PTSD in Reign Over Me

Post-Traumatic Disorder in Reign Over Me The movie Reign Over Me is about a man named Charlie Fineman. Charlie used to be a practicing dentist, but his whole life was turned upside down when he lost his wife, three daughters, and poodle during 9/11. One day while Charlie is on the street when his old roommate from college, Allen Johnson, sees him and tries yelling for him, but Charlie does not stop. Allen becomes very concerned about Charlie, and soon learns that something is very wrong with Charlie, and he sets out to help his old friend.

It is very clear that Charlie is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Charlie has experienced all four general types of persistent symptoms since his family died in 9/11. When Charlie confronts his deceased wife’s parents after the court hearing, he admits to intrusive hallucinations and illusions where he still sees his family and wife in his day-to-day life. Charlie, also, constantly practices avoiding anything to do with his past life, including; avoiding his wife’s parents, quitting his job as a dentist, refusing to acknowledge he ever had a family, and escaping into music when he sees Allen with his own family.

He also has periods of constant negative thoughts and mood, especially when he tried to commit suicide by cop.

Charlie also has trouble sleeping, often staying up all night to play video games, and he has random angry outbursts, especially when any aspect of his family or past life is brought to his attention.

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Charlie meets many of the DSM-5s diagnostic criteria, such as; learning that a traumatic even occurred to a close family member, recurrent and intrusive memories of the traumatic event, avoidance of external reminders of the events, persistent negative emotional state, a diminished interest in significant activates, irritable behavior and angry outbursts, sleep disturbance and reckless and self-destructive behavior. Charlie has been living with all of these symptoms for several years, and they have significantly impacted his social, occupational and overall functioning. Charlie’s hippocampus is probably working harder than normal, and he likely has abnormal amounts of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. Charlie’s experience convinced him that the world is a dangerous place, and he is unable to control anything happening to him. Charlie’s past traumatic event of his parents dying could have made him more vulnerable to developing PTSD. Charlie coped with his family dying by dissociating himself from his past life.

Charlie’s family dying became a unconditioned stimulus, and anything that remind him of them became the conditioned stimulus, which induced his powerful and conditioned emotional responses; avoiding any feelings associated with his family, and refusing to emotional connect to anybody until Allen. When Charlie experienced his traumatic event, he responded by detaching himself from his past life. This left him with no social support. In the psycho feedback loop Charlie’s anxiety caused him to disassociate himself from the trauma, and in return caused a conditioned emotional response to stimuli associated with his family. This response coupled with the social feedback loop lead Charlie to have a complete lack of social support after he detached himself from his past life. And the neurological factors could have made Charlie more susceptible, in the first place, to develop PTSD. In treating Charlie I would aim to relieve his symptoms by helping him deal with the trauma he’s experienced.

Rather than avoiding the trauma and any reminders of it, as he has for many years, treatment would encourage him to recall and process the emotions and sensations he felt when he first heard his family had died. Charlie needs an outlet for the emotions he’s been bottling up, and treatment should help restore his sense of control and reduce the hold that the memory of his family passing away has on his life. I would focus on getting to understand his thoughts and feelings about his family, helping him work through feelings of guilt, self-blame, and isolation he feels, and help him learn how to cope with and control his intrusive memories. I would start with Charlie on a trauma focused cognitive-behavioral therapy to slowly expose him to his thoughts, feelings, and the situations that remind him of his family. Also, to start to identify his distorted thinking about the event, and about his regret over his last conversation with his wife. I think family therapy would help him reconnect with his in-laws and to help his in-laws better understand how Charlie feels and what he’s going through. This should help them all communicate better and work through their relationship. Since Charlie has shown some signs of anxiety and depression, I may start him on an antidepressant, such as Prozac or Zoloft to help him feel less depressed, worried and on edge.

I feel as if all this treatments, combined with giving Charlie the time to fully cope with his trauma would help him return to the normal life he had before the loss of his family. The story that Reign Over Me tells is compelling and touching. It speaks for the many survivors of 9/11 who became indirect victims after the tragedy. Many of these people have a voice, but have lost it. Many lost something that day; friends innocence, a sense of security. Reign Over Me delicately handles all of this, along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I feel, as of Reign Over Me does a good job of portraying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to a point. However, no one can truly capture in a short movie all the feelings and emotions that somebody experiencing any mental illness will have.

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PTSD in Reign Over Me. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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