4.8. Sharp Objects: 3 Personality Disorders

Sharp Objects, a novel by Gillian Flynn (and also made into an HBO series), centers on reporter Camille Preaker who returns to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. All three female main characters in the book exemplify Cluster B personality disorders, which exhibit dramatic, emotional or erratic behaviors. *Spoilers below.

To discuss the familial pattern of personality disorders, we may begin with Camille’s mother, Adora, who always has an alcoholic drink in hand and is a candidate for Histrionic Personality Disorder. People with this disorder fail to develop richness of inner feelings and lack the ability to provide people (their daughters, for example) with genuinely sustained affection. Adora also has Munchausen By Proxy (MBP), or Factitious Disorder by Proxy. It’s implied in the book that Adora’s mother had dosed her and sickened her just as Adora does her three daughters (one of them she poisoned to death; the remaining two have issues discussed below.)

Ce n'est pas de l'eau

Adora’s oldest daughter, Camille, pours vodka into water bottles and drinks them leaning out of the window while driving. In addition to substance use disorder, Camille also has Borderline Personality Disorder (pattern of intense & chaotic relationships, affective instability & fluctuating attitudes toward other people). She engages in self-mutilation—deliberate, non-fatal self-injury. “I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams.” (Flynn 2015) Camille’s body is covered with words carved into her flesh, and when triggered, she seeks sharp objects with which to scar herself.

Camille’s half-sister, Adora’s youngest daughter, Amma, has more extreme methods of relieving her jealousy and anger. At first glance just a lippy, popular teenager, Amma has Conduct Disorder, and may be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder once she turns 18. True to textbook definition, Amma is socially irresponsible, exploitative, and feels guiltless after killing three girls and pulling out their teeth. Like her sister, Amma’s antisocial tendencies may be related to physical abuse and lack of parental bonding in childhood.

This is not to blame Camille’s and Amma’s issues on their mother, though their abuse at the hand of a MBP mom in addition to genetic vulnerability may be linked to their issues. In the book, a nurse at the hospital is the only medical worker who advocated for Adora’s daughters and tried to save them, though at the time Adora’s family was so powerful that they pulled connections to penalize the nurse and made her lose her license and credibility. Thankfully, in real life, there’s a chain of command to allow protection for children like Adora’s daughters, and as future nurses we are mandated to report any suspected abuse and advocate for our patients.

Comments

  1. I didn't read the book so I don't know how closely adapted the series was but I thought the series was well conceived and the performances engaging. Scary though what MBP does.

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