Signs Of Being On The Spectrum In 5 Year Old Assessing Donnie Darko

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Assessing Donnie Darko

This is director Richard Kelly’s masterpiece Donnie Darko ventures into the stunning yet unnerving side of science fiction as his film depicts a teenage boy’s struggle with schizophrenia. Set in the late 1980s, the film follows 16-year-old Donald “Donnie” Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his unique relationship with a particular hallucination that presents itself in the form of a 16-foot-tall rabbit named Sincere. After these hallucinations distract him from what could have been a fatal accident, Donnie becomes fixated on Frank’s orders for him and develops an unhealthy obsession with complying with Frank’s demands. However, Donnie’s descent into madness is only part of the gripping plot. The presence of these hallucinations is synonymous with the impending collapse of reality that Frank warned Donnie about during their first meeting. Although Donnie meets regularly with his psychiatrist, Dr. Thurman, the combination of trying to understand the theoretical psychology of time travel and dealing with the paranoia associated with schizophrenia is incredibly overwhelming for the teenager, ultimately ending in his symbolic and metaphorical death. Although this cult classic freely touches on mental health issues, Kelly and Gyllenhaal use the character incredibly well to radiate the serious travails of psychotic disorder.

Throughout the film, Donnie exhibits various schizophrenic tendencies as well as extreme paranoia, which is an incredibly common attribute of most schizophrenics (Halgin, R., & Whitbourne, S., 2014). This irrational belief that boggles Donnie’s head is present throughout the film; as his desperate but imaginative need to save the reality he knows and do Frank’s bidding evolves into a terrifying and controlling delusion. Although there is no explicit scene that fully demonstrates this trait, it is arguably the film’s strongest yet overlooked undercurrent. Donnie’s motivation for performing various actions is sheer terror and desperation, which confirms his extreme paranoia. In opposition to the more hidden elements of Donnie’s psychologically disturbed mind, his vivid hallucinations and delusions are probably the clearest and most obvious symptom. The plot revolves around his unhealthy relationship with Frank, who for a time was a figment of his own imagination. The increased reliance on the rabbit manifests itself in Donnie’s conscious stream of thought, causing him to lose sight of rationality entirely. Contributing to this separation is his eternal delusion that the world is coming to an end and that time travel alone will align the different universes. Dr. Thurman attributes this notion to the hypothesis that “Donnie’s aggressive behavior appears to stem from his increased detachment from reality, his inability to cope with forces in the world that he perceives as threatening” (Kelly, 2003). Dr. Thurman’s assessment is probably unquestionable given the relationship dynamic she and Donnie share. Donnie’s lack of interest in family or friends portrays a negative symptom of schizophrenia, however his attachment to a psychiatrist perhaps adds to the validity of her statement. A fifth, yet almost imperceptible characteristic that Donnie acquires is experiencing inappropriate feelings or emotions in a given situation. The best detectable case of this occurrence is during a hypnotic therapy session with Dr. Thurman. She starts asking Donnie about family logistics and he keeps giving answers regarding sex with various classmates. Donnie also has a similar episode when he persistently questions a guest speaker at school and ends up calling the man the antichrist, a potential sign of job dysfunction. Although comical in the film, these two cases represent another negative symptom of his condition and cannot go unnoticed.

Although the subject matter and the character that is Donnie Darko is purely fictional, one can still evaluate how exactly he exhibits the symptoms of schizophrenia and look for possible contradictions. The above features very consistently match actual cases of this disorder; however, judging Donnie in the context of the film proves rather difficult. The sci-fi aspects that permeate the plot clearly influence Donnie’s thoughts and actions in a way that a paranoid schizophrenic or anyone else would ever have to face. The concept of time travel and multiple realities clouds accurate judgment simply because of the additional circumstances it presents. However, when looking at cases occurring in an everyday environment that does not deal with theoretical physics, Donnie epitomizes a functioning schizophrenic. His various symptoms meet the criteria outlined in the DSM-5 to be established as an accurate diagnosis, and it can be assumed that these features have been present for more than a month-long period due to his established relationship with a counselor and frequent mention of medication (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). .

Donnie Darko, although Richard Kelly’s first completed film, is notable for its inability to conclude a concrete resolution or understanding. The multi-faceted nature of the film is incredibly captivating and well-received by various populations. In an interview with Kelly, he briefly outlined his fascination with Donnie’s mental illness and how “Donnie Darko” was inspired by a classmate who was unfortunately addicted to cocaine. He discussed the close relationship between Dr. Thurman and Donnie and how this aspect of the film served to continually provide Donnie’s main form of treatment: “[Dr. Thurman] she doesn’t think Donnie is crazy. She tried to get to the root of his problems through psychology, not drugs, to get him to reveal things under the assumption that the drugs were making him better when he was actually getting better, naturally, without drugs” (Kelly, 2003 The film itself depicts the teenage struggles with a deeper twist that will forever leave viewers guessing as to what Kelly’s work really means.

Works Cited

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Barrymore, DB (Producer) and Kelly, JR (Director). 2002. Donnie Darko [Motion picture on DVD], (2002). United States: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Halgin, R., & Whitbourne, S. (2014). Schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorders. In Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders (7th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill.

Kelly, R., & Gyllenhaal, J. (2003). Donnie Darko book. London, Queen Square: Faber and Faber.

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