Essay Example on Personality Disorders: Challenging the 21st Century Diagnosis

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1516 Words
Date:  2023-01-29


In contemporary society, people assume different personalities, which are typically shaped by societal values, surrounding environment, or learning. Different cultures have specific criteria for identifying deviant personality traits, which are either classified as behavioral or mental disorders (Tyrer, Reed, & Crawford, 2015). Traditionally, many individuals were misdiagnosed due to bias in the identification of alien personalities. However, in the twenty-first century, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DCM - 5) provides standard diagnostic criteria of assessing and classifying mental disorders (Tyrer et al., 2015).

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The American Psycho movie, which is an adaptation of a 1991 novel under the same title, is an excellent manifestation of antisocial, narcissistic, and borderline personality disorders. The protagonist Patrick Bateman suffers from the above three disorders, which are classified in the DSM -5 manual. His character and social behavior meet the criteria of the three personality disorders. For instance, he enjoys murdering his friends for fun despite having a successful Wall Street career. Noticeably, various psychological approaches such as the psychoanalytic, cognitive, and psychopathy can be used to explain Bateman's mental state. Because of the protagonist's behavior and habits, such as murdering without feeling guilty and maintaining a standard social image, he can be classified as having antisocial, narcissistic, and borderline mental disorders.

Psychological Theories

Three psychological theories can be used to explain the behavior and personality of the film's protagonist. The psychoanalytic approach focuses on how the ego, id, and superego interact to generate an individual's personality(Tyrer et al., 2015). In this case, the id comprises of primal and basic instincts that demand to be satisfied regardless of whether an individual uses violence or not (Tyrer et al., 2015). The superego manifests societal morals and obligates individuals to follow irrespective of whether they are unrealistic. The ego serves as a moderator of the demands to allow the development of realistic behavior that follows the rules and satisfies urges (Tyrer et al., 2015). In this case, Bateman has a nonexistent or weak ego that makes him unable to differentiate reality and fantasy.

Bateman can be perceived to be at the self-actualization level concerning the Maslow hierarchy of needs. In the film, Bateman has already met all other levels of the Maslow hierarchy such as primary and security needs. Therefore, the protagonist has only the desire to satisfy self-actualization, which is the last level of the needs pyramid (Tyrer et al., 2015). Notably, self-actualization is not restricted by positive traits and comprises an individual's desire for self-fulfillment. In this case, Bateman pursued murder as a means to satisfy his actualization needs. On the other hand, the cognitive approach reveals that the protagonist may have missed a specific mental development stage, which made it challenging him to distinguish well from wrong (Tyrer et al., 2015).

Noticeably, Patrick Bateman's borderline personality disorder is revealed through various instances in the film. Firstly, he shows a pattern of unstable relationships throughout the movie. According to Cristea et al., (2017), an individual with a series if unstable family or intimate relationship meets the criteria of borderline personality disorder as stipulated by the DSM - 5. In this case, Bateman is portrayed as having two failed close contacts in the film. He is involved in two relationships that are characterized by mistrust and instability. For instance, he belittles her fiancee because he thinks he is more critical in the relationship and should be loved and admired, while he perceives others as lucky to have him. Therefore, he sleeps with his partner to satisfy his sexual desires as opposed to being in love.

Secondly, Bateman has an unstable identity in such a way that he acknowledges that he is not himself. For instance, early in the movie, when Bateman is grooming himself, he admits that he feels that there is an obstruction to the real self in such a way that he only exists as an idea. In this case, he satisfies the DSM -5 BDP criteria by having distorted opinion or thoughts about self. Cristea et al. (2017) note that the condition affects people's moods and values since they are not aware of their real personality. The phenomena could have contributed to the variation concerning how people perceived him and his authentic self, which he kept hidden from others. For example, his colleagues view him as successful, hardworking, and social, which utterly opposite from his secret life of homicide. He murders his boss and fakes his London trip, but no one suspects him; instead, he is asked to help in the investigation. Unstable self-image causes people to have two different personalities.

