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American Psycho: Film Character Analysis

American Psycho: Film Character Analysis


American Psycho is an allegoric movie that satirizes on the American society, in which material values are more important that moral ones. The main character, Patrick Bateman, is a wealthy and successful lawyer. He is interested in luxurious clothes, expensive restaurants, fashion, and personal appearance (Harron, 2000). However, he is also obsessed with killing people when enraged. He is addicted to violence, therefore, is more involved into the personal madness. The number of victims and there is no way out for Patrick to stop. Despite the disorder and strange behavior of the main character, the surrounding people keep communication and interacting with Patrick without even suspecting that he could be a serial killer. From a medical viewpoint, Patrick Bateman introduces an interesting case in terms of personality theories identification and a deeper consideration of psychological and social problems could define the diagnosis. His disorder is closely associated with schizotypal personality disorder due to the number of typical symptoms and lack of socialization with other characters.

Diagnosis Identification (5-Axis Diagnosis), Two Possible Rule Outs

Relevant Symptoms Displayed by the Character

While considering Bateman’s personality and his behavioral patterns, the attention should be given to the comorbid introduction of schizotypal disorders. While choosing this perspective, it is possible to understand theoretical model, which could be applied to the main character. Before doing that, it is necessary to describe the typical reactions and behaviors presented in the movie. To begin with, Patrick represents a typical personality of rick and shallow man who is addicted to drugs, sex, and conscious consumption. He is more interested in luxury clothes, business carts, physical exercises, and expensive gadgets for his home. His fiancée is also a stereotypical representation of a rich and beautiful woman Evelyn. Although they do not love each other, they decide to stay together to maintain the accepted status in society. He has many other affairs with women, including prostitutes who later become his victims. However, his secretary Jean is among his lovers and potential victims for whom he has feelings.

Bateman reveals many other behavioral patterns such as affective expression and stereotypical perception of schizotypal personality disorder. Fluent speech is deprived of emotion and is displayed by the use of language introduced through catalogue descriptions, review of products, and releases. Many disturbances are connected with Bateman speech, which is associated with interruption covered by magazines and newspapers that have been read by Patrick. For instance, while Bateman reads about mergers and acquisitions, he accidentally substitutes these words with murders and executions. The occurrences of misconceptions and inappropriate words of Bateman include frequent pauses in speech, digressions, misused vocabulary, and quoting racist poetry. Bateman’s self-perception should be explored with regard to the analysis of his ego. It can be concluded that the character is unable to react to his disturbed behavior although his behaviors and reactions are schizotypal in nature.

Possible Symptoms in the Disorder (DSM-IV-TR Criteria)

Schizotypal personality disorder refers to a mental condition, under which a person experiences problems with relationships in specific patterns, behaviors, or appearance. The cause of the disorder is not known. There is an assumption that genetic problems may lead to the psychic problem. Schizotypal personality disorder is not similar to schizophrenia. Individuals with schizotypal personality disease have deviated behaviors and perceptions, but they are aware of the fact that they live in a real world, unlike people with schizophrenia. Moreover, they are deprived of delusions (MedlinePlus, 2014). People with the disorder could be disturbed. For instance, they can have uncommon fears or obsessions, such fear of being manipulated or persecuted by the government. In the majority of cases, people with odd behaviors and beliefs have serious difficulties with building relationships. They often have depression and paranoid perception. There are a list of symptoms related to schizotypal disorder such as the inappropriate display of feelings, absence of close friends, discomfort in social environments, odd behavior, irrelevant beliefs, and strange speech.

Evidence of the Disorder

There are many underpinnings and related factors contributing to the existed disorder. Specifically, the study conducted by Ripoll et al (2013) discuss the connection of emphatic connection with the ability to understand other people’s mental states and the ability to maintain normal social relations. Specifically, the scholars have concluded:

Empathy for affective mental states consists in several simpler psychological processes: implicit, automatic sharing of affective experience, distinction between self and other via perspective-taking and distinction between self and other via perspective-taking and explicit attribution of other’s affect, and deliberation-taking and explicit attribution of other’s affect, and deliberation about future behavior with greater and less emphatic concern. (Ripoll et al, 2013, p. 232)

In this respect, detailed and accurate coordination of the processes can have a positive influence on the future behavior, enhancing the emphatic concern and introducing prosocial behavior. Maintaining important relationships with the surrounding world is the main aspects of prosocial behavior, but lack of empathy leads to problems and deviations. As a result, schizotypal personality disorder relates to the dysfunction in explicit mental attribution. The impairment can lead to lack of cognitive deficiency and psychosis.

