Psychology can be defined as the study of the mind and/or soul of an individual in addition to his/her mental behaviors and functions (Jose, 2001). It is a diverse and wide field consisting of major areas of application within itself, for instance abnormal and biological psychology. Biological psychology or biopsychology is that part charged with studying the manner in which biological processes affect the behavior and mind of an individual (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). On the other hand, abnormal psychology studies psychopathology and abnormal human behavior (Dan, 2001). In this case, professional psychiatrists dealing with mental health usually make use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-IV in diagnosing various mental disorders which include Schizophrenia (Steven & Daniel, 2003).
A Brief Synopsis of A Beautiful Mind and Conspiracy Theory
There have been recent films depicting the mental disorder, Schizophrenia which includes A Beautiful Mind and Conspiracy Theory. In these films, the challenges faced by individuals suffering from this mental disorder are portrayed as well as the toll it has on friends and families associated with such individuals (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). A Beautiful Mind is a movie revolving around an individual by the name of John Forbes Nash Jr., played by Russell Crowe, who is a mathematical genius and a bright student with a bright future ahead of him (Jose, 2001). On enrolling in Princeton, he becomes competitive in the Math department with his fellow classmates. While studying in local bar, his classmates fight over each other as to who will get the attention of a beautiful blonde woman, and is inspired to come up with a game theory. This leads to his earning a position greatly coveted by his fellow classmates at MIT and is charged with the responsibility of teaching a course (Christopher & Shaun, 2002).
One of his students, Alicia Larde, played by Jennifer Connelly, falls in love with him and sends him invitations to dinner. She also starts a romance that practically disrupts Nash’s well organized world. But as the film continues, the audience is introduced to another side of Nash which is that of having a mental condition (Schizophrenia). Apparently, this condition worsens with time and Alicia becomes the only reality in his world that remains dependable and steadfast (Dan, 2001). In the end, Nash abandons his teaching career and alienates himself from his friends and colleagues. He is then committed in a mental hospital where he is made to accept his condition and try repairing his already shattered life (Steven & Daniel, 2003). He undergoes shock therapy and is prescribed medication which he follows and ends up overcoming the disorder.
The Conspiracy Theory, on the other hand, is a movie which revolves around an individual, Jerry Fletcher, played by Mel Gibson, who is a peculiar taxi driver having the belief that majority of world events occurring have something to do with government conspiracies (Steven & Daniel, 2003). According to him, these conspiracies include the $100 note containing a tracking device and black helicopters capable of flying in whisper mode so as not to be heard as they are approaching (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). To add on to his conspiracy theories, Fletcher has sudden violent flashbacks causing him to almost kill him together with his passengers due to his loss of sense of reality. In the course of the film, he admits as not being normal since being normal means conspiring against oneself (Dan, 2001). He also highlights and clips numerous newspaper articles, sending individual copies to his subscribers from different post boxes throughout his city. By doing so, he believes that no one would be in a position to intercept the articles (Jose, 2001).
While performing his routinely duties, Fletcher happens to recognize government workers who are apparently delivering something in the middle of the city and he follows them into an office building which turns out to be CIA offices (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). Unfortunately, he is identified and in the process of trying to think of the next best thing to do to get out of the situation, he is kidnapped and taken to a facility in preparation for interrogation (Steven & Daniel, 2003). The interrogator happens to be a Dr. Jonas, played by Patrick Stewart, who deals with mind control experiments and is also a leading researcher. It is revealed that the CIA gave him permission to carry out experiments deemed potentially deadly. These experiments left many of his patients scared emotionally or worse. Fletcher is able to escape from this facility after being slowly brainwashed but is arrested once again after walking into the DA’s office in a confused state (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). He escapes from the mental hospital once again and with the help of Sutton (Julia Roberts), is able to avoid the CIA officials who are after him. He also falls in love with Sutton and one of his many theories turns out to be true. In the end, it is revealed that Fletcher and Dr. Jonas share a past relationship that could possibly lead to dangerous consequences (Dan, 2001). One of these consequences, as seen in the end of the film is Fletcher paying the price with his own life.
Definition and Description of Schizophrenia
The above mentioned films both depict an abnormal mental disorder known as Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can be defined as a chronic disabling mental disorder that is severe and affects both men and women with equal frequency (Dan, 2001). This disorder causes impairment in vocational or social functioning of an individual and is characterized by a psychotic phase involving hallucinations, bizarre behavior and speech as well as delusions. Schizophrenia is derived from a Greek term meaning having split mind (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). Moreover, this disorder is usually diagnosed in individuals aged between 17 years and 35 years, being observed earlier in men as compared to women. It has also been observed that approximately 1% of the American population suffer from this disorder at any time every year (Jose, 2001). In addition, approximately 50% of those admitted in hospital psychiatric care are diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
People suffering from this disorder tend to develop mood abnormalities for instance anger or silly facial expressions and generally losing interest or pleasure in the simple things in life (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). Schizophrenics also tend to pace up and down and lack interest in food. Majority of people suffering from this disorder are not usually aware that they are actually having it. This can lead them to become suicidal or entertain suicidal thoughts due to their having poor insight of the reality (Dan, 2001). There have not been specific recognized causes of schizophrenia although biological, genetic and environmental factors have been considered as being a cause. Recent studies have shown Schizophrenia to be hereditary in that there is a 10% chance of a child having a parent suffering from the disorder also developing it (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). Therefore, it is vital for clinicians to investigate possible causes of any acute change in an individual’s mental behavior or health so as to be able to diagnose the disorder early enough.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms associated with this disorder comes in many forms but are categorized into negative symptoms, positive symptoms, affective symptoms and cognitive symptoms. Negative symptoms include having difficulties in expressing emotions and being withdrawn socially (Jose, 2001). Positive symptoms, on the other hand, include being suspicious, having delusions and hearing voices. Affective symptoms, also known as mood symptoms mainly include depression which leads to the individual having suicidal thoughts (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). In the last category which is that of cognitive symptoms, the individual has difficulty in processing information, remembering simple tasks assigned to him/her and having difficulty in understanding the environment they are in (Steven & Daniel, 2003).