Thirdly, Bateman satisfies the BPD criteria by having intense mood swings, which affect his relationship with others. Persons with BPD often are unable to control their emotions, such as anger and anxiety, which are usually triggered by simple irritation (Cristea et al., 2017). The individuals are likely to result in violent behavior. In this scenario, Bateman is easily angered throughout the film for no reason, which causes him to lash out. In one instance, he lashes out at a waiter in a hotel, who requests him to see the restaurant's specials. Instead of declining politely, he angrily shouts to the server, which reveals potential violence.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder

The protagonist satisfies the criteria for antisocial personality disorder by showing disregard to social norms, values, rules, and display of irresponsible behavior. According to Tyrer et al. (2015), persons with antisocial personality disorder have disregard for regulations, rights of others, and social norms. They also have challenges in feeling empathy for others, have destructive behavior, and have no remorse for their actions. In the movie, Bateman reveals repeated disregard to laws and other people right to life. Despite the film ending in a confusing scene, making it open different viewers' interpretations, if the murders were actual events as opposed to fantasies, then he has the disorder. He enjoyed killing people, especially his friends, which is against the law since it denies others the right to life. Additionally, he felt no remorse for his actions, such as committing homicides and breaking up with his spouse.

Moreover, he reveals little concern towards personal safety since he engages in life-threatening activities. For example, he does drugs such as cocaine with his counterpart Timothy in the stalls. The situation reveals his disregard for life by consuming hard drugs despite having a successful career. He also engages in irresponsible behavior such as sleeping with prostitutes, and disengagement from his work. Notably, the movie does not have a scene of him working; instead, he listens to music and plans for lunch all day.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The American Psycho movie is an excellent depiction of the American narcissist society, where people expect others to listen, admire, and worship them. Patrick Bateman can be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder since he meets the criteria outlined in the DSM - 5 standard manual. According to Eaton et al. (2017), the disorder is characterized by habits of self-centeredness, exaggerated self-image, and low empathy. Persons with this disorder are primarily value themselves more and disregard others Eaton et al. (2017). In this case, Bateman has an exaggerated self-image since he perceives himself more important than others. For example, he is annoyed when his colleagues present their business cards since he believes that only he can be successful. Moreover, at one scene, he questions two prostitutes whether they like what his work, and he is annoyed when they do not agree. Secondly, he is self-indulgent in such a way that he spends most of his time attending to his beauty. At the beginning of the film, he is shown admiring himself and applying makeup for a considerable period.

Thirdly, Bateman believes he is unique and can only interact with individuals who he thinks to be unique. For example, he only interacts with people who he adores and respects such as Timothy. Fourthly, he is in a constant need for admiration and often gets annoyed if he does not draw attention. For example, he is annoyed when people do not pay the same attention to his business card as he did to theirs.


Overall, the American Psycho film presents a perfect reflection of American society in the twentieth century, which was characterized by narcissism. The protagonist, Patrick Bateman, suffers from antisocial, narcissistic, and borderline personality disorders. The disorders affect how he behaves and interacts with other people. For instance, he is narcissistic in such a way that he feels more important than others do; therefore, he tries to draw peoples' attention towards himself. Additionally, he engages in murders to fulfill his ego and for self-actualization purposes.


Cristea, I. A., Gentili, C., Cotet, C. D., Palomba, D., Barbui, C., & Cuijpers, P. (2017). Efficacy of psychotherapies for borderline personality disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Jama Psychiatry, 74(4), 319-328. DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.4287

Eaton, N. R., Rodriguez-Seijas, C., Krueger, R. F., Campbell, W. K., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2017). Narcissistic personality disorder and the structure of common mental disorders. Journal of personality disorders, 31(4), 449-461.

Tyrer, P., Reed, G. M., & Crawford, M. J. (2015). Classification, assessment, prevalence, and effect of personality disorder. The Lancet, 385(9969), 717-726.

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