The paper focuses on Schizophrenia, a complex psychological disorder that is looked into against the backdrop of the movie – “A Beautiful Mind” and applies the psychological theory to explore the character in the film. The paper will address concepts such as the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Schizophrenia and what are the causes of relapse and how to raise compliance towards the treatment in such patients.
A Psychology Media Review Paper On The Movie A Beautiful Mind “A Beautiful Mind” is a biographical film that is based on 1998 unauthorized biographical book and was released in 2001. It is about the life of the brilliant mathematician John Nash, played by the actor Russel Crowe. Directed by Ron Howard, the movie revolves around the genius mathematician, who is a mathematics graduate from Princeton University. The arrogant and socially-awkward mathematics student is well known for his intelligence and spends most of the time working on mathematics equations. Nash is seen as a complex personality, as he is very intelligent but arrogant and antisocial at the same time. He prefers being alone and likes to spend his time figuring out Mathematics. Charles and the roommate and Alicia Larde are the only people that he feels connected to and friendly with. Alicia was his student when he was teaching during the early 1950s at the MIT and whom he decides to marry later in life. Alicia is a devoted wife who believes that her husband will win a Nobel Prize one day. Somewhere around the halfway through the film, the audience discover that something is seriously wrong with Nash and those places and situations in the film are only the creations of his mind and illusions. This is when the viewers learn that Nash is suffering from a complicated disorder and psychological illness. Charles Herman is one of the first imaginary characters that Nash creates in his mind as his roommate, and later he misses the company of Charles terribly. This is one of the reasons why Nash prefers to live a lonely life and in his imaginary world. “A Beautiful Mind” is an old movie by now, but has the sensitively displayed the severe mental illness from the perspective of the patient. The film won four Oscars and 4 Golden Globes. There are few movies that have provide an accurate display of despair felt by a mentally ill, and in an elegantly and deeply touching manner. The film uses the visual medium convincingly to portray stress and mental illness that lies deep within one’s mind. The visually exhibited psychological symptoms in the movie convey the pain suffered, and anxiety felt by Nash as he suffers from Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia- Cause and symptoms At least half billion people worldwide are affected by psychological disorders. The impact of those mental illnesses is particularly intensive among those who are poor and disadvantaged, as they are stigmatized by the people around them. Schizophrenia is a common psychological disorder. This disorder is sometimes mistaken for the Dissociative identity disorder or the multiple personality disorder (Defining Psychological Disorders, Ch 12, pg 30). Psychologists measure personality traits based on nature versus nurture, what makes people different from each other and if their genes have a role to play. It is found that people who share genes have a remarkable similar personality. Schizophrenia is measured for Odd thinking and social alienation (Personality, Ch 11, pg 18). Schizophrenia is a serious psychological disorder and one of the most debilitating of all psychological disorders. The onset usually occurs between the ages of 16 and 30 and is accompanied by a range of symptoms that can be categorized as positive, negative, and cognitive. Different patients may exhibit different symptoms. Positive symptoms include Hallucinations, Derailment, Movement disorders, disorganized behavior, etc. The Negative symptoms include Social withdrawal, lack of pleasure, loss of motivation, Poor hygiene and grooming, Lack of goal-oriented activity, etc (Defining Psychological Disorders, Ch 12, pg 46). The Cognitive symptoms are made of Poor executive control, Trouble focusing, poor problem-solving abilities and Working memory problems. The patient loses contact with reality and thus starts hallucinating.
There are a number of biological and environmental risk factors that can lead to the complex psychological disorder, schizophrenia. Research based on studies of family, twin, and adoption suggests that genes have a role to play, although the particular and responsible genes have not been identified. Thus, the likelihood of developing schizophrenia arises if one has a close relative with the mental disorder. Some differences in brain structure between normal and schizophrenic patients have been found in neuroimaging studies. In schizophrenia patients, one finds an overall loss of neurons in the cerebral cortex, plus, there is lesser activity in the frontal and temporal lobes, that are responsible for language, attention, and memory (Defining Psychological Disorders, Ch 12, pg 49). This perhaps explains the worsening of language and thought processing in such patients.
