A Case Study and Treatment Plan for Marilyn Monroe:
Borderline Personality Disorder
There are many factors which may have had an effect on Marilyn Monroe’s psychological state. If Marilyn Monroe had lived in the time period of today she would have been better able to be overcome her struggle with mental illness. If treated for Borderline Personality Disorder (F60.3/ 301.83) at an early age it is possible that Norma Jean Baker would most likely lived a healthy long life.
It would be important to consider the possibility of this disorder co-occuring with depression or co-morbid with a substance abuse related disorder. If treated properly, Monroe may never have struggled with substance abuse, which included sleeping pills on a regular basis, drinking to intoxication, and using drugs on set. If Marilyn lived in a less judgmental and more psychologically aware society it is possible she could have overcome her battle with mental illness. Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which did not exist in Monroe’s lifetime may have provided much insight into Marilyn’s suffering and along with CBT could have saved Marilyn Monroe’s life. Using a combination of DBT and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would be the main solution since CBT is the recommended treatment for a variety of mental illness and it is popular belief that Marilyn suffered from a combination of illnesses with a primary disorder being Borderline Personality Disorder.
Biographical Study of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson (Baker) on June 1, 1926. She died at a young age of 36. In fact, her death, at the young age of 36 is one of the first “mysterious celebrity deaths” in popular culture. Her death is still classified as a “probable suicide” due to drug overdose. Norma Jean Baker was American, Caucasian, and a female sex symbol who starred in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s. Although the star was raised by her mother initially as an “obsessive” Christian Scientist and a devout Baptist she did not find those beliefs to be suitable for her (Lewis, pp 54-55). She later converted to Judaism to express her loyalty to her third husband, Arthur Miller. At a young age she was captivated by the film industry and this is what formed most of her personality.
Norma Jean grew up never knowing her father’s identity, and because her mother had serious psychological problems, there was no way she could raise her on her own. Her mother was committed to a mental institution during Norma Jeane’s childhood. Norma Jeane lived out her childhood in foster home after foster home a deep insecurity, feeling unwanted and unlovable. Growing up in an invalidating environment affected her self-image and her views on the world and affected her quality of life. She also mentions having a fear of becoming like her mother.
As a young woman, Norma Jeane bounced from one tumultuous love affair to another, marrying quickly and repeatedly, and never finding the security that she so desperately hoped marriage would bring. Monroe had three marriages, all of which ended in divorce. The first marriage began soon after she turned 16. She is also rumored to have had affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert (among others) shortly before her passing.
Norma Jeane decided in her mid 20’s to create the character of “Marilyn Monroe,” with a new name, new hair color, and a new personality (Lewis, 24). She didn’t want to be Norma Jeane or be reminded of her traumatic childhood. She reinvented herself. Her decision was a success. By just 27 years of age, she was known around the world for her leading lady roles in a number of movies during the 1950’s. While a wonderful accomplishment, this may have unfortunately also reinforced that she as Normal Jeane was not worthy of the love and attention and success that Marilyn attained.
She was a champion of equal rights in a time of segregation and state-sponsored racism. This was a dangerous time to be socially progressive and could have led to her institutionalization. It is documented in her diaries that when Marilyn Monroe was institutionalized in 1961 she was also physically and emotionally abused. DBT would have helped Marilyn overcome all these factors.