Representation of Dissociative Identity Disorder in Fight Club

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Fight club is about a character who is the narrator (Edward Norton), living what most would consider a normal life. He has a job. He has a condo. But, he suffers from insomnia, though he can’t pinpoint the reason. Rather than search for the cause of his insomnia, he determines that the solution is to attend support groups. One night, at one of the support groups that he pretends to need, he meets Marla Singer. He views Marla as a nuisance because she knows he’s there just to get sympathy from these groups, and dislikes her for messing up his support group schedule. On a trip to work, the narrator encounters Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, his other identity). Tyler gives the narrator his phone number, and when the narrator returns home, he discovers that his condo has exploded. In search of support, he calls Tyler, who meets him in the parking lot. They get into a fistfight and start an underground fight club. The narrator goes to live with Tyler, and over time, the secret fight club grows and they expand not only in participants but also in the location. The narrator starts to see similarities between Tyler and himself. Both of them look battered due to fight club sessions. The narrator even starts to speak like Tyler. At this point, Tyler creates Project Mayhem, which is a group of loyal members from the fight club that meet to complete assignments of civil disobedience assigned by Tyler each week. Then, Tyler drags the narrator into the project. However, on another business trip, the narrator comes to the realization that men everywhere with bruises and cuts on their faces are treating him not only with respect but with reverence. This leads him to discover that they think he is Tyler Durden and it’s then that he realizes they’re correct, he is Tyler. He has a split personality, and when he falls asleep, the more destructive side, Tyler, takes control. Tyler is starting to take over so the narrator begins to feel that he is losing control as Tyler becomes more dominant.

When the narrator realizes this, he tries to halt the activities and meetings of both Project Mayhem and the fight club. However, both have picked up enough steam that he can’t stop them without stopping Tyler, and he understands that the only way to stop Tyler for good is to get rid of him. When he goes to work, he realizes that his office building has been blown up, and the last thing he remembers is smelling gasoline on his own hands. The police are eager to question people, so he tries to get away on the bus, but the bus is full of Project Mayhem members, who claim Tyler ordered them to castrate him as punishment for trying to shut down the Project Mayhem's fight club. He determines that Tyler will stop at nothing, and will remove anyone, who interferes with Project Mayhem’s success. Determined to die, the narrator calls a fight club meeting and fights every man in the club. He manages to survive, and when he comes to, Tyler is with him atop the building, waiting for it to explode.

Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is a psychological condition that arises from severe trauma or neglect from an early age. This condition causes the patient to have a split personality with each their own sense of age, gender name, and various other characteristics.

Etiology: early childhood trauma is a common denominator in patients who suffer from D.I.D however accidents and natural disasters have been reported to also be the root cause for some patients. PTSD is also a common factor when diagnosing D.I.D.

Symptoms may include:

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  • Mild amnesia
  • Little no sense of identity
  • Inability to process emotional or rational stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts


Extreme cases have symptoms of

  • Severe paranoia
  • PTSDCompulsion
  • Ritualistic tendencies


Treatment for this disorder is to first, stabilize the patient and then either have them in support care with drugs needed for the symptoms (i.e depression, anxiety) or, for more serious cases, place them in psychotherapy in with they will focus on integrating the personalities, this method is considered a long-term solution reserved for more serious cases.

Prognosis: D.I.D rate of recovery varies widely. Most patients however can carry on living a normal life but will still need to have support group meetings to check in on them regularly.

D.I.D is portrayed throughout the movie (although in a very extreme way). At the beginning of the movie we get flashes of Tyler in commercials, this depiction shows psychotic-like symptoms (hallucinations). Again, in another scene where Tyler threatens a clerk to change his life with a gun however the gun is empty, and the narrator is in the back looking at the action happening in front of him. Tyler then asks for the clerk's wallet and takes his driving license, towards the end of the film we are shown the back of a door with similar licenses under the title ‘HUMAN SACRIFICES’, this shows compulsion and ritualistic tendencies that extreme cases of D.I.D have. In a scene at the climax of the movie where Tyler and the narrator have a conversation and Tyler is explaining how he is everything, the narrator wants to be. He has a mental break, realizing that Tyler is everything he glorified and wished to be and that he is not in control. This shows the altered identity has a sense of extreme grandeur and to the outsider watching the narrator or more specifically Tyler they can see an extreme mood swing in character. To conclude in the beginning, the narrator explains how he suffers from insomnia which is a symptom of D.I.D

Some misconception about D.I.D is that anybody having the disorder is violent or susceptible to becoming violent. This misconception is brought upon by media using this disorder to promote ‘intriguing characters’ at the cost of people with this condition. Another narrative that is seen in media is that D.I.D characters or alter egos are obvious and easy to see. Actual people suffering from D.I.D aren’t easily identified by a casual observer.

All in all, I have come to learn that dissociative identity disorders (and like most other mental disorders) are portrayed in the media falsely and are only shown the most exaggerated aspects of these disorders.

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