Behaviors Related to the Disorder

Bateman’s behavior in public is quite peculiar and can be analyzed from the viewpoint of borderline personality disorder. To enlarge on the issue, lack of ego is the main feature of Bateman. Some spheres of Patrick’s life depend on other people, his path through schools working at the company P&P, financial firm work and other social environment make him hate his life and people surrounding him. Although he hates his job, he is still unable to quit due to his desire to be socially accepted and to fit in the current demands. As a result, the conflict arises. On the one hand, Patrick cannot stand his work and paper routine; on the other hand, he cannot abandon his position because he needs this job to get an access to a luxury life. In addition, Bateman introduces pathologic behavior in regard to others; he often changes opinion in antithetical manner. He presents his reactions to others in an aggressive manner, which might further lead to violence or murder. Manipulative reaction of borderline disorder is closely connected with the feelings of abandonment. In case with the main hero, it can relate to a more abstract meaning of abandonment. Rather than preventing the feeling, Bateman displays his aggressive reaction to people who irritate him and who prevent him from becoming successful in a liberal capitalist system. Hence, it can be assumed that Patrick has pomophobia, or the fear of the possibility of everything fallen apart. Hence, the hero’s violent and aggressive behavior could be explored in detail while analyzing his personality in regard to his id and ego. Moreover, it should be stressed that Bateman takes a specific part in hierarchy in society: a vice president and executive in mergers and acquisition.

Possible Origins of the Disorder

Genetic Issues

As it has been briefly mentioned, Schizotypal Personality Disorder relates to social cognitive impairment due to the absence of frank psychosis. The social dysfunction can be due to the social cognitive disorder in the population. However, many researchers have insisted on the necessity to introduce genetic issues as an explanation for the disorder. According to Laquerre, Leboyer, and Schurhoff (2008), the origins of the schizotypal personality disorder relates to the behavioral features in relatives of schizophrenics. Its state remains ambiguous and it is classified as personality disorder in association with schizophrenia spectrum disorder. Interestingly, the origins of the concept derive from two approaches, a clinical and family approach that relate to sporadic cases and redefine the network within which diagnosis is based on its continuity (Laquerre et al, 2008). The historic origins fail to single out the disorder and it turns out to be important to redefine the multinational features schizotypal personality disorder. Dimensional models and frameworks of psychosis are established as clinically beneficial. The recent studies of psychosis reveal an evolution of the schizotypal concepts, considered to be a part of the disorder and appears to be more associated with the spectrum of unitary psychosis. Therefore, it can be concluded that perspectives of psychosis may be connected with different aggregations and risk of psychosis causing different physiopathology issues.

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Other Causes Including Stress

When it comes to the external factors igniting the deterioration of the conditions, the attention should be paid to such issues as the culture and social order and stereotyped existing among the Americans. Stress can be caused by inability to fit in the existing norms. As a result, individuals who strive to be accepted by the society often have to ignore their genuine needs, which impose a psychological pressure on self-perception.

Origins of the Disorder as Presented in the Movie

As it has been assumed, Patrick Bateman makes everything possible to comply with the existing norms of the status he acquired while working as a manager of mergers and acquisitions. He is concerned with his appearance, clothes, people, and expensive restaurants. At the same time, his genuine needs makes him be more irritated and oppressed by these stereotypes and norms when he sees that the individuals surrounding him are shallow and are only concerned with the material values, except for Jean, who is the only person who provokes human feelings in Patrick. Other personages, including his fiancée, can also cause fear, disgust, and hatred. Therefore, it can be stated that social environment plays one of the key roles in complicating Patrick’s psychological state and behavior.

Disorder Prognosis

Prognosis in the Movie

On the one hand, Patrick’s behavior could remind of that of a typical sociopath. However, a deeper consideration proves that most of his behaviors are based on the way other characters in the film react to it. Although Bateman commits a series of murders, he is afraid of being detected by law and therefore, he hides all evidence from the legal authorities. His sociopathic behavior is due to the lack of empathy and understanding of his behavior. Nonetheless, Patrick does not commit suicide, but he feels remorse for the murders he committed.

Prognosis in the Literature

In the studies by Koeniqsberg, Reynolds, Goodman, New, Mitropoulou, Silverman, and Siever (2003), the attention has been paid to the analysis of medical interventions and effectiveness of treating schizotypal personality disorder. It has been argued that the disease has many genetic and neuroanatomical commonalities with schizophrenia, which makes it difficult for patient to interact in a social environment. Nonetheless, the symptoms can be reduced if risperidone is used for treatment.

