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Ordinary People: A Deeper Look at Conrad Jarrett

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'Ordinary People: A Deeper Look at Conrad Jarrett'

By Alexander Almánzar

'Ordinary People' is a fine piece of American cinema: it depicts the story of upper middle class brothers Buck and Conrad Jarrett. The film allows us to look into an event involving a boating accident which claimed Buck's life. Shortly thereafter, a sense of overwhelming guilt overtakes Conrad leading to his attempts to commit suicide. Conrad survived the suicide attempt due to quick medical intervention, followed by a hospitalization period. After being dismissed from the hospital, Conrad returned to try to conduct a "normal life" back in his suburban Chicago home with his parents, Calvin and Beth Jarrett.

The Jarretts collectively are publicly trying to get on with their lives. Conrad who is back at high school in his senior year partaking activities such choir practice and swimming. But I don't perceive things in the Jarrett household to be all right; Conrad's mother appears to maintain emotional distance from Conrad due to perhaps feeling, and wanting, to blame him for Buck's death. On the other hand, Conrad's father, Calvin, seems to be more accepting, compassionate, and more analytical about his son's issues. Although stating he is unsure why he decides to do so, Conrad engages in psychiatric therapy outside of the hospital with a character called Dr. Berger. This therapy may be able to uncover the reasons for Jarrett's unhappiness, and drive him to examine the dynamics and individual relationships with his mother and father.

I'd like to point out that Conrad Jarret could have been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a direct result from his brother's death. However, before I take the liberty to elaborate on why I believe Conrad has PTSD, lets first acknowledge that prior to his suicide attempt, Conrad also have Major Depressive Disorder (criteria number (1) for major depressive episode, DSM-IV, pg. 327) and a profound sense of guilt (criteria number (7) for major depressive episode, DSM-IV, pg. 327); these factors could've played a role when he tried to take his own life. Furthermore, I will maintain my contention that Conrad is a candidate for PTSD due to the prolonged symptoms he developed after experiencing a life-threatening stressor: irritability and/or outbursts of anger, recurring distressing dreams of the traumatic event. Additionally, he later developed symptoms of reduce responsiveness, which he shows by quitting the swim team due to loss of interest and lack of feeling purpose.

As the film progresses towards the point where Conrad has a breakdown in response to learning about his friend Karen committing suicide, he begins displaying the following symptoms that suggests he had endured a panic attack: trembling and shaking, fear of losing control or going crazy and



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