This is a self-portrait documentary about Jon’s life struggles with his own depersonalization disorder and with his mother’s, Renee, bipolar and schizophrenia. This film analysis is, however, focused on Renee, whose life started out as a beautiful child model. After she fell off from the roof, she is never the same again. She is subjected to hundreds of shock therapy in which Jon believe to be unnecessary and damaging treatment that cause his mother mental illness. Tarnation well illustrates those effects of the brain damage, traumatic abuse, and her current schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder involves the symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. It is a subtype of schizophrenia—a psychotic disorder in which disturbed thought processes, distorted perceptions, unusual emotions, and motor abnormalities deteriorates functioning
(Comer, 2010). Common symptoms
include delusion, hallucination, and other disturbances in thought, perception
and behavior, inappropriate affect, blunt and flat emotion, and impaired social
skills (Student Notes).
From the movie, Renee is delusional, for examples, she believed that her parents were not her real parents and that Elizabeth Taylor was her mother. She also believed that she was physically abused as a child. She believed that her parents, Rosemary and Adolph, are psychotic, neurotic, schizophrenic, and that they lock her up in the closet for days and whip her. Also, she had disorganized thinking speech clearly shown in the illogical and peculiar conversation with the husband. Moreover, lithium is a mood stabilizing drug that serves as a treatment for bipolar disorder. The fact that she had lithium overdose suggests that she is also bipolar. People with bipolar disorder experience both the high of mania and the crash of depression. Manic period could be depicted, for example, when she has decreased need for sleep, increased energy, the mood of exaggerated joy, more talks, laughter, and self-understood jokes than usual (with the pumpkin and other objects), and racing thoughts and experiences. It is possible that she knew her cycle and that she went back to the hospital before she was depressed. This confirms me that she has a schizoaffective disorder that involves schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Biological – (1) Renee could inherit that biological predisposition to schizophrenic and develop the disorder later after facing the extreme stressors of shock therapy, rape, marital abuse, extended stays in mental hospital. (2) Moreover, schizophrenia is related to biochemical factor. She could have abnormal activity or interactions of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Psychodynamic – According to Freud, schizophrenic develops from the regression to a pre-ego stage and effort to reestablish ego control
Behavioral – It could be the result of faulty learning. Renee could receive very little reinforcement as a child and pay more attention to irrelevant matters. From there, her behavior appears abnormal. In mental institution, she could have been labeled in this way and may act accordingly to that label. Abnormal behaviors may be rewards by sympathy and attention, resulting in reinforcement and eventually are labeled as schizophrenic.
Cognitive – People develop delusional thinking when they try to understand their unusual experiences, strange biological sensation. Renee could start with experiencing some kind of hallucination as a result from biological sensation, and later try to understand and make sense of those strange sensations, and eventually develop into misinterpretations and delusion that she is being persecuted.
Biological – Antipsychotic with antidepressant for depressed schizoaffective patients or with mood-stabilizing drug (Lithium) for the manic.
Psychotherapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for schizophrenia is to guide patients to more accurate interpretation of their experiences.
Family & Social Therapy can also be very effective. People with schizoaffective disorder can actually discuss with others their real-life problem.