6 Movies That Accidentally Recreate Real Mental Illnesses
If you're like us, you've probably watched a lot of movies and wished that your life would turn out exactly like the lives of your favorite onscreen characters. Sadly, most of us will never end up like our heroes, Batman and Spider-Man and Al Pacino in Cruising. But the good news is that your life can become just like your favorite films as early as tomorrow. As we've shown you before, all it takes is a debilitating mental illness.
The Truman Show Delusion: The Truman Show
In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, an average guy leading an average life ("average" here meaning "living with a wife he hates, a crippling phobia of water and enough traumatic memories to streak the surface of Ed Harris' forehead with failure tears").
Eventually, Truman discovers that his entire life is secretly a reality show being broadcast around the world. Cafe waitresses, security guards and a creepy guy in a bathtub are all watching Truman's existence play out without his knowledge.
"Every time Truman masturbated, I was watching. And masturbating."
Sibling doctors Joel and Ian Gold (probable tagline: Brothers in Medicine) met with several patients who had the strange delusion that people gave enough of a shit about their lives to turn them into secret TV shows (although in their defense, the paradoxical first rule of reality television is that people will inexplicably begin to give every available shit about your life the instant it is documented on a television show). The brothers Gold creatively named the illness the Truman Show delusion, because they really wanted to make it home in time for Two and a Half Men.
"They're rerunning the ones with Charlie Sheen!"
One patient told the Gold doctors that he was convinced that everyone he knew was really an actor (which probably included the doctors themselves, making us wonder why the hell he bothered). Another man believed that 9/11 had been a scripted part of his own private reality show, and he traveled to New York City just to make sure it had actually happened (we can only imagine that his pursuit of the truth led to several awkward conversations and one or two merciless trashcan beatings). And more recently, an Illinois man actually sued HBO for allegedly filming his life in secret, apparently confusing his own deranged self with one of the hairspray-soaked bog mutants on Sex and the City.
Clinical Lycanthropy: Werewolf Movies
Lycanthropes, or werewolves, are a staple of horror movies (and recently, for some odd reason, teenage melodramas). The specific details vary, but the basic plot of every werewolf movie involves a person undergoing a painfully gruesome transformation into a giant and/or vaguely humanoid wolf creature, either by the light of a full moon or whenever they goddamned feel like it. Once the transformation is complete, the werewolf will then supermurder everything in the immediate vicinity, rape a bunch of people to death or play air guitar and be really good at basketball.
These activities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Clinical lycanthropy is an extremely rare disorder in which people believe that they are slowly turning into an animal. Multiple patients have been studied, with some experiencing the delusion for up to 13 years. However, you might be disappointed to learn that most cases have absolutely nothing to do with wolves, because mental illness is rarely awesome.
Don't think you can use the moon as an excuse for a crime spree, though. Trust us on this one.
In one case, a woman believed that she had turned into four different animals over a short period of time, apparently modeling her mental illness after Animorphs. And one woman, after attempting to have sex with her husband, began barking madly like a dog and was eventually institutionalized, although her husband probably still tried to complete the sex act for several minutes before calling anyone.
Reverse Intermetamorphosis: Freaky Friday
Body-switching movie Freaky Friday (not to be confused with body-switching movie Like Father Like Son, or the Bangles' super-hit "Manic Monday") is about a girl who switches bodies with her mother after a Chinese lady curses them with some kind of Satanic blood magic.
Ironically, Lindsay Lohan later switched bodies with Tara Reid and no one seemed to notice.
In the process of living each other's lives, they learn valuable lessons about patience, respect and understanding, and develop an unwavering hatred of Asians. Having shared this powerful epiphany, the mother and daughter are returned to their own bodies.
It's a body-switching movie.
A woman known only as RZ was just a normal woman living a normal life, until one day [RECORD SCRATCH], she woke up as her father. Undoubtedly, RZ was about to find herself hip-deep in wackiness and heartwarming lessons about family.
Or, because this was real life, she found herself hip-deep in a psych ward, being interviewed by doctors eager to cure her mental illness, which was diagnosed as reverse intermetamorphosis. Basically, this is when a person thinks that she has either physically or mentally (or both) become another person. RZ thought that she was her 60-something-year-old father, Doug, and answered questions about her life as if she were him.
"Oh yeah, standing's the only way to pee."
RZ couldn't even keep her identity straight -- soon she started thinking that she was her grandfather, but eventually reverted back to her father again (the one constant in her mind was, apparently, "wispy gray scrotum").
In a different case, a male patient told his psychological evaluators that he was a female prostitute who was having labor pains and on the verge of giving birth. Freaky Friday would have been way more gritty and interesting if Lindsay Lohan had become her prostitute mother and given birth to her own bastard half-sibling. Disney should make that movie immediately.
Dissociative Trance Disorder: Every Movie With "Possession" or "Exorcism" in the Title
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.
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.
Delusional Parasitosis: Slither
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.
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.
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.
But at least she wasn't crazy anymore!
Related: Award Celebrating The Worst Love Scenes in Fiction Cancelled, Citing 'Too Many Bad Things in 2020'
Oneiroid Syndrome: Inception
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.
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.
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.