In the films A Beautiful Mind and Conspiracy Theory, it can be observed that the main protagonists exhibited symptoms related to Schizophrenia where Nash’s symptoms worsened by the day. Even though persons suffering from the disorder might not necessarily display any outward symptoms of being ill, the disorder might become apparent with time, causing the individual to behave in a bizarre manner, as seen in the two films (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). Due to severe abnormal mental behaviors of such individuals, their life expectancy is usually shorter as compared to the general population.
Importance of Studying Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia has been rated as being the fifth major leading cause of lost years as a result of disability in men while it is the sixth major leading cause amongst women (Dan, 2001). Contrary to popular belief, the disorder does not involve having split personality but is a separate condition all together. Schizophrenia affects approximately 2.2 million Americans and has been observed to be the most common psychotic diseases accounting for high costs in mental health care (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). It is therefore important and vital for the community to be well informed and educated on Schizophrenia, its symptoms and how best to handle patients suffering from the disorder in order to ensure that such individuals lead fulfilled lives in the end.
In the early and mid 20th Century, psychosis (conditions affecting the mind causing an individual to become detached from reality) observed in teenagers was perceived to be a reaction to stress or a phase in development of the individual (Jose, 2001). This was due to lack of sufficient research carried out as concerns the disorder. In the movie A Beautiful Mind, the audience is shown that an individual suffering from Schizophrenia usually tends to see something that other people do not or cannot see thus leading to their bizarre behaviors (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). In other words, once the illness becomes active, the schizophrenic experiences episodes where he/she is unable to differentiate between real experiences and those that are not. The rise of psychology made the disorder to be recognized as a mental abnormality or illness, leaving the individual incapable of relating socially with others (Dan, 2001).
It is important for schizophrenia to be identified in its early stages so as to be able to help the individuals in the best ways possible. It is unfortunate for the protagonist in the movie Conspiracy Theory that he did not acquire the necessary help needed to help him deal with is symptoms. If the woman he was in love with had information as concerns schizophrenia, she would have been in a better position to assist Fletcher in obtaining the necessary assistance for instance through psychological therapies (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). The same case applies in the movie A Beautiful Mind. This shows viewers the importance of studying the disorder and its relevance in that certain consequences can be prevented through dealing with the symptoms once identified (Steven & Daniel, 2003).
Psychopathology of the Character (characteristics of the protagonist that meet DSM-IV-TR Standards)
Psychopathology can be defined as the manifestation of experiences and behaviors indicative of a certain degree of psychological or mental impairment (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). It can also refer to the study of mental distress or illness (Dan, 2001). In the movie A Beautiful Mind, the main character portrayed one of the symptoms associated with the disorder and this was that of hearing voices. Apparently, these voices help in the reduction of his being lonely and in the process consoling him in his being rejected by other individuals around him. In the case of the protagonist in Conspiracy Theory, he would imagine hearing the sound of the black helicopters (Jose, 2001).
DSM-IV-TR or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition is a manual or guideline used to classify different mental disorders in various mental institutions and hospitals (Christopher & Shaun, 2002). It serves the purpose of determining known causes of all mental health disorders while providing a prognosis and stating the statistics of the disorders in terms of age at onset and gender (Steven & Daniel, 2003). For a disorder to be diagnosed as a mental illness, according to the DSM-IV-TR, it has to meet certain requirements and standards of the manual. For instance, an individual is said to be suffering from schizophrenia if he/she is exhibiting either disorganized speech, delusions, grossly disorganized behavior or hallucinations during a period of 1 month (Dan, 2001). According to the manual, the individual suffering from schizophrenia portrays occupational and social dysfunction at the onset of the symptoms. If these symptoms persist for at least 6 more months, then the individual is diagnosed as suffering from Schizophrenia in accordance with the DSM-IV-TR (Christopher & Shaun, 2002).
From the two movies, that is A Beautiful Mind and Conspiracy Theory, certain characteristics of the protagonists meet the DSM-IV-TR standards for instance their display of hallucinations, being paranoid and having mood episodes such as depression (Christopher & Shaun, 2002).
Personal Interest in this topic
Personal interest was developed in the topic concerning Schizophrenia because it developed a curiosity in wanting to observe other people’s perception of the movies and their individual thoughts on the disorder. I also wanted to learn more about Schizophrenia and how I can best identify its symptoms. In this way, I would be in a better position to handle and deal with individuals suffering from the disorder if I am ever placed or if I ever find myself in such a situation.
Once the symptoms associated with Schizophrenia are brought under control, therapy can be applied to enable such individuals cope with stress, lengthen periods of remission as well as learn social skills as they carry on with their daily activities. Relatives, family members and friends should lend a hand in assisting people suffering from Schizophrenia lead healthy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.