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A Study In Psychopaths

Have you ever wondered what mental disorders the Joker, Michael Corleone, and Hannibal Lecter, might have? Have you ever thought that maybe painting everything with the broad brush of “Psycho” might be too generalized to be accurate? What do Anakin Skywalker and Annie from Misery have in common? Let’s get into it! 

As a forensic psychology student, my favorite hobby lately has been evaluating the psychopaths and mentally insane people in movies and breaking down exactly what mental disorders and psychosis they each have. While I am not yet a licensed psychologist, I am in the middle of my master’s degree so I am not too far off. Anyway, to back up my diagnosis, I have included a psychologist who is also evaluating the same types of movies that I am interested in. 

Some of the mental illnesses that I am going to be talking about are misrepresented in film for entertainment purposes by filmmakers. In real life, mental illness does not mean that the person who has the illness is violent or dangerous, to the contrary, often people with mental illness become victims of abuse, and are not the instigators of abuse, this article is just meant for fun and in no way represents all people with the following disorders.

So, in movies and TV shows, who is a true psychopath and who is not? What mental illnesses do some characters have? 

TV and Movie characters with Psychopathy: 

Hannibal Lectorl is a psychopath, The Joker is a psychopath, and Patrick from American Psycho is a narcissistic psychopath.

What is psychopathy? Well, in technical terms, you can’t diagnose psychopathy, its actually not a real diagnosis, however, anti-social personality disorder is. With anti-social personality disorder, the person has no real remorse or sympathy for people, does not experience forward thinking regret, relishes in the control or suffering of others, and only thinks and evaluates things selfishly, as in, what can I get out of this? They have a complete disregard for everyone except in terms of what they can get out of them. They also project any aggression that they exhibit as justified by the victim, a “You were mean to me, and that made me be mean to you.” type of thing. They have massive egos and think they are smarter than everyone else. Sometimes, they are…

Sociopaths in Movies and TV shows: Michael Corleone is a sociopath, Sherlock Holmes is a high-functioning sociopath and also has high functioning Autism, Batman/Bruce Wayne is a sociopath,

Sociopaths are more emotional than psychopaths and actually have relationships with people they care about, unlike psychopaths who only involve themselves with people in order to manipulate and get things from them. They still have a superiority complex and a general disregard for society with the exception of those few people who are close to them. 

Movie and TV characters with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Annie from Misery has Borderline Personality Disorder, Anakin Skywalker has Borderline Personality Disorder, Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder is often obsessive, especially in terms of relationships, they flip or split from having an ideal relationship where everything is wonderful, to a terrible relationship where everything is terrible, the same can be said of how they view their partners, flipping from “you are amazing!” To “You are worthless!” at a moment’s notice. They switch moods quite often as is similar with bipolar disorder, however, they have no periods of mania. With Borderline Personality Disorder, there is a fear of abandonment, which can manifest violently in some cases, when psychotic breaks occur. People with this disorder are frantic to make sure they are not abandoned, sometimes acting intensely in anger or having tantrums to cope with their disorder and fear of abandonment. 

Dissociative Identity Disorder in TV and Movie Characters: Kevin from Split has Dissociative Identity Disorder, Jinx from Arcane and Gollum from Lord of the Rings has Dissociative Identity Disorder. 

Dissociative Identity Disorder: The presence of two or more personalities in one person, including elements of depression, anxiety, and sadness. However, these two separate personalities do not interact with each other, unlike what is often portrayed in movies. Also, it is not immediate, the switching between personalities occurs subtly and over a long period of time. People with this illness also do not have many instances or cases of violence in real life, unless it is self-directed. 

In the end this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of movie and TV characters with mental illnesses, but gaining insight to the way that some of these characters function can be both amusing and interesting, especially since these are real-world illnesses that occur. The next time you are watching Silence of the Lambs or American Psycho and someone asks you what exactly a psychopath is, now you can tell them! The next time Annie brings her weapon down to smash ankles you can remember what you read in this article. The next time Jinx has an episode or starts behaving oddly in Arcane you can understand why. 

The mind is a mysterious and wonderful thing, the way it works is explored in films, books, and popular culture, but never should anyone forget that even though it is fun to watch someone like the Joker run amok on screen, not all Psychopaths or Sociopaths are violent villains, serial killers, or are downright evil. Many people with Anti-Social Personality Disorder and other Disorders are simply living as ordinary people, they are doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. People with mental illness are often abused and hurt by others, and only in extremely rare cases do they ever hurt people or behave violently. Just as ordinary people are rarely violent or criminal. This post again was meant only for amusement and fun, it is in no way meant to wrongfully portray people with mental illness. Hope you enjoyed reading it! Below is a cool video going further into some of these movie characters if you want to check it out!

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