6 Movies That Accidentally Recreate Real Mental Illnesses

#3. Dissociative Trance Disorder: Every Movie With "Possession" or "Exorcism" in the Title

The Movie

Unless you live on some weird planet where no one makes terrible movies, we're pretty sure you've seen a film about a person (usually a young girl) who is possessed by a demon, or several demons, or the devil himself. A lot of them even claim to be "based on a true story," which is Hollywood's way of extending certain factual elements into a blanket statement about the film's veracity (this is like advertising Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as "based on a true story" because motorcycles are a real thing that people ride). The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism and The Possession are a few examples, but there are countless others, all as varied and unique as the ones we have listed here (although the cast list of each typically features a contortionist).


Very few people have double-jointed necks.

In each film, some characters suddenly begin acting in a really bizarre manner. They start speaking in different languages or entirely different voices, they start walking weirdly or crawling across the floor, walls or ceiling, or their heads spin around like deboned owls. Usually, they also helpfully inform the other characters in one way or another that they are possessed by a fucking demon. In response, the other characters send in a few priests that they aren't terribly attached to for a jumbled and catastrophic exorcism.

The Delusion

People who suffer from dissociative trance disorder suddenly take on another personality, usually that of a deity, ancestor or spirit. In most cases, they're unable to remember anything about the episode, no matter how crazy things get. Just to be clear, simply speaking in tongues on CBN isn't enough for a diagnosis. The trance state has to be culturally unacceptable to be characterized as a disorder; that is, flinging piss in people's faces and/or stabbing yourself in the vagina with a crucifix.


"Well, at least we know that her vagina isn't a vampire."

One person with the disease began roaring like a monster and vomiting excessively. A 21-year-old Malaysian woman started gibbering incoherently in another language and having powerful mood swings after rejecting a marriage proposal. Despite this being a textbook case of dissociative trance disorder, the woman received no medical treatment -- her family figured that she had been cursed with an evil spirit by the spurned suitor's family, because "hospital" and "Hogwarts" are apparently too close together in the dictionary.

#2. Delusional Parasitosis: Slither

The Movie

In the science fiction/horror comedy Slither, an alien parasite crash lands on Earth and infects Michael Rooker (a man who by all accounts is also from space), essentially wearing him as a disguise to conduct a biological invasion.


As you can see, the deception is nearly flawless.

He unleashes the parasite on an uneducated single mother, impregnating her with hundreds of his galactic insect offspring. She inflates like a bug-filled human meat balloon and eventually explodes, releasing the parasites on the unsuspecting town.


Whoa, talk about stretch marks! But seriously, she dies a horrible death, leaving no one to care for her fatherless children.

The alien bugs then crawl into other people's bodies and nest inside them for sustenance, because there is no point in being an alien if you can't burrow into human flesh and ease your way back out.

The Delusion

As your skin crawls throughout this entry, be careful that your fears don't develop into something worse, like delusional parasitosis. This is when a person believes that her entire body has been infested with living organisms. We don't mean simply thinking that bugs are inside of them: Sufferers of delusional parasitosis actually feel bites and stings inside their bodies. Sometimes they even hear buzzing, as if a hornet is hovering just behind their eardrum.

DEA / E. Bertaggia - Getty
Are you sure this nest isn't somewhere inside you?

Those diagnosed with the disorder usually end up radically changing their lives. They may burn all of their furniture, or even abandon their homes outright, in an attempt to rid themselves of the imagined infestation. Many will mutilate their own bodies to cut out the phantom bugs, because when you think that a hovel of spiders is scuttling beneath your skin, you don't hop online and check WebMD -- you grab a trash bag and a carving knife and put 911 on speakerphone.

One woman went to the hospital because she thought that bugs had been crawling out of her eyes, nose, mouth and vagina, although we're curious how the doctors managed to decipher wordless screams into a coherent complaint. Another patient casually handed his doctor some nail clippings and told him that they were bugs that had been living inside him. A 58-year-old woman, after being refused treatment for her delusional infestation, literally tried to kill her doctor in a panicked frenzy. So she presumably had to sit in jail, where her imagined parasitic infection became a sobering reality.

Getty
But at least she wasn't crazy anymore!

#1. Oneiroid Syndrome: Inception

The Movie

In Inception, Christopher Nolan takes two and a half hours to tell us that Leonardo DiCaprio has entered a man's dream, implanted a thought and (probably) gotten back out, dragging an 8,000-year-old Japanese man to freedom with him.


Also called Arnie Grape yells at Robin.

A major point of the film revolves around people being confused about whether their lives are real or if they're merely dreaming, and the tragedy that can result once that confusion boils over into full-blown madness. In the movie, DiCaprio's wife commits suicide because she is convinced that she is still dreaming and believes that if she dies, she will wake back up to reality.


DiCaprio, on the other hand, spins a top.

Getting lost in a dream world would be pretty frightening, especially if you were suddenly no longer able to tell the difference between reality and hallucination.

The Delusion

People who suffer from oneiroid syndrome experience the exact confusion that leads DiCaprio's wife to jump out of a window in Inception. The disorder causes you to completely lose track of reality, essentially putting you in a dreamlike state that can last for weeks. You'll experience vivid hallucinations, increased agitation and usually amnesia, although by that point any amnesia might be welcome.

Much like Marion Cotillard's character in Inception, patients often harm themselves and others due to their fear and anxiety. In a personal account of the syndrome given by a 20-year-old college student, the patient explains how days and nights lost all meaning and significance to her. The world became a washed-out slate of gray:


"Everyone's just sort of ... loitering and brandishing guns for some reason."

She experienced no concept of time or mortality, only a boundless, hateful eternity. Things were swirling quickly all around her, constantly changing and flying through the air:


"It's like my every waking moment is directed by an asshole!"

To her, the world "seemed topsy-turvy":


"The fight scenes were pretty badass, though."

That's right, Internet -- you are one syndrome away from living in a Christopher Nolan movie.



Alex doesn't have any books or websites to plug, but you can add him on Facebook, if you're into that kind of thing. You can also send him an email at arrace@buffalo.edu.

For more for on illnesses, check out 6 Real Diseases That Have Somehow Become Trendy and 6 Terrifying Diseases That Science Can't Explain.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 5 Most Embarrassing Ways Churches Are Trying to Be Hip.

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