Nina Sayers, the protagonist in the film the Black Swan, displays a plethora of dysfunctional symptoms and a dissent in the psychosis in the film. The following is a biopsychosocial analysis of the character as she is betrayed in the film.
Biological. The film offers very little in the way of direct biological evidence to build a case that there is a significant biological component to Nina's difficulties; however, biological factors can be inferred based on the symptoms she displays. Perhaps the strongest indicator of biological contributions to Nina's problems is the film's portrayal of Nina's mother, Erica. Erica presents as being a borderline psychotic herself. In order to ward off her own anxieties, insecurities, and the loneliness of age she identifies with her daughter's youth, beauty, and drive. Erica's sense of herself and daughter is fused into a single entity that largely illustrates the envy and resentment she likely displays towards her child. Since we get the sense that Erica is dealing with her own psychosis through the severe identification with, Nina we might assume that the psychotic behaviors Nina exhibits have a genetic basis.
In addition, good deal of the variance in many psychiatric disorders appears to be explained by genetic factors (Sadock & Sadock, 2007). This is especially true of the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Since the hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations, delusions, and negative symptoms such as being asocial and affective flattening, Nina certainly appears to qualify for such a diagnosis. This writer counted the number of hallucinations she experiences and 22 different hallucinations, most of which were visual in nature, where counted. Nina also demonstrates some negative symptoms such as emotional flattening, and being quite asocial. Negative symptoms tend to be characterized as more biological in nature than the positive symptoms (Sadock & Sadock, 2007). The symptoms of schizophrenia are considered to be due to a number of biological etiologies that include heredity, neurotransmitter imbalances, and brain dysfunction (Sadock & Sadock, 2007). Other behaviors exhibited by Nina (e.g., eating disorder symptoms, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and dissociative symptoms) are also considered to have at least partial biological etiologies (Sadock & Sadock, 2007).
Psychological. Nina exhibits a large and varied number of abnormal psychological behaviors such as hallucinations and delusions, potential anorexic or bulimic behaviors, obsessive compulsive behaviors, dissociation, and self-mutilation. The psychological profile of Nina can best be characterized as an enmeshed relationship with her mother where Nina has no sense of self apart from her ambitions as a dancer; is driven to be perfect, but this ideal of is a one-sided answer identification with her mother's ideals; extreme paranoia regarding others who present a perceived threat to her goals and ideal world; and symptoms of extreme abuse and stress.
The psychological issues of major concern in this case are not the symptoms as much as the potential etiology of the variety of symptoms that Nina expresses. Nina displays many symptoms of an abused child that include her psychotic behavior, obsessive -- compulsive behaviors, eating disordered behaviors, and self-injurious tendencies. Moreover, we get a sense of pathological guilt associated with the dysfunctional identification of her abuser. Such a presentation can be psychologically conceptualized as both a conscious and unconscious process of splitting oneself in two different entities that simultaneously play out the role of victim and abuser (APA, 2013; Sadock & Sadock, 2007).
Sociological. From a sociological standpoint the abusive relationship between Nina and her mother deserves special attention. In the scene where we see Nina's mother offering a cake to her as a reward for landing the lead role in a ballet sums up this abusive relationship quite nicely. Nina declines eat the cake as an act of defiance, her mother immediately punishes Nina by threatening to dump the cake in the trash and thus having Nina bear the blame for the disruption of the cake, and Nina recants by licking frosting off the finger of her mother. This enmeshed abusive relationship between Nina and her mother is reminiscent of an infant suckling her mother's breast. The abusive relationship between the two, the enmeshment of the two into one, and the…