Psychology Analysis of Fatal Attraction

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by negative behaviors such as attention seeking, manipulation, strong anger, loneliness, unstable relationships, poor self-image, emotional extremes, and impulsivity. It is caused by a combination of genetics, psychological predisposition, and childhood experiences. In the movie Fatal Attraction, Alex Forrest displays symptoms of BPD, including attention seeking, self-mutilation, and a fear of rejection and abandonment. She goes to great lengths to keep Dan Gallagher in her life, kidnapping his daughter in an attempt to manipulate him. Dan was unaware of her condition when he met her, and only had a brief encounter with her before she began to exhibit psychotic behaviors.

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex and dramatic mood disorder identified by a large range of negative behaviors. BPD is formally identified as a “Cluster B” personality disorder presenting with dramatic, highly emotional, or erratic behavior. (Article: Personality Disorders) Common features include attention seeking, manipulation, strong anger, loneliness, unstable relationship patterns, poor self-image, emotional extremes, and impulsivity. There are also often severe abandonment issues, fears of rejection, instances of self-mutilation, and suicidal behaviors. 4. 4. 13) There is not a decided cause for BPD, though there are many theories. Many health care professionals settle on a mix of many factors and conditions, calling it a biopsychosocial model of causation- meaning that, genetics, psychological predisposition, and ways that a person interacts with their social surroundings as a child can contribute to this disorder. (Article: Borderline personality Disorder) In the film “Fatal Attraction”, Alex Forrest is the poster child of BPD, she hits every neurotic note and screams a chorus of psychotic symptoms.

When the viewer first encounters this soft-spoken, gentle-looking woman one may assume that she would be the victim in the film. The viewer is soon set straight about Alex’s intentions with the married-father, Dan Gallagher. After a mutually enjoyed one night stand, Alex calls Dan’s house although she was not given the phone number. She insists on seeing him again and this time when he tries to leave she has a huge outburst of emotion, screaming, slapping Dan and ripping his shirt. Moments later she is reasoning with him to stay, begging him to hear her out, but when he comforts her he discovers that she has cut both of her wrists.

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This is an example of attention seeking, self-mutilation brought on by a shift between idealizing Dan in one moment and devaluing him the next. (4. 4. 13, Article: Borderline Personality Disorder) The viewer’s first terrifying glimpse of Alex’s disturbing behavior. Through the remainder of the film she goes to great lengths in attempt to keep Dan in her life, abhorring the rejection and abandonment she is facing. After Dan tries to cut ties with her again she sends him an eerie tape professing her love and hatred for him, swinging wildly from one extreme emotion to the other in a single breath.

In an attempt to manipulate Dan’s family into meeting her demands for attention Alex kidnaps Dan’s daughter Ellen. This escalation leads Dan to a violent outburst of his own. He breaks down Alex’s door and tussles with her, nearly choking her to death. Most other people would be terrified in this situation, but Alex never looked more satisfied than when Dan was backing away from her. She had gotten his attention at last. 2. Dan could not have known that Alex was suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder when he met her because BPD is characterized by long-lasting patterns of behavior. Article: Personality Disorders) Dan was looking for a one-night-stand, an honest, though not chivalrous rendezvous without any strings attached. He did not have enough time with her to notice signs of psychosis, much less pin down a difficult to diagnose personality disorder. Alex, knowing very well how to manipulate situations to her benefit, had a much more serious intention. In her mind, Dan must love her or he- and his family- would pay the price for abandoning her.

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Psychology Analysis of Fatal Attraction. (2016, Oct 27). Retrieved from

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