Monday, October 29, 2012

Psychopathology Film Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind                           

Plot Summary:
            The film is about a mathematician, a Nobel Prize winner, John Nash and his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia from college days when he was not even aware of it until the days he and his wife find ways to manage it. A Beautiful Mind well portrayed it all from Nash’s condition and symptoms, treatments and cures, his life struggles, and family struggles.

Paranoid Schizophrenia is subtype of schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder in which disturbances in thought process, perception and behavior, blunt and flat emotions, and motor abnormalities deteriorates personality functioning (Student Notes). Distinguishing symptom of paranoid type is illogical paranoia arises from the loss of touch with reality that involve more systematic visual/auditory hallucination and more organized system of delusion. Delusions of persecution, reference, and grandeur are frequent in this type (Comer, 2010).

From the movie, John experienced many symptoms as a result of his paranoid schizophrenia. First, John had visual and auditory hallucinations of different people including the government agent William Parcher, his college roommate Charles, Charles’ niece, especially the time of high stress from social isolation, competition, etc. For example, in the scene where John was held up in the library for days in search for original ideas reinforced high stress, it triggered his hallucination of a playful roommate Charles who allowed him to have a break, drink beer, play pool with his friends, who gave him words of support, and recognition. Second, he had delusions of grandeur, persecution, and reference. His belief of being superior to the theorists and professors to be studied in textbooks, referring them as “lesser mortals”, showed his delusion of grandeur. He also believed he was a spy, a code breaker who helped U.S. government find bombs placed by the Russians and that those Russians were after him and captured him when he admitted into mental hospital. This clearly showed his paranoia. Last but not least, minor symptoms for paranoid schizophrenia were shown including social withdrawal, blunt emotion, and motor disturbances. His belief that nobody like him made him socially impaired. Also, there are many instances in the film where John showed flat affect. One of the best examples is when he was holding his own baby who was crying his lung out, John do not have any response or showing any emotion at all. Motor abnormalities include his unique ways of limping and hunch-over walking, his low-self-esteem-like way of looking and forehead touching while talking.


Biological – (1) John could inherit biological predisposition to schizophrenic and develop the disorder later after facing the extreme stressors of social isolation, social competition, etc. (2) Moreover, schizophrenia is related to biochemical factor. He could have abnormal activity or interactions of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (Student Notes).
Psychodynamic – According to Freud, schizophrenic develops from the regression to a pre-ego stage and effort to reestablish ego control (Comer, 2010).
Behavioral – Faulty learning plays very little role in this case. This theory proposed that John could receive little reinforcement as a child and pay more attention to irrelevant matter. From there, his behavior appears abnormal. In college or mental institution, he may act according to social labeling. Abnormal behaviors may be rewards by sympathy and attention, resulting in reinforcement and eventually are labeled as schizophrenic (Comer, 2010).
Cognitive – People develop delusional thinking when they try to understand their unusual experiences, strange biological sensation. John could start with experiencing some kind of hallucination as a result from biological sensation, and later try to understand and make sense of those strange sensations, and eventually develop into misinterpretations and delusion that he is being persecuted (Comer, 2010).


Biological – Antipsychotic drugs can reduce delusion and hallucination those symptoms.
Psychotherapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for schizophrenia is to guide patients to more accurate interpretation of their experiences.
Family & Social Therapy can also be very effective. People with schizophrenia can actually discuss with others their real-life problem.

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