Mental Illnesses on Movies

Movie attractions about mental illnesses

Recently I wrote about the premiere of a new movie, Mania Days, which stars Katie Holmes and is based on the life of the author who has Bipolar disorder.  One of our Facebook friends asked where it could be seen.

Well, the answer, in short, is “not yet”.  It is an independent film and caught my eye because it premiered in Austin TX, near where Old Fox MovietoneI live. Unfortunately, no matter how good it is, it won’t be released on the “big screen” until the writer/director/producer has an offer from a large movie production company – for a lot of money.

He may get one of those offers at upcoming independent film festivals, and the prospects look good as the film has received positive reviews.  It is likely that no matter how good the film is, we won’t see it in theaters for several months, if not longer. (It will probably be available on DVD though)

Sorry if it was a big tease.  In any case, it got me thinking that there are some well-known and available movies that you can see.  Maybe you have seen them, but you probably haven’t seen all or even most of them.

The good news is that since mental disorders tend to produce notable or even outrageous and shocking behaviors, they do make good subjects for movies.  This list is only a few of the movies that I have seen – and in many of them, there is no clear “diagnosis” for the characters but the symptoms are there.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Most of the films that feature characters that may have borderline personality disorder focus on murderous women.  Certainly BPD doesn’t only affect females but it does make good movie fodder.

•    Fatal Attraction
•    Single White Female
•    Casino
•    The Cable Guy
•    Margot at the Wedding
•    The Crush

Anxiety Disorders –

Anxiety disorders are harder to see in a movie as a single issue as they often occur with other disorders – as they do in real life.

•    Ordinary People
•    Parenthood

Social Anxiety Disorder

Can result in avoiding being in public, speech disorders and fears of other social situations.

•    The Kings Speech

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is a real problem, but many people don’t realize how debilitating it can be.  In addition, it is also an anxiety disorder but doesn’t show as well on the screen.

•    The Aviator
•    As good as it gets

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD often follows a “war” event – but can follow other traumatic events. In most cases, these events are “acute” but in some cases they are chronic, occurring over a period of many years.

•    Prince of Tides
•    Forrest Gump
•    Born on the Fourth of July
•    First Blood
•    Sudden Impact
•    Reign Over Me
•    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Autism

There is really only one good example that I know of – and it is a classic.  That said, it is not an exact example as Autism is a “spectrum disorder” that ranges from high-functioning to non-functioning.

•    Rain Man
•    The Boy Who Could Fly

Bipolar Disorder

There are actually a lot of movies that can be seen showing bipolar disorder though. Rarely do they discuss the actual diagnosis but here are a few good ones.

•    Mad Love
•    Blind Date
•    Michael Clayton
•    Manic
•    Of Two Minds

Clinical depression

In most cases, clinical depression doesn’t look good on a screen.  Unless the character has some other event going on, watching someone not do anything doesn’t attract movie attention.  In these cases, there were other things going on in the movie that made them interesting.

•    The Fire Within
•    Leaving Las Vegas
•    Rushmore

Silver Linings PlaybookAnd the winner for “Most Psychiatric Disorders Featured in One Movie” goes to:

•    Silver Linings Playbook
•    Girl Interrupted

Both movies show a number of intertwining psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and eating disorder, are great films and two you really shouldn’t miss.

Most of these movies should be available on DVD.

Melissa Lind

List of films featuring mental disorders

Bipolar Through the Years – Getting Your Diagnosis Right

Difficult to diagnose Bipolar Disorder?

I am not bipolar!  I am (insert other diagnosis here)

I received my first bipolar diagnosis when I was about 30… ish minus a few years.  I am 40… ish plus a few years, so for most of All About Bipolar Disorder20 years (yes I know the math doesn’t work out but this is a true story), I have known that I have Bipolar Disorder.

If you are bipolar yourself you will know that when I say “I have known” it really means “I was told”.  I didn’t believe it at first.  I thought of every other thing it might be and tried really hard to convince the therapist “that isn’t me… not really”.

As an untreated, newly diagnosed bipolar, I felt compelled to express clear objections to specific parts of the diagnosis that did not fit.  I was trapped by the details… a problem which I have often suffered – or more like, caused others to suffer because of.

Over the years and through several different diagnoses and many periods of “those” risky behaviors, going on and off various meds, wrecking certain parts of my life – and recovering once again, I find that those details don’t matter anymore.

I used to have a vitriolic reaction to the suggestion that I should want to be “normal”.  NORMAL, I said… I don’t want to be Bipolar TherapyNORMAL.  Normal is boring.  I was many things but boring was not one of them.

I no longer have that reaction.  My life would have been easier if it were normal.  I would have missed all the bright, scribbly colors.  I would have missed all the scary but fun stuff… but then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so tired.  Maybe I wouldn’t have had to shut the curtains and hibernate.  Maybe I would have missed all the scary and dark stuff.

Anyway – as usual, I veer off of my topic.  Today, I am 99 percent sure that I am bipolar but I do reserve that remaining 1 percent – just in case.

