The aim of the essay is provide a critique of the film As Good as it Gets, directed by James L. Brooks to explore the misconceptions and myths about the psychological disorder portrayed (Imdb.com, 2018). The disorder is Oppressive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The lead character of the film Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) suffers from this disorder.
It is first important to learn about OCD to examine whether the film has succeeded in portraying the disorder or has indulged in misconceptions and myths. Oppressive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD is an anxiety disorder that falls under the psychological disorder category (Bloch, 2017). The symptoms of OCD might include amongst other things, increased respiration and heart rate, sweating, trembling, loss of concentration, preoccupation, apprehension and fear. The symptoms occur due to the “flight or fight” response that the body triggers (Twohig et al., 2015). The flight or fight mode comes from the parasympathetic and autonomic nervous system. Although the activation of these two nervous systems in the body is not bad, anxiety disorder like OCD makes these systems aroused beyond normal thus causing irrational behavior.
In the film, Melvin Udall suffers from OCD, which is established from the start of the movie where he is portrayed as a cynical, arrogant and egotistical novelist. He displays several symptoms of OCD, some of which have been mentioned above like preoccupation with things, fear and apprehension, fear of dirt or germs, obsession with routines and discipline. The portrayal is authentic and genuine up to this point but the character is shown exaggerating the symptoms of OCD. To cite an example, in one of the scenes where Melvin takes bath with steaming hot water and uses one soap after the other because of the fear of contamination. Now, it is a myth and a misconception that people with OCD will have obsession of this level. Apart from that, other symptoms have been portrayed with credibility.
The main misconception however is the way Melvin’s treatment has been portrayed in the film. The symptoms seem to diminish in a way that is not medically possible for OCD patients. The film shows that Melvin takes medications to treat his illness and states that his doctor has advised him to break his obsession with routines. However, the actual treatment of OCD is not through medication but through intense exposure to obsessions. Psychologists normally would not let their patients break their obsessions and perform the compulsions own their own but they would use proper therapy and observe the patient closely (Whiteley et al., 2017). Another misconception that has been shown in the movie about OCD is Melvin recovering after he meets Carol (played by Helen Hunt) and is preoccupied with her thoughts. In one of the scenes, Melvin is seen lost in the thoughts of carol so much so that he forgets to lock his apartment’s door. In reality, patients with OCD would never forget their obsession or rituals even if they are deep in thoughts about someone.
To conclude, it can be stated that overall, the film has achieved credibility in terms of portraying the symptoms of OCD. However, when it comes to the treatment, myths and misconceptions abound. It could have been better if the film had focused more on the treatment of OCD and less on the love.
Bloch, M. H. (2017). 6.3 Repetitive Behaviors and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(10), S9.
Imdb.com. (2018). As Good as It Gets (1997). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119822/
Twohig, M. P., Abramowitz, J. S., Bluett, E. J., Fabricant, L. E., Jacoby, R. J., Morrison, K. L., ... & Smith, B. M. (2015). Exposure therapy for OCD from an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) framework. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 6, 167-173.
Whiteley, L., Borgelt, E., Stewart, S. E., & Illes, J. (2017). Parent perspectives on brain scans and genetic tests for OCD: Talking of difficult presents, desired pasts, and imagined futures. BioSocieties, 12(4), 471-493.
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