Jessica Jones is our favorite not so anti-hero (read about that here!), but what how does the show treat mental illness? Read on dear readers to find out!
Many people say that Jessica suffers from PTSD and alcoholism after her encounter with Kilgrave. To start, let’s find out what PTSD and alcoholism actually are.
- Alcoholism: People who from alcohol dependence experience cravings, a need to keep drinking once they’ve started, dependence on and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, and a have a high tolerance for alcohol. They also may become binge drinkers, where they consume five or more drinks in an hour for men or four or more drinks in an hour for women (U.S. National Library of Medicine).
Jessica does exhibit several of these qualities. She does have a high tolerance for alcohol. We see her finish at least half a bottle of hard liquor in multiple episodes with little side effect (this could be because of her super powers, though). The amount that she drinks in the time frame given would also be considered binge drinking. This pattern would also suggest that she has trouble stopping herself after she has already started drinking. In terms of dependence and withdrawal from alcohol, we don’t actually see her display any forms of withdrawal symptoms. However, we do see signs of dependence. Frequently after she has a run-in with Kilgrave or remembers the time they were together, she does tend to drink. I am not a medical health professional, however, based on the symptoms provided and Jessica’s actions throughout the show, she does match the profile.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a disorder that may develop in people who have experienced a shocking or dangerous event. They must have:
- at least one re-experiencing symptom, which includes flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts.
- at least one avoidance symptom, which includes staying away from places that trigger memories of the event, feeling emotionally numb, and feeling guilt or depression or worry.
- at least two reactivity symptoms, which include being easily startled, feeling tense, having difficulty sleeping, and having angry outbursts.
- at least two mood symptoms, which include trouble remembering key features of the event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted feelings of guilt, and loss of interest in enjoyable activities (National Institute for Mental Health).
Jessica definitely experiences a traumatic event. Not being able to control oneself would be a shocking and dangerous event. She does have one re-experience symptom. From the beginning of the show we do experience flashbacks of her time with Kilgrave. That being said, part of this is due to the nature of story-telling and television. Despite this, there are moments where we visually see her looking afraid, but at times that are not clearly frightening otherwise. She does have avoidance symptoms as well; she does stray away from places that remind her of the event and does feel numb and guilty, which is evidenced through her actions trying to save other people from the same fate as her. She also displays mood symptoms. She does have trouble remembering things about the event, and we see her remember them throughout the first season. Also, she views herself and the world in a negative way. Lastly, she does have intense feelings of guilt. However, the reactivity symptoms are more difficult to place. She does have trouble sleeping. This is mostly evidenced through the way she drinks herself to sleep and stays up very late to do so. However, we don’t really see her being easily startled, feeling tense, or having angry outbursts.
In terms of a TV show really exploring what mental health problems look like, Marvel’s Jessica Jones does follow realistic symptoms and creates a character that is struggling with it. Compared to other shows, this does its best to stay away from making her mental health problems lighthearted or a joke, and gives her other traits that make her a full person. I think that Jessica Jones does suffer from PTSD and alcoholism in her own TV world. Even if it is not an entirely accurate portrayal of the problem, it has unleashed a wind of conversation about it, which can be a good thing for those who actually suffer from it in real life.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Any and all discussion of mental health is only speculation and for commentary purposes only.
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