Another assumption states that any disruption in the normal development of the brain during B infancy could be a possible cause of schizophrenia. Stress can raise the likelihood of onset and relapse of schizophrenia. Schizophrenic patients are more vulnerable to stress as compared to others. The attitude of the family toward the patient and the social environment of the patient impact the treatment and his progress positively or negatively. Schizophrenic patients living in families with higher expectation from them are more likely to relapse (Defining Psychological Disorders, Ch 12, pg 51).
John Nash, the main character in “A Beautiful Mind”, who is suffering from Schizophrenia disorder, shows the obvious symptoms of Schizophrenia. He prefers being alone and is separated from the reality. He is anti-social and gets along with very few people. However, those symptoms do not bother him as he is highly intelligent. He experiences severe delusions and hallucinations and these are identified as symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. There could be a number of potential reasons that might have triggered Schizophrenia in John Nash. In college he lived a lonely life and did not socialize much. He had no friends and is likely to have experienced higher stress with no vent for his emotions. He gets along with only two people that are Charles and Alicia. Nash is an individual that cannot make long-term relationships. His delusions get triggered by his negative feelings and those hidden emotions redirect his mind without his awareness.
Nash’s Schizophrenia is the paranoid kind and he feels he is being chased by the Russian agents out to kill him. His paranoid is only getting worse and thus placing his wife too at risk.
In the past, the schizophrenic patients were locked in asylums so as to keep them safe and protected, because of their bizarre and potentially dangerous behavior. Chlorpromazine was the first of many antipsychotic drugs that were used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia (Treating Psychological Disorders, Ch 13, pg 28)
Today there are some drugs that treat some or all the positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Chlorpromazine has dramatically improved the prediction of patients in psychiatric hospitals and has already helped many patients move out of asylums back into their communities and family. Most psychiatric patients do not agree to take their medications. Nash is shown returning to normal life as he takes medication to suppress the symptoms. The movie documents the shocking effects of schizophrenia has on the personal and professional life of Nash. He receives his Nobel Prize and recovers partially with medications. He chooses to stay off medications, and the intensity of his symptoms does lessen although they do not go away completely. The movie shows that one can reach a state of relative stability even without medications.
Compliance and relapse of psychotic disorders Studies find that majority of the patients with schizophrenia do not follow the medication, and this leads to higher rate of relapses. Drug treatments are effective for treating those symptoms, but the patient needs to be more aware of their illness. Psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions have been suggested to decrease the rate of relapse and increase compliance. Noncompliance is common in other fields of medicine, but in case of schizophrenia patients, they find it difficult to accept their treatment. Published studies reflect on the factors that can influences compliance (Saba, Mékaoui, Leboyer & Schürhoff, 2007). The patient’s awareness of their illness, as well as the side effects of medication, are some of the major issues. The higher tolerability and efficacy of antipsychotic drugs and reducing schizophrenic symptoms can lead to more positive attitudes in schizophrenic patients. The most fruitful results have been achieved with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy.Conclusion The movie” A Beautiful Mind” offers a unique, insider view as to how the schizophrenic patient feels and illustrates the relation he has with the hallucinated perceptions. One sees the world through Nash’s eyes, and it is a confusing and threatening place to be in. Nash believes that he has a unique ability to see those secret connections and the expected secrecy is why no one else sees the things he sees. Nash lives in a complex world that is a reality built by his intelligent mind, and this leads to paranoia and hallucinations. The paper helps one to get closer to the realities of the imaginary world that a schizophrenic patient lives in. One develops a more compassionate perspective towards those patients, and taking the example of Nash from the movie, gives one better understanding of those symptoms and situations faced by those patients. After reading this paper, it will be easy to understand the life of Schizophrenia patient and what he feels like. It mentions the medication and how they can treat those symptoms.
Saba, G., Mékaoui, L., Leboyer, M., & Schürhoff, F. (2007). Patients’ health literacy in psychotic disorders. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 3(4), 511–517.
Introduction to Psychology (book) ch 12 and ch 13.