Movies may bring awareness to mental illness. But how much of what is portrayed is accurate? Tessa, a Temasek Polytechnic Psychology student does a critical analysis of the Movie, Split, for us to better understand what is a real and fictional representation of Dissociative Identify Disorder. Read on to learn more.
Portrayal of the Disorder
The psychological disorder portrayed in Split is dissociative identity disorder (DID), which refers to having two or more distinct dissociative personality states, causing a disturbance in their memory and consciousness (Reinders et al., 2016). The main character, Kevin Wendell Crumb, was found to have 24 personalities. Barry is a protector or helper alter who helps to control the switching of the personalities and updates his psychiatrist, Dr Karen Fletcher, on how the other alters are doing. Hedwig is a child alter who is nine years old and might have been created during Kevin’s childhood abuse. His mother used to hit and scold him for not making the house clean. Patricia is a calm female personality who values perfection, while Dennis suffers from OCD and likes seeing teenage girls dance. They are persecutor alters that inflict punishment on the other identities by engaging in dangerous behaviours (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2019), such as kidnapping three girls for the next personality, the Beast. He can climb walls and has superhuman strength and body. He believes that eating “impure” people can make him stronger. This caused him to eat two of the kidnapped girls and his psychiatrist.
Analysis of the Disorder Representation
Split accurately portrayed that the personalities have different voices, outlooks, abilities, attitudes and personal preferences (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2019). The film validates that DID is a real disorder that stems from childhood trauma instead of being an iatrogenic disorder. Dr Fletcher always tries to find new evidence and present case studies to psychology experts to prove the existence of DID. However, Split associated DID with kidnapping and murder. This shows that the media often disproportionately portray individuals with mental disorders as committing cruel and violent crimes, which they do not usually commit in reality (Bartol & Bartol, 2017). Most individuals with DID often try to hide their symptoms and engage in self-harming behaviours instead of harming others. Therefore, the movie did not represent most of the DID population and exaggerated the symptoms such as the Beast changing his body so that bullets and knives cannot penetrate through it and eating humans to gain strength. This can give movie-goers the mindset that these individuals are dangerous, further perpetuating stigma.
Challenges Faced by the Main Character
There are several difficulties that Kevin might experience. First, he might need to deal with the consequences and cope with the immense chronic guilt after his other personality killed three people. Next, treatment for DID can be exceptionally challenging because the personalities must integrate into one coherent personality (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2019). Moreover, a trusting relationship between the therapist and client is essential. Dennis lied to Dr Fletcher about the existence of the Beast, which caused her to lose her life. Following that, individuals and some mental health professionals do not believe that DID is real due to low awareness of the disorder and lack of training (Liu, 2022). This leads to stigma, which can prevent individuals with DID from seeking help and viewing themselves negatively.
Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2017). Criminal behaviour: A Psychological Approach (11th ed.). Pearson Education Limited.
Liu, P. (2022). Dissociative Identity Disorder: Understanding of DID, Symptoms and Causes. International Journal of Pharma Medicine and Biological Sciences, 11(1), 26-29. doi: 10.18178/ijpmbs.11.1.26-29
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2019). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education (International). https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781260569674
Reinders, A. A., Willemsen, A. T., Vissia, E. M., Vos, H. P., den Boer, J. A., & Nijenhuis, E. R. (2016). The Psychobiology of Authentic and Simulated Dissociative Personality States. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204(6), 445-457.doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000522