At the ripe age of 18, Susanna Kaysen is clinically diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Following a nervous breakdown with an overdose, Susanna is immersed into a group of girls at the Claymoore psychiatric hospital. Each girl suffering from her own distinctly unique disorder unexpectedly did what individuals in Susana’s life were unsuccessful. They were able to instill in Susanna the appreciation for the life she was given.
Confused and alarmed, an “ambivalent” Susana is introduced to the psychiatric hospital by a pathological liar, Georgina Tuskin, who is her roommate. Lisa Rowe is a charismatic sociopath, the longest reigning resident who enjoys personally causing havoc in the facilities especially with the girl’s lives. Her manipulative and rebellious manner is what seems to draw the girls including Susanna to participate in Lisa’s schemes. Susanna is confronted with the reality of death at the home of Daisy Randone, a girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder who lives in the house given by her sexual abuser and father. Fresh off their escape, Lisa and Susanna find Daisy’s home after her release from the hospital. Lisa in her troublesome ways taunts Daisy about enjoying the sexual abuse, which leads Daisy to ultimately take her own life. An unphased Lisa loots Daisy’s body for money while a disturbed Susanna calls for help to return to Claymore. Progressing from that day, Susanna writes to help her cope with the experiences of life. As things settle Lisa returns and causes trouble by reading Susanna’s diary of her true thoughts regarding the other girls. Reading about how Susanna feels pity for Lisa’s cold demeanor causes her to spiral. Lisa threatens to commit suicide until the rest of the girls work together to talk her out of going through with it. Before being released Susana visits Lisa one last time, this finally solidifies to Susanna that Claymoore has indeed changed her. The experience allowed her to realize her disorder and accept she must not let it alter the way she leads her life.
Each girl in the facility is diagnosed with a different disorder, creating an environment where different treatments and medications are administered. Through the administration of medications, the facility was participating in the biological paradigm. In class we learned that this paradigm observes that abnormality is caused by biological factors such as genes or ones neurochemistry. Some of the girls are crafty enough to imitate taking their respective medications allowing them to trade with each other. From a medical standpoint, this is not essential because the medications are designed to alleviate or stimulate certain symptoms in a disorder. Therapy sessions were provided for the girls, which fall into the psychodynamic paradigm. We learned that this paradigm observes abnormality causes based on early childhood experiences and are treated through psychodynamic therapy. There are scenes in the film where Susanna is in a therapy session depicting the therapist working from cognitive and behavioral techniques. The therapist works in the discussion of Susanna’s social skills and based on that find alternate ways of improving herself. Susanna initially is unresponsive to any treatment or explanation of the diagnosis however with the turn of events from Daisy’s suicide, she was able to gradually reach acceptance.
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