Major Character Strengths

During the movie, the viewers can observe Patrick struggling with his feeling of disgust for society, in which he lives. In order to relief his stress, he kills those people. At the same time, he cannot quit because he wants to fit in the society. This ambivalence makes him aggressive and angry.

Major Character Weaknesses

Patrick is a weak personal who is led by his desires and uncontrolled desire to kill. Therefore, most of his actions cannot be justified. Moreover, Bateman is unable to understand the social expectations, except for his secretary Jean who is not as ‘shallow’ as all those people depicted in the film.

Contextual Variables

Role of Culture in Shaping the Current Diagnosis

While analyzing the social environment of Bateman life and acts, it should be stressed that it has a tangible impact on his perception of the world. While having the prestigious job, he makes everything possible to fit in the setting, in which he lives. Nonetheless, Patrick views himself as a combination of ill-defined and clashing motivations that does not refer to borderline disorder and schizotypal disorder. Important character traits can be defined through his ego function. Although he is presented as a heartless, egoistic personality, he is still capable of understanding what behaviors are entirely inappropriate.

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Role of Family in Contributing to Diagnosis

Due to the fact that genetic issues closely relate to the analysis and prognosis of schizotypal personality disorder, the role of family in Patrick’s life should also be discussed. In the film, it is states that Patrick Bateman originates from a wealthy family. They live on Long Island, but they are divorced; Patrick’s mother resides at a sanatorium due to her disease. His father grew up in Connecticut, but now resides in New York. Since Bateman wants to comply with the family status, he gets the job he hates and communicates with the people who irritate him.

Cultural and Social Variables

All friends of the killer are similar to him: they are addicted to drugs and sex and they hate each other. They are also obsessed with workouts, expensive clothes, restaurants, and other material values. Although they are disgusted by the communication, they still have to spend time together because of the social status. The culture of the capitalist society dictates Bateman the rules of behaving in an elite society.

Therapy and Treatment

Necessary Medications

In the majority of cases, medications are not effective in treating schizotypal personality disorder. The therapy could be used from rather psychological perspective. Psychotherapy is the best option because individuals with this disorder fail perceive reality in an adequate way. Hence, there should be supportive, client-centered approach from the first session. Patients should not be afraid of revealing their genuine feelings in regard to other people, as well as they should explain why their feeling differ from the others. Similar treatment can be applied to Patrick who feels that does not fit in the community. Social skill training is the second step of controlling emotions and living in a normal social environment. The basis of social relationships along with social interaction can also be the option in the case. Although these approaches cannot solve the problem entirely, they can reduce the risk of conflicting situations. Individual therapy is the best solution, and it can contribute to clients’ welfare. However, group therapies can also be acceptable being the second step of possible interventions.

Precaution Measures

Patrick Bateman reveals himself as sociopath who is irritated by all people, except for Jean, his secretary. Therefore, the task of the physician is to understand what kinds of people make him aggressive. While interacting in groups, Bateman might spend more time with people appealing for him to find out what precaution measures might be introduced.

Sort of Therapy

As it has been mentioned earlier, psychological therapy is beneficial, but the use of medication is still necessary in case of acute display of symptoms. These situations refer to the cases of extreme stress and events when Patrick is not able to cope with the stress adequately. Psychosis is the result of the inability to control the situation, which can result in aggravated consequences. Therefore, there should be the corresponding anti-psychotic medications.

Effectiveness of Therapy

The effectiveness of the therapy will depend on the mutual efforts of the professional and the patient. The task of the physician is to attract the attention of the patient, whereas the task of the patient is to recognize that he needs treatment and medical intervention.


In conclusion, Patrick Bateman introduces an interesting case because of his sociopath deviations. He suffers from schizotypal personality disorder as it is revealed through his actions, behavior, and uncontrolled aggression. The disorder is associated with schizophrenia, but the difference consists in the patient’s ability to recognize reality. Bateman lack social skills and, therefore, he has problems with communication and expressing his feelings. His is always irritated and disturbed. Apparently, the reason of the disorder complication relates to the social and cultural environment in which Patrick lives. His desire to fit in the social status disconnects him from his genuine desires and purposes in lives. In order to reduce the consequences and complications, psychological therapy along with medications should be introduced.

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