Running Head: SHUTTER ISLAND 1
Shutter Island and Delusional Disorder
University of Maryland University College
SHUTTER ISLAND 2
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Teddy experiences both; believing he is on the verge of a grand discovery and simultaneously is being conspired against by the doctors at the asylum. For those with Delusional Disorder, full periods of remission may be followed by subsequent relapses, as is Teddy’s case. Perhaps in response to his experiences in war and the death of his wife and children, Teddy creates an entirely different identity, complete with a new name, profession, past and present. To prevent the truth of his situation from shattering his newly constructed sense of self, Teddy believes any information provided by his doctors is merely part of the conspiracy to keep him in the institution. This altered sense of reality serves as a defense mechanism, a means by which he protects himself from the pain of his past experiences. Despite several hints and associations purposely expressed throughout the intervention, Teddy’s delusions persist until the final scene, leaving us with an eerie sense of just how powerful and complex the mind can be in its defense. While the disorder is portrayed in a very realistic light, it might be hard for a viewer with no background
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in psychology to believe the extremity of Teddy’s Delusional Disorder. This type of disorder is even difficult for clinical psychologists to fully understand, so the average viewer may question Teddy’s delusions, or may even leave feeling delusional themselves.
Delusional disorder is an illness characterized by the presence of nonbizarre delusions in the absence of other mood or psychotic symptoms, according to the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). It defines delusions as false beliefs based on incorrect inference about external reality that persist despite the evidence to the contrary and these beliefs are not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture. Nonbizarre refers to the fact that this type of delusion is about situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, being loved, having an infection, and being deceived by one's spouse (DSM-IV-TR). Delusional disorder is on a spectrum between more severe psychosis and overvalued ideas. Bizarre delusions represent the manifestations of more severe types of psychotic illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia) and "are clearly implausible, not understandable, and not derived from ordinary life experiences" (DSM-IV-TR).
On the other end of the spectrum, making a distinction between a delusion and an overvalued idea is important, the latter representing an unreasonable belief that is not firmly held. Additionally, personal beliefs should be evaluated with great respect to complexity of cultural and religious differences: some cultures have widely accepted beliefs that may be considered delusional in other cultures.