Abnormal Psychology: Case Study on American Beauty

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“American Beauty”, the 1999 film, is a motion picture that more or less shows a different side of the average suburban family. Although all of the characters have significant issues, I have chosen to take a closer look at Lester Burnham. Lester Burnham is a 42-year-old businessman who is married to the career-obsessed Carolyn and they have one daughter, a teenager named Jane. One of the first scenes of the movie explains how the family works: Carolyn is driving, just like she “drives” the family, Jane is sitting right next to her in the front seat, and Lester is slouched in the backseat, visually becoming more miserable by the second.
Lester goes to work and is asked by an efficiency expert to write a job description to justify his
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Behavioral symptoms, which Lester established, incorporate: withdrawal, decrease in work performance, reckless behavior, acting out, and relationship problems (PsychNet-UK). These are a characteristic of those witnessed in adolescents diagnosed with adjustment disorder, although we see Lester identify with adolescents so much through his thoughts and actions that it seems appropriate. The specification “disturbance of conduct” refers to the violation of societal norms which for Lester includes nearly every act he took in reaction to his stress: lusting after the underage Angela and later nearly having sex with her, buying drugs, and blackmailing his company. Since a time frame within which the story takes place is not specified-except for Lester mentioning in the introduction that he will die in less than a year-the ability to diagnose his disorder as acute or chronic is rather dubious. Acute adjustment disorder lasts less than six months while chronic adjustment disorder may last six months or longer (PsychNet-UK, n.d.). It would be tempting to say Lester had a midlife crisis and leave him undiagnosed. For two reasons this is incorrect. First, the notion of a midlife crisis as its own mental
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