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Mommie Dearest: Psychological Disorders Essay

“I’m crazy! ” Joan Crawford first says this in a scene where she is arguing with Greg Savitt about how he supposedly put Mr. Mayor above Joan. She yells at him for being a lousy gentleman to her and insults him and his career. Greg then goes up to her and beings to shake her and asks if she is crazy, pleading for her to tell him she is crazy. This scene gives an example of one of Joan’s psychological disorders, borderline disorder, because of her instability in moods that takes place in the movie Mommie Dearest.

Joan Crawford is not just a Hollywood actress and a mother; she is also a mentally ill woman who possesses multiple personality disorders that include, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline, narcissism, and bipolar disorder. The first psychological disorder displayed in the movie Mommie Dearest is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. It is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by obsession-unwanted thoughts, ideas, or mental images that occur over and over again (Rathus 2010). In the opening scene of the movie, you see Joan Crawford get ready in her morning routine.

She is very obsessed with the way she looks and she has to make sure she thoroughly cleanses herself. The first thing Joan does is wash her hands and face, which she first washes, rinses and scrubs thoroughly. This is an example of OCD because it is a repetitive and ritual behavior that suppresses her obsession of cleanliness. A second scene that showcases Joan’s obsession of perfection and being neat is when she cleans her house. She cleans her house from top to bottom and everywhere else in between. When her maids are finished cleaning a room, she has to inspect each room to make sure it is to her liking.

She checks furniture, the cabinets, and the floor. Everything looked perfect, but when she moves the potted tree, there is a dirt ring. She gets frustrated and angry that the living room was not cleaned to her liking. “Ohhhh… Helga. When you polish the floor, you have to move the tree. If you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all. Helga, I’m not made at you, I’m mad at the dirt” (Kootnz & O’Neill, 1981). The second psychological disorder that Joan has is borderline disorder. According to Rathus, borderline disorder is the instability of mood, having chaotic personal relations, and a disturbed sense of self.

A first example of borderline disorder that is shown in the movie is her relationship with Greg Savitt. She went to Greg for everything, even went to him when she wanted to adopt a baby, and he made it happen. She went to him when she would be in a slump in her acting career, and he would help her get the part she wanted. But when they came back from having dinner, she blows a gasket on him for not being a gentleman to her and she blamed all of her faults on him. Greg could not take anymore of her crazy outbursts, so he left her.

Another example of how Joan displays borderline disorder is her relationship with her daughter Christina. A scene where this disorder is shown is when Joan dedicates an entire day of her resting so she can prepare herself to see Mr. Mayer. Her children Christopher and Christina were screaming and playing out in the garden. Well, this was not what Joan had planned, so she had Christina come up to her room so she could have a talk with Christina about how important it was to her to have her beauty rest. She scolded Christina and told her to go to her room until she was told to come out.

Christina was in her room with her dolls, and she was disciplining them just like Joan had done to Christina. Joan was shocked at this, and when Christina wasn’t around, she threw her dolls away. Afterwards, Christina see’s that her dolls are missing and she goes to her mother and says, “My babies! Someone stole both my babies! ” and Joan says, “That’s good, darling. They were thoughtless, selfish, spoiled children- now they won’t wake you up when you need your rest” (Kootnz & O’Neill, 1981). The third psychological disorder in this movie is narcissism. It is when people believe that they deserve excessive admiration.

They may be preoccupied with their own success, power, intelligence, or beauty and they show little empathy towards others (Rathus 2010). Through out this movie, it is well shown that Joan is very full of herself and a great first example of this trait in the movie is when she challenges her daughter Christina to a race in the pool. In this scene, she gives Christina a head start because she is much younger and smaller than Joan. Once Christina begins her head start, Joan goes in after her and beats her to the finish. Joan then challenges Christina to another race, giving her a further head start.

Once Christina goes, Joan again goes in after her and beats her once again. Christina is very upset about the loss because her mother is bigger and faster than her. With a narcissistic response Joan says, “Ah, but nobody ever said that life was fair, Tina. I’m bigger and I’m faster. I will always beat you” (Kootnz & O’Neill, 1981). A second scene where Ms. Crawford expresses narcissism is when she is in her dressing room. Joan was getting ready to meet with another man and while she was waiting for him, she was admiring her body while looking in the mirror. She looked over her face, feet and legs.

She caressed her legs in satisfaction with her body. She has to make sure she looked perfect and to make certain she was keeping her body in perfect shape The last personality disorder Joan shows in the movie is bipolar disorder. According to Rathus, bipolar disorder involves a cycle of mood changes from depression to wild elation and back again. They have extreme and dramatic ups and downs in mood and change into depression for no apparent reason. The first scene where her bipolar disorder is easily seen is when she gets a call from Greg telling her she got a movie roll. She was very elated and she went upstairs to tell Christina.

What she came to find was Christina was in her room playing with her mother’s make up and hair products. She was acting like her mother, and Joan was not happy about it. Joan thought Christina was making fun of her and Joan did not like what Christina had done to her hair. She became very angry and she started yelling at Christina for ruining her hair and she then began to cut all of her hair off. This is an example of bipolar disorder because at one minute, Joan was very excited that she got the part she wanted, and then the next minute, she was flabbergasted by what Christina had done to her hair.

A second scene that shows bipolar disorder is when she goes into check on her children. While they are sleeping, she goes into check on them, and she goes around their room to make sure that it is clean. Then, she notices a wire hanger in Christina’s closet. This is not acceptable to her and she then begins to yell and scream at Christina about how she buys her such nice clothes and all she has in return to her mother is to ruin them by putting a dress on a wire hanger. Not only is she upset about this, but also she notices that their bathroom is “not clean”.

Joan then pulls Christina into the bathroom and forces her to clean it again. It all just spirals out of control from Joan being angry and frustrated, to her crying about how things are not perfect and Christina not respecting her. The multiple personality disorders that Joan held had brought great distress in her life and to those who were victimized by her disorders. Ms. Crawford was a bold-headed person, but having her personality disorders as a factor made her a much more difficult person to deal with.

It mostly affected his daughter Christina, who was seen in her mother’s eyes, the reason why Joan was so crazy. When a person has multiple psychological disorders, it not only causes harm to them, but it also causes harm to all the people around them. If they continue on with their lives living with the troubling disorders, they could end up like Joan Crawford. The most important piece of advice is to get them the help they need so they can overcome the symptoms of the psychological illness.

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