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Psychological Analysis of Movie "Girl Interrupted"

Updated on October 3, 2014

The movie Girl, Interrupted is an ardent film that captures the lives of a group of women in a mental institution. When first watching this movie, one gets the sense that this particular mental institution saw mental patients as being incurable, their experimental approach with over medicating the patients with anti-psychotic medication. This critique will go through the summary of the film, as well as the mental health issues of the characters, and possible treatments.​

​The main character and narrator of this film is Susanna. This character was first presented to a family friend and ex-therapist to discuss Susanna apparent suicide attempt; Susanna had taken a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka. The therapist manipulated her in volunteering to commit herself to the Mental Hospital, because he believed it would be best for “everyone involved”.

​Upon arrival to the prison-like institution, she was met with a hostile, narcissistic, woman named Lisa, who also is the leader of the clique of patients. Lisa is the other main character in the story, who is constantly trying and succeeding at escaping. During the last part of the film, Susanna and Lisa decided to run away to Florida; they wanted to work full-time as Cinderella and Snow White at Disney World. On the way to Florida, they decide to visit a friend who was prematurely release who had her own apartment. Lisa got in a fight with the unstable friend who hung herself. Lisa decided to run so she would not have to go back to the hospital, but Susanna stayed and called 911.

​Once she returned to Claymoore she decided to turn her stay around, to utilize the system to get better. She started talking to the therapists being honest and frank, and trying to “cure” her borderline personality disorder. After 18 months at the hospital, she was released upon the condition she would receive weekly therapy at the institution..

Susanna Susanna was diagnosed by the psychiatrists at the hospital with Borderline Personality Disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-IV), under diagnostic criteria 301.83- Borderline Personality Disorder, this disorder is characterized by unstable thought processes, heightened impulses, self images, and relationship.

Interestingly, the DSM IV mentions that this disorder is usually diagnosed in early adulthood; Susanna Susanna is eighteen year old when she admits herself in to the institution. I In order for Susanna to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she would need to display five contexts of the said disorder. The first one that she displayed was (1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagine abandonment (2007).

In middle of the film, Lisa, her sociopath best-friend was moved to a different ward after drugging a nurse in order to escape; Susanna trough a frantic fit demanding to know where she was. She was so worried she was “all that she had left”. Susanna looked like she was having a break down, fear of being abandonment. Under the second criteria, (2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating by extremes of idealization and devaluation (2007), this summarized Susanna's whole relationship with Lisa. Susanna idealized how “free” Lisa was, how she did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without feeling guilty, or caring what the social system thought of her. The third criteria is for the patient to experience a (3) identity disturbance (2007).

One could say that Susanna experienced large identity disturbance throughout this film, however if was extremely apparent when she was in the emergency room. After Susanna had swallowed the bottle of aspirins followed by a bottle of vodka, she kept telling the doctors that the bones in hands had disappeared. When she was at the family therapist, she explained that our bodies did not have to be restricted to earthly psychics, that the bones in her hand had disappeared, but when she was at the emergency room they reappeared.

Susanna skips the fourth and fifth criterion, because the suicide attempt was a single occurrence, rather than a recurrent series of episodes. Under the sixth criteria, (6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (2007), Susanna experienced severe mood swings throughout the movie. She would be happy with Lisa and the other patients one moment, than the next incredible anxious and depressed then next. Her mood patter was unstable, and unpredictable.​​

Throughout this movie, it was hard to decipher if Susanna had borderline personality disorder, is she had depression, or both. She was constantly despondent and depressed, most likely the reason why she attempted to commit suicide. Because of this symptom, she fulfills criterion (7) chronic feelings of emptiness (2007).​Susanna Susanna fulfilled the necessary criteria prescribed by the DSM-IV, criteria: one, two, three, six, and seven.


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    • profile image

      college student 

      7 weeks ago

      so imma be honest i got this psychology final on this movie cuz i honestly dont want to buy the movie... anyways lit review

    • Babu Mohan profile image

      Mohan Babu 

      2 months ago from Chennai, India

      A very different approach to a movie review. It was a bit too technical for me at places. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading your perspective.

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      I appreciate the article and it explains the movie pretty clearly. But I struggled with the typos and grammatical errors. Just a heads-up that some proof reading might benefit you in the future.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks Rebel!

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      4 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      "Girl Interrupted" is one of my favorite movies. Nice psychiatric research.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Glad you like it, Teaches12345!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for the review. I am always looking for other views on flicks so that I can compare my thoughts.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      It's a great movie!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      This is an excellent movie analysis, Alli! Maybe I'll check it out if I ever come across it.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      It's avoid movie, plus it has Angelina Jolie in it. So guys like it. But, it's a good movie, just with its plot. Thanks, Goatfury.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      4 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I've actually never seen "Girl, Interrupted", but now I might have to watch it.


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