Class in the Spring of 2023. In this essay, our class had to act as mental health professionals,
diagnosing a character from a fictional source of our choosing. Some did well known characters
from Abed from Community to Homelander in The Boys. I did my analysis on a niche little
horror film that has come to be one of my all-time favorites. I don’t know anybody else who has
watched this movie, and I highly recommend it, with lots of viewer discretion advised. If I could
pick any word to describe it, it would be ‘weird’. If you enjoy disturbing music and acting, body
horror, and some good old practical effects, then this is the movie for you! Enjoy my amateur
psychiatry skills :)! Anyways, the essay…starts…now!
In my opinion, Anna’s character is so fascinating and is the main reason for my examination of
this film. The timeline is very broad and thus makes it difficult to pinpoint a specific diagnosis
that best suits her. When I discuss the important events to help me differentiate her potential
disorders, I will go through a variety of comorbid possibilities that develop over the course of the
film; then share my final thoughts and takeaways to the best of what the film does give me.
Anna is progressively losing a grasp on her life, particularly in her relationships with her
husband Mark, her son Bob, her lover Heinrich, and the world around her. When Mark returns
home from his spy mission, Anna is very noticeably distant from Mark. She is less affectionate,
not as sexually motivated, and often disappears for undisclosed periods of times to be with her
lover Heinrich, only to suddenly reappear as if nothing had happened at all. Her son in the
meantime has been left emotionally neglected, and their apartment a complete mess. This leads
me to believe that Anna is beginning to experience some early forms of schizotypal personality
disorder symptoms. What she is going through here, as the DSM-5 defines it, is an irregular
pattern of detachment from all her social relationships, in this case with her husband and son, and
a restricted range of emotional expression, with her refusing to talk to Mark when he asks her
where she has been.
Now seeing as this is within the first few scenes of the film, it has yet to be seen how often this
pattern has occurred. It may be too soon to formally diagnosis this as schizotypal personality
disorder. My thoughts as of now are that she may be experiencing some form of latent psychosis.
She is still able to function in society at this point, with her going out for groceries and riding
public transport. This does, however, lead me to believe this is the start of her eventual decline.
When Mark eventually discovers why Anna leaves for these periods of time, they get into a
physical fight, with Anna leaving the house, mouth bloody, and running into oncoming traffic.
Throughout this fight, there is a distinct moment in which she stares directly into the camera,
with a smirk on her face (as pictured above). This leads me to believe that she is allowing herself
to take this physical abuse from her former husband as a type of punishment for her sins of
adultery. Religion is also a very major theme within Possession. Specifically, the ideas of sin and
faith. There is a scene where Anna is staring up at a statue of Jesus on the cross, whimpering up
to it as if she is pleading for help; her one last effort at communicating to God.
Then, in the film’s most infamous scene, she is in a subway tunnel, flinging her groceries around
and rolling all over the floor. She appears to be, as this movie is appropriately titled, possessed.
At the end of this episode, she is sitting in the subway, screaming as different bodily fluids of
blood and green and white goo spill out of every orifice. She later tells Mark that this is because
she was experiencing a miscarriage of ‘Sister Faith’ while simultaneously birthing ‘Sister
Chance’. Faith represents her hope that she can resolve her relationships with Mark and Bob and
return to the life she was once happy in, while Chance represents the uncompromising chaos of
the universe. It is Chance that led her to have that affair, to later go on to murder several people.
These religious/spiritual delusional beliefs that Anna raves on about align with common
symptoms within schizotypal personality disorder. She has created these delusional beliefs within
herself to dissociate from the world and her social relationships.
At this point, she is beyond saving. The film then dives into a crash and burn, in which Anna
goes on to murder many people, including a woman who was once a close friend tasked with
taking care of Bob while both parents were collectively on a downward spiral. In the final
moments of the film (spoiler!), after being surrounded and shot down by police, a bloodied and
dying Mark and Anna lay at the top of this spiral staircase, embracing one last time, as they die
in one another’s arms.
Their child Bob is left in the care of Helen, his teacher and Anna’s doppelganger (which is
another can of worms I cannot open, you’ll just have to see the film for yourself!). When he
senses that something isn’t right, he runs away screaming, only to then go into the bathtub full of
water, as he holds his breath. It is undisclosed whether Bob drowns because of this, but it can
certainly be seen as a means of coping used by Bob to literally and metaphorically drown out
what is going on around him. Bob was our real victim here all along, and the fact his parents
could not sort out their own issues for their and his own good were their ultimate downfall.
Anna was once a victim. She was left alone with Bob without her husband to care for and
support them in many aspects, but it hit her the most. Anna had gone through a massive
deterioration in her mental health as soon as Mark got home. What started with long periods of
absence, neglect of her son, and refusal to talk through any of her emotions, turned into spiritual
delusions, and the deaths of multiple people, including herself. I believe that Anna started with
experiencing some forms of latent psychosis, with her emotional and physical absence being a
major triggering stressor.
Then as the story progressed, she displayed some forms of schizoaffective disorder, being that it
was still short term and was directly linked to the detached mood symptoms she had been
experiencing. She would switch from detached to pretending things were normal in very short
periods of time, which also leads me to believe such. During the climax until the end of the film,
it was very apparent that she had completely disconnected from her relationships around her and
surrounded herself with her own delusional thoughts. From all of what I had discussed, I believe
Anna had schizotypal personality disorder, with schizoid, psychotic, and manic features. With
my analyses of both Mark and Anna, it is without a doubt that their son Bob is the real victim of
this story, and if both parents had sought to work out their differences with each other, things
could have ended differently for all of them (that is, assuming Anna gets sustained psychiatric
care, which let’s be honest in this story would take a miracle).
Written by Payson Schweizer