An Island of Crazies

Shutter Island–a man-made island specifically created for the institution.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a psychological disease where a person has two different distinct identities that can control their behavior and affect their personality. This disease can come about in three different ways. The way porteyed in this movie is that the the person makes up a different identity in order to avoid the pain and stress from past, traumatic events that haunt the person’s memories. The main character in the movie Shutter Island is supposedly suffering from this disorder. His name is Teddy Daniels, a 30-year old U.S. Marshal who visits a mental institution on an island off the coast of Boston. His task is to investigate the disappearance of a patient named Rachel who drowned her three children. Throughout the movie we see him interact with the patients and doctors as if he is a U.S. Marshal. In the end, we learn that he is actually a patient on Shutter Island suffering from a mental illness. The thriller almost accurately depicts a real-life patient that would be suffering from this type of disease. However, due to the goal of increasing the entertainment of this movie, the audience who watches this movie will leave with a few misconceptions on psychological disease, psychiatrists, and how mental institutions are actually run.

Although, the movie never comes out and says that the main character is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, this is obviously his problem. At least the author of this novel the movie is based on and the directors of the movie actually portray a patient with an actual disease instead of a disease that is made up. However, the problem with actually portraying a real disease is dealing with the responsibility of portraying it accurately.

Throughout the duration of the movie, we believe that Teddy is actually a U.S. Marshal searching for a missing patient. As the investigation goes on, Teddy keeps on having different hallucinations and dreams about his wife dying in a fire which supposedly has already happened. She gives him information about the missing patient and about the man he is determined to find, Andrew Laeddis. Andrew is a man that was imprisoned for burning down his apartment and a school and then diagnosed to have schizophrenia. He also envisions dead people giving him information to help him out. Teddy also has the idea that the institution is trying to make him go crazy and that it does human experiments on the patients. In the end, we learn that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis and that he killed his wife after she drowned their three children. In order to deal with his trauma he creates the idea that he is a U.S. Marshal searching for a fictional patient. The staff decided to go along with his fake identity and fantasy in hopes that he would revert back to reality and realize who he actually is. In other words, they used a sort of reverse psychology on him. When the doctors realize they have failed, they lure him to the lighthouse to explain who he really is and that they have decided to lobotomize him, which is cutting connections in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain through the eye sockets.

Teddy making his way to the lighthouse. Why would doctors allow a patient to travel alone to a lighthouse that is located on a rock beside a cliff?

This is when he finds his children, after his wife (she is bipolar) drowns them.

Then he decides to shoot her thinking it will solve all of his problems.

A few misconceptions of this movie would include some of the symptoms involved and the actual handling of the situation. Teddy imagines up characters, stories and even objects. If he was a real victim of Dissociative Identity Disorder, this type of behavior would typically not happen. Patients with this disorder only create a different identity with different personality attributes. They do not create a completely different story. Next, he is seen to perform normally when doing typical day-to-day activities. Patients with the disorder do not function properly, often have no idea where they are, and do not recognize people they would normally know. Lastly, an entire hospital would not go along with a Dissociative-Identity-Disorder patient’s “role-playing” in hopes that they will get better. As psychiatric interventions go, Teddy’s role-playing intervention would be deemed unsafe to the other patients and the hospital staff. Typically patients would be put through therapies where they try to establish the differences in their different identities and finding a stable medium. At the end of the movie, his psychiatrists do try to explain who is, but in an aggressive manner, which would not be done in a normal hospital. Also, since Teddy is Andrew Laeddis, and Teddy days that Andrew was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Teddy is technically a schizophrenic patient. Commonly, people with the Dissociative Identity Disorder are mislabeled as having schizophrenia. Therefore, either the movie staff is making the common mistake or the intention is portraying the common mistake in the movie via either Teddy making the mistake or the doctors miss-diagnosing him.

Watching this movie, I was entirely confused. It made me think and wonder if Teddy is actually crazy or if he is completely fine, and that everyone else is crazy. Since I tend to be optimistic and tend to hate things that could be a bad or painful situation, I believed that he was totally normal and argued about it with the rest of my family. After doing research I sadly learned I was wrong. Although I did the research, I decided not to let my family know that they were right. I still internally hope that the movie is a trick on the mind and that Teddy is actually a healthy U.S. Marshal.

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