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Analysis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the Film ‘Fatal Attraction’


Directed by Adrian Lyne, Fatal Attraction is a film that showcases a complex array of psychological concepts that consist of chronic nuisance behaviors by Alex, a mistress to the main character Dan, that result in deleterious emotional and physical effects. The two have a one-night stand but Alex instantly becomes emotionally needy and clingy (Lyne, 1987). Dan who is married to Beth with one child is determined to keep the affair from his wife but her mistress’ obsession with him grows stronger and becomes dangerous for the victim and his family. Her infatuation continues through an understandable anger emanating from being cast aside without any consideration but escalates wildly to a psychiatric condition similar to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which is illustrated through severe anger, impulsiveness, self-harm tendency, fear of abandonment, and social isolation. Her peculiar personality trait results in an irrational preoccupation with the life of Dan thus her stalking behavior. Alex’s mental state in the movie is very intense and dramatic and needs a closer examination through a psychological lens.

Personality disorder

Alex’s behavior in the movie, Fatal Attraction, demonstrates the symptoms of personality disorder which are usually marked by unstable self-image due to emotional dysregulation, fragile self-esteem, and interpersonal dysfunction. The character’s destructive and deviant behavior becomes the embodiment of the impact of personality disorder. If she were a real person, she would have one of the most severe cases of PD. The movie director does not bother to indicate her personal history which is meant to illustrate the origins of his behavior. Instead, the audience is treated to a story of a young female whose confusing and complicated behavior lacks explanation. Evidence suggests that the majority of people with PD have suffered childhood trauma due to unwarranted abuse or neglect (Richard-Lepouriel et al, 2019). This section will examine the origins of PD in-depth in an attempt to diagnose Alex’s mental health.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) (Signs and Symptoms)

The young woman in the film is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). She depicts a pervasive pattern of lack of empathy, intense reactions of emptiness, difficulty in tolerating criticisms, exigency, arrogance, and exaggerated sense of self-importance. She is full of grudges and becomes excessively jealous of Dan’s marriage which makes her impervious to logic. Her erratic behavior which is sometimes followed by soft waves of calmness is disconcerting and shows a lack of care for other people’s feelings. The symptoms of her feelings of emptiness are seen in her persistence to spend the day with Dan after their first night of fun. She adamantly presses and persuades him until he breaks. This pattern suggests her need for fulfillment through dependence on other people. In the scene where she shows up at Dan’s apartment claiming to be pregnant, her hypersensitivity to criticism is manifested when he tells her that she is lonely and sad. She becomes hysterical and even threatens to call his wife. NPD is a psychological disorder that presents diagnostic challenges due to its comorbidity to other mental health problems such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) (Kacel et al.2017). This section will attempt to resolve the diagnostic mystery by examining the possible association between Alex’s behaviors in relation to NPD signs and symptoms.

Negative impacts of NPD

NPD is an infrequent but not uncommon mental health problem and it has serious consequences which affect the lives of many people across the globe. In Lyne’s film, Alex is depicted as a villain due to her mental health problem. All her actions seem to stem from her narcissistic personality which affects her negatively as well as a majority of the characters in the movie. Particularly, Dan suffers greatly from her association with the perceived psychopath who disrupts his marriage. Notwithstanding, he has to contend with the suicide ideation behavior of the character who poses risk to herself. For instance, her fear of abandonment pushes her to self-mutilation behavior for the need of attention. The intense drama between the two is marked by disappointments and frustrations which culminate into conflicts throughout the movie. Alex does not care about who she hurts which gives the audience insights into how the mind of a person with NPD works. Living or having a close association with people suffering from NPD can be challenging and stressful at the same time due to lack of emotional investment caused by extreme sensitive emotions.

Due to interpersonal difficulties, people with NPD will tend to used anger and aggression especially when they experience criticism or rejection. This state of self-righteous anger is referred to as narcissistic rage (Maciantowicz & Zajenkowski, 2020). Another aspect of anger associated with NPD is chronic embitterment which often results in the extended holding of grudges and constant planning of elaborate plots to avenge even the slightest mistakes or wrongs. As a result, people with NPD will have difficulties in modeling healthy relationships as illustrated in the life of Alex in the film. In this paper, the correlation between NPD and social relationships will be examined in light of the movie to help understand the implications of the mental health problem.


This paper will also look at some of the key overarching themes of psychology that are concurrent with the plot of the film. These include depression, trauma, coping mechanisms, stigma, and social harassment. Looking at the film, Fatal Attraction from the lens of psychological lens questions about the sanity of Alex begins to emerge and one is tempted to inquire about her background, experiences, and the impact of her psychotic behavior on other characters. Although, largely fictitious the movie helps the audience how psychological disorders can be diagnosed by understanding how they manifest in real life.

Regarding social harassment, the issue of stalking by Alex will be assessed to determine how the nuisance behaviors are linked to NPD. Studies indicate that individuals with cluster B personality disorder are major offenders of stalking (Hoyne et al, 2019). The issue of depression arises when Alex’s impulsive behavior begins to weigh in on Dan who also seems to be mentally affected by her Narcissist tendencies. Alex is dangerously vengeful and her action brings to light the concept of trauma especially when she decides to boil Dan’s pet, bunny, in one of her psychotic episodes. These dramatic events shake terrifies Dan and his family which suggests how the side effects of NPD can be potentially dehumanizing.

Although the filmmaker, Adrian Lyne, successfully contributes to the societal discourse regarding the mental health depiction of Alex in the movie has led to stigma regarding mental illness. The character is portrayed as a fiendish villain, which is not accurate for most mental health problem cases. To change this perception this paper will provide strategies for coping with people suffering from personality disorders as well as recommend potential treatment for the mental disease.


Hoyne, J. D., Tobia, A., Hanna, J., Annibali, C., & Aziz, R. (2019). Analysis of fatal attraction and gone girl to teach personality clusters. Academic Psychiatry43(2), 218-223.

Kacel, E. L., Ennis, N., & Pereira, D. B. (2017). Narcissistic personality disorder in clinical health psychology practice: Case studies of comorbid psychological distress and life-limiting illness. Behavioral Medicine43(3), 156-164.

Lyne. A, (1987). Fatal Attraction. Fmovies.

Maciantowicz, O., & Zajenkowski, M. (2020). Is narcissistic anger fueled by neuroticism? The relationship between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, neuroticism, and trait anger. Current Psychology39(5), 1674-1681.

Richard-Lepouriel, H., Kung, A. L., Hasler, R., Bellivier, F., Prada, P., Gard, S., … & Etain, B. (2019). Impulsivity and its association with childhood trauma experiences across bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders244, 33-41.


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