline’s “Mind of a Murderer-Part 2”). Compare with Sybil. Consider the etiologies and why The Three Faces of Eve did not spark the boom of MPD diagnoses that followed Sybil. Note the role of passivity (aka Eve White) as an adaptive strategy for coping with her husband. Note also the timing of the onset of problems, associated with miscarriage. Was the revelation at the end really the cure, in a Freudian sense, or was there progress all?

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1958     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Jimmy Stewart
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Stress and Coping 
This movie tops many “all time favorites” lists. The story of a police detective, Scottie (also called Johnny), who suffers a trauma, developing acrophobia and vertigo, causing him to retire from the force. He is hired by an old college acquaintance to tail his wife, Madeleine, who seems to have dissociative identity disorder. Scotty falls in love with her, but can’t prevent her from committing suicide. Stop reading here if you don’t want the plot spoiled…Scotty is traumatized, becomes catatonic. Later encounters young woman on the street who looks like Madeleine. Turns out that she truly was the Madeleine that Scottie had followed, but she was part of the murder plot of the real Madeleine, however she really did fall in love with Scottie. Over time, they date, he remakes her into Madeleine (hair color, clothing, etc.). I’ll save the rest for you to see. Did you see Scottie as a sympathetic character? How did you feel about him at the end? Would his efforts to overcome his phobia be appropriate treatment?  Interesting that Madeleine was portrayed as being dissociative and Scottie seems to show many signs of dissociative features, as well, including his two first names…hmmm! A film to be watched more than once. Enjoy!

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1949     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Jose Ferrer, Gene Tierney, Richard Conte
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Forensic
Classic with Jose Ferrer as the hypnotist getting Gene Tierney, portraying the kleptomaniacal wife of a psychoanalyst, to do his bidding. Nice, suspenseful movie.