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Case Analysis: Fight Club


Case Analysis: Fight Club
Emily K Hert
Chesapeake Community College

Case Analysis: Fight Club

Emily Hert
18 April 2016
PSC 255
Case Analysis Through Film

The film I chose was Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, and to diagnose the
main character, who’s never referred to by name, but narrates the whole movie. An alter
ego of the narrator starts to befriend the narrator himself, and introduce him to a whole
new way of living, which turns into committing organized crimes and bringing together
members to join their “fight club”. The viewer does not know they’re the same person
until the end of the movie when the narrator himself begins to realize… since his alter
ego, Tyler, set everything up so he wouldn’t find out. From studying his case, a type of
psychotic disorder was certain, and after debating I diagnosed him with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia involves six or more months of symptoms forming and onsetting,
sometimes presented with stressors, and typically occurs throughout three phases
prodromal, active, and residual (Sue, 2014). This movies spanned out over months and
the narrator inform the viewers that he has been suffering for months. In our book the
stages are explained, “The prodromal phase includes the onset and build up of
schizophrenic symptoms… in the active phase the person shows full-blown symptoms,”

Case Analysis: Fight Club

usually occurring by psychological stressors set off in the previous phase, “person may
later enter the residual phase, in which the symptoms are no longer prominent” (Sue,
303). In the first phase symptoms can include social withdrawal, neglect of personal
grooming, or drastic changes in appearance; in the second symptoms will include
severe disturbances in thinking, delusions, deterioration in relationships, and
inappropriateness (Sue, 2014). The narrator experiences the first two phases, as well
as abnormal beliefs resulting in abnormal actions, and a theory that sparks his alter ego
to devise a master destructive plan. For instance, the prodromal phase for the narrator
would begin in experiencing months of insomnia, then going to to getting fed up with his
mundane life of office work, traveling for work, and constant purchasing from ikea to
have the perfect apartment. He begins going to go to methodist support meetings to
evoke some type of emotion, he explains these made him feel like, “every evening I
died, and was resurrected… losing all hope is freedom” (Fincher, 1999). We then enter
the active phase when Tyler blows up his house, but the audience won’t know that right
away. This leaves him to move in with Tyler in a “dilapidated house in the toxic waste
part of town” (Fincher, 1999). This phase continues throughout the movie in executing
his full blown delusion that tyler being a whole different person from himself, and even
fights himself, attracting other men wanting to fight, turning into a club of organized
fights every Saturday. When his alter ego devises his master plan called “Project
Mayhem”, it involves causing chaos through homework assignments given to its
members, assigned by tyler, and eventually blowing up multiple credit card company
building to erase the debt back to zero for economic equi liberty. Tyler plots the narrator
from finding out through rules of 1. Never speak of mayhem or projects and 2. No

Case Analysis: Fight Club

names in project mayhem, so when the narrator asks about Tyler or what's going one of
those rules is often repeated, keeping him in the dark. Tyler schemes up together
project mayhem not only from the original fight club, but also in states all across the
country, which is done when the narrator claims he can not sleep, and admits to
sometimes waking up in strange places with no memory of how he got there. In the
midst of this he also threatens his boss when he tries to fire him, and begins to start a
relationship with a tragedy of a woman, but only continues it while under Tyler’s psyche,
making the narrator suspicious at times. At one point the narrator gets much too
aggressive in one of the fights, brutally beating his opponent until unresponsive,
because he saw Tyler starting to favor him. It’s left questionable whether or not he
enters the final stage, when the movie ends after he realizes what has been going on,
and kills the alter ego by shooting them both, tyler disappears and the narrator is left
with a hole in him.
The accuracy the film makes of the disorder is pretty high. They did so in making
it clear the narrator knew Tyler was a different person outside of himself, differentiating it
from someone with dissociative identity disorder (Sue, 2014). They also incorporated
how this episode was sparked, and an excellent job of making the series of events
almost logical to what was to come. For example, when members were all given an
assignment to start a fight with a stranger for no reason, and they found most rational
people didn’t want to fight and ran away, giving more insight that the narrator had found
himself a dangerous, abnormal group of people. The portrayal of schizophrenia in Fight
Club was excellent.

Case Analysis: Fight Club

The psychological dimension of the multipath model would be most accurate to
narrow down on when diagnosing and treating the narrator, since most of his problems
are in his head. According to our textbook, Essentials of Understanding Abnormal
Behaviors, “the psychological dimension includes behaviors, attitudes, and attributes to
symptoms vulnerable or predisposed individuals” (Sue, 309). This can lead to specific
cognitive thinking patterns and odd beliefs that influence psychotic behavior (Sue,
2014). Psychological factors can be encouraged through negative feelings, such as
hopelessness resulting in the stress response (Sue, 139). For treatment I would
recommend an antipsychotic drug because of how high the patient's destruction history
was, from blowing up multiple buildings and creating essentially a cult to execute more
chaos; as well as advising to indulge in some cognitive-behavioral therapy through
engaging the client's understanding of their stressors and offering plausible ways to
cope, assessing fears and anxiety, identifying negative beliefs and developing
alternative explanations to their previous assumptions (Sue, 2014). From viewing this
film the viewers are given insight to understand how an individual can believe their alter
ego is actually another person, by creating Tyler to be as sneaky and clever as he was
to keep the whole thing from the narrator. They are also given insight by seeing how the
disorder can play out, through use of how after living such a repetitive, unsatisfactory
lifestyle, it eventually transitioning at some point to this new exciting, accomplished life.

Linson, A., & Cean Chaffin (Producers), & Fincher, D. (Director). (1999). Fight Club
[Motion picture]. United States.

Case Analysis: Fight Club

Sue, D. (2014). Essentials of Understanding Abnormal Behavior (2nd ed.). Wadsworth, CA:
Cengage Learning.