The movie examines how far one woman will push herself in order to achieve perfection. Nina Sayers suffers from three primary diagnoses: psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an eating disorder. Psychosis is a condition that causes a person to lose touch with reality. Throughout the movie, Nina shows signs of visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations.
She sees her paintings mocking her, scratches her skin, and sees herself transform into a Black Swan. She also shows signs of persecutory delusions, anxiety, and sleep problems. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another mental health disorder where a person has obsessions and compulsions that make him/her do something repetitively. In the movie, Nina strives for perfection when she becomes obsessed with her role. She constantly practices at home and the academy. She also washes her hands vigorously and takes baths often. Nina also suffers from an eating disorder. She has periods of self-induced vomiting and monitors her diet with minimal effort.
Nina lives along with her obsessive mother who has a lot of control over her and treats her like a child. Her room and the way her mother speaks and acts towards her set the stage for Nina’s psychological breakdown. The Swan Lake production casts Nina as the swan queen which brings great levels of stress for her. She has a competition, Lily, a new dancer who impresses the director as well. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side which leads to a horrible transformation into the Black Swan.
Her mental state is further worsened by the stress put on her by her mother, her dance director, and herself. She desires to be perfect and this intense desire is slowly eating away at her fragile mental and physical state as the deep scratches on her shoulder get worse. Towards the end of the film, there was a sharp rise in Nina’s hallucinations. These start small at the beginning of the movie but on the opening night of Black Swan, her paranoia and hallucination rise to an all-time high. This is due to her obsession with being able to pull off the role of Black Swan. After we see a hallucination of her killing Lily, she takes the stage and hallucinates herself fully transforming into the Black Swan. The film ends with her dying on the mattress she dove on at the end of the performance. Her obsession with perfection came at the price of her life. The film is not only about the desire to become perfect. It’s also a story about freedom and a girl finally transitioning to womanhood.
The stigma that is presented in the movie sets the tone for people with psychosis as violent and homicidal killers. Nina fatally stabs herself believing that she killed Lily which portrays psychosis as a dangerous illness, but this is fairly uncommon in people with psychosis. Most people with psychiatric disorders are not aggressive. They are more likely to hurt themselves than other people. Another stereotype is about eating disorders in ballet culture. It is very apparent in the movie that Nina has an eating disorder due to the pressure of ballerinas being physically fit and lean. Overall, the film does an exceptional job entailing accurate elements of psychosis, OCD, eating disorder, and other mental illness.
However, the film’s portrayal of Nina’s violent behavior is a social stigma and a misconception of mental illness. Black Swan sends a strong message about the importance of mental illness and how it greatly affects a person if left untreated. Treatment for psychosis, OCD, and eating disorder involves medications, therapies, treatment programs, and social support. Early detection and intervention are crucial especially in Nina’s case. With proper treatment, people with these disorders can successfully manage their illness and recover from it. They can live full, meaningful lives such as working, getting married, and having kids.
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