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A Day in the Life of Dissociative Identity Disorder with Frankie Murdoch

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A Day in the Life of Dissociative Identity Disorder With Frankie Murdoch  


Sydney Meister


Quarterly Assessment

Psychology CPE

Mr. Haralambopoulos

May 29th, 2015

Case Study

Based on events that occurred in the 1970s, Frankie and Alice is based upon the story of a Los Angeles woman whose multiple personalities are putting a detrimental effect on her life. “Frankie” is a black female stripper in her thirties. She keeps experiencing blackouts and wakes up having done things she doesn’t remember. During one of these blackouts, she assaults a male coworker, DJ, who she was about to get intimate with, but runs into the street after something triggers her.  The police (who assume she is high on drugs) find her there, and take her to the hospital where she meets Dr. Osborn, a research psychologist and professor. He becomes fascinated with Frankie when he checks her previous admission records because they vary so greatly: One day she has an IQ of 132; another day it’s 156.  One day she’s left handed; another day she’s right handed.  One day she has perfect vision; another day she’s near sighted.  One day she smokes; another day she doesn’t. Though Dr. Osborn wants to keep her in the institution to run more tests, the other doctors insist she is just high on drugs, and tell him to let her go. After she is released from the mental facility, Frankie discovers that she had written a check for a $185 dress, but has no recollection of writing it. Later, when she goes to work, she discovers that she has also assaulted DJ, but has no memory of doing that either. While she’s home visiting her mother, she hears a song on the radio and sees a wedding announcement for Page Prescott. After abruptly leaving her mother’s house, her alter takes over (dressing in a long purple gown) and goes to the wedding reception where Page has her arrested.  However, when Frankie wakes up this time, she is in jail. Here, the police tell her that if she checks herself into a mental hospital, she doesn’t have to go to jail. With that, she calls Dr. Osborn to ask for his professional help.


Upon extensive research, Frankie Murdoch has been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) because she exhibits all 4 criterion of DID presented by the DSM-IV. Criterion A reads, “The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states.” Frankie most definitely exhibits this because she has three personalities: Frankie, a witty, intelligent go-go dancer trying to make her way in the world, Genius, a seven-year-old little girl who has a brilliant IQ, and Alice, a strong Southern racist who happens to be white. Throughout the movie, the viewer is able to see the extreme differences in body language, wardrobe, and behavior between each personality.

        Criterion B states, “At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.” This is precisely true for Frankie. Throughout the film, Alice is consistently trying to overtake Frankie. Alice can be triggered by anything that remotely reminds her of the automobile accident trauma that she suffered back when she grew up a poor black child in Georgia in 1957, such as: bright lights, the song "Bye Bye Love," hearing a horn, or watching Gone With The Wind. At the climax of the movie, the viewer is able to physically see the power struggle between Frankie and Alice when Frankie smashes Alice’s head into the mirror while talking to Dr. Osborn.

        The third criterion for DID is the “inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” Frankie’s memory loss occurred when she couldn’t explain to Dr. Osborn what she was doing in the middle of the street (after she was admitted to the hospital for the first time). Additionally, she did not remember buying the expensive dress that she had found hanging in her closet. Frankie realizes that she has experienced this memory loss during a hypnotherapy session with Dr. Osborn. Here Frankie was videotaped, while all three of her personalities took turns presenting themselves. Through the heart wrenching display of obvious emotional and physical pain, Frankie is taken back to the painful memories of things she had done as her ‘alternate-self’.



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