Coping with Trauma and Loss: A Jessica Jones Case Study

After two gut-wrenching seasons of Jessica Jones on Netflix, we’re several years past the point when the un-comic-savvy had to ask, “Who is Jessica Jones?” Since the show’s debut in 2015, audiences have watched her kick butt, break hearts, alienate friends, murder her former abuser, and lose her mother for the second time.

Yet plenty of questions remain regarding Marvel’s dangerous and delicate antihero.

In the wake of the sad announcement that The Defenders, which also featured Ms. Jones, is likely not returning for a second season, fans are left with myriad questions, most notably: Will Jessica be alright?  

The third season of her show, which was announced by Netflix in April 2018, is currently filming, and while details are being kept somewhat under wraps, Jessica’s damaged psyche is bound to play a big part in the plot, as it has in the past.

In a season 2 red carpet interview with TNWU, Krysten Ritter said of her alter ego, “She doesn’t want to be a monster and she’s afraid that she is.”

Keep in mind, Ritter’s declaration came after the death of Kilgrave but before the traumatic events that transpired throughout season 2, which could ultimately lead her to feel even more like a lonely, isolated, and friendless monster.

Classic Symptoms of PTSD

It doesn’t take a social work or psychology background to see Jessica Jones suffers from PTSD. As audiences are well aware, after Kilgrave’s death, Jessica has delusions in which she sees and hears him in a variety of situations. She also has trouble sleeping and doesn’t have much of an appetite, both common symptoms of the disorder.

Another prevalent PTSD symptom is hypervigilance, which is essentially an intense awareness of one’s surroundings, and not in a healthy way. Hypervigilant individuals are usually on edge and tend to overreact to little things, giving the impression they are hostile or violent. That defines Jessica in a nutshell.

Jessica’s PTSD essentially controls her life and makes it difficult for her to form meaningful relationships. And she doesn’t cope with her condition very well.

Booze, Brawls, and Sleepless Nights

In fact, her coping techniques are possibly harmful. Her foster sister, Trish Walker, eloquently summed them up as, “Drinking more, fighting more, more meaningless cases, and meaningless sex.”

That cycle of negative behavior has become Jessica’s pattern, but can she break free and begin to heal her life? Is healing something she even wants? Signs point to “maybe not.”

Deep down, Jessica believes everything in life is fleeting. She fears loss and doesn’t want to get attached to anything, even possessions.

The season 2 finale deals Jessica the biggest losses of her life: after briefly reuniting with her estranged mother, Alisa, any hope Jessica may have had of becoming a family again was dashed in a single instant.

Trish fatally shot Alisa in what she saw as a necessary act, and at that moment, Jessica essentially lost both her mother and best friend. Whether she can learn to forgive Trish and understand the reasoning behind her actions remains to be seen.

Preparing for Season 3

Jessica claims to prefer to handle her problems on her own, but alone, she’s a volatile, unstable mess. That’s unlikely to change in subsequent seasons.

Studies show counselors play a critical role in PTSD treatment, but loyal fans know Jessica will never willingly talk to a counselor. Nor is she likely to give up drinking or stop using her PI work as a means of keeping her mind busy.

If she did handle her condition in a different manner, would she still be Jessica Jones? Would fans still tune in if their favorite superhero was kind to strangers, went to AA meetings, and attended weekly sessions with her PTSD therapist?

These are deep questions to ponder as we wait for the release of Jessica Jones season 3 sometime next year.

What do you think? Is Jessica’s sanity tenuous at best? Or is she coping just fine for who she is? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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