Over those years – starting before (way before) I was diagnosed as bipolar – I sought treatment.  At 14, I asked my parents to take me to a psychiatrist because there was “something wrong with my brain.” They said “no, there isn’t” effectively telling me that I was just a mouthy, disgruntled, histrionic teenager – which I was, but I was also bipolar.

I often wonder what might have been if I had been treated then and do watch my kids for the same occurrence.  Unfortunately at that time, a proper diagnosis was highly unlikely and probably wouldn’t have changed much.  Except I would have felt heard – and I didn’t.  I do try to hear my kids.

Once I was able to seek treatment for myself, I was diagnosed with several other things long before they hit the jackpot.  The first was “dysthymia” – oddly, this diagnosis came in the middle of a severe depression.

Dysthymia for a bipolar

I was in college, just a hair short of being suicidal, and had to sit down one day and decide if I was going to kill myself – or study.  Serious DoctorLacking concrete plans and lacking a sincere wish to die, I decided to study – but I did go to the student health center the next day where a kindly graduate student decided I was dysthymic and would benefit from group therapy.  Being the mixed-manic that I am, I was in a temporary state of “not so bad” and failed to mention the depth of my despair.

I went to group therapy with a bunch of whining college kids and two well-meaning graduate student supervisors for almost a year.  To be fair, some of these people may have had real problems.  A homosexual boy who was still “in the closet”, a secret cross-dresser, a bulimic, a giant athlete with a sever anger issue and mommy problems… and a couple of other whiners.

I never once mentioned that I was hallucinating at night… or that I couldn’t keep my thoughts going in a straight line….or that I was living in a dark grey fog… or that despite all this, I still wasn’t sleeping.  My dysthymic self simply whined away with the others about parents, childhood, professors…it may have kept me from killing myself but mostly it was just entertainment.  It also kept me from failing out of college, as the dean of my college was informed that I was “in counseling”.

Major Depression for a bipolar

When I finally admitted the hallucinations – that got some real attention.  It also got the notice of a physician – and her medical Medical Doctorstudent who proceeded to ask me stupid questions like “how much LSD have you done?”  I also got a very “fun” visit to a sleep clinic — where the results were inconsequential even though my case was examined by a neuropsychiatrist – or a psychiatric neurologist – whatever that is.

Still, I got the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder… I still wasn’t sleeping – and people were literally terrified of me.  Describing me as agitated would be like saying the Niagra River is a stream.  Major Depressive Disorder.  They did give me meds though, stopped the hallucinations and got rid of all that grey fog and I managed to finish college.

Codependent for a bipolar

Moving on a few years on and off antidepressants and anxiety medicines – never feeling right….risky this, risky that….institutionalization (not jail or at least not this time, but still…).  After a particular disturbance, one “therapist” told me I was “codependent”… little did he know how dependent I was…or on what.  I ignored him.

The “intensive treatment” did get me the diagnosis for bipolar disorder which I denied, and did so for many years.  On and off meds, risky this, risky that…back on meds…off…on.

ADHD for a bipolar

A few years later I was pregnant (married too, woo hoo) and had to go off the meds.  After I had my kids – the doctor that I saw said that I was ADHD – not bipolar.  Still not wanting to be bipolar, I took the prescription he gave me….which was of course an amphetamine.  Well that worked well – nuf said.  To be sure, my kids are fine.

Bipolar HeartbeatEventually, I came to reality and the bipolar diagnosis and back to the right meds.   This has required honesty.  Honesty with health professionals and honesty with myself and it requires taking my meds.  I am tired from all the bright squiggles and the darkness.  I do want to be normal.

Now, as a bipolar, I get to watch my kids and see if they have “it” or something else.  Either is scary, both are scary but I hope I will be more help than my parents were.  I still take my meds but I also still retain the right to act on the 1 percent in case something better than bipolar disorder comes up.

Kids and Mental Disorders – ADHD

Children and mental disorders – when is too soon for diagnosis?

I spend a decent chunk of my time cruising chat boards and reading journals, news, social media posts and such about mental disorders.  My own “specialties” are Bipolar Disorder, Adult ADHD, Autism Spectrum DisorderBorderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Abuse Disorders, OCD… nevermind – I really “specialize” in them all, because I know most Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorderof these disorders within my social circle, and I know them on a professional level.

Anyway, I was on a Facebook page the other day for ADHD. (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)  A woman posted a question about how to manage a kid with ADHD who wakes up and wreaks havoc within the house while everyone is trying to get ready for school and work.  Naturally he was disagreeable, confrontational, oppositional, had “meltdowns” – and it was all exhausting.  (pretty typical behavior for a truly ADHD kid)  A therapist once told me that the ADHD brain doesn’t “wake up” right away and cause all this trouble partly because their brain is not actually engaged yet.  The mom was asking for advice.

Comments on the page gave some really good answers. Some of them are common. Like plan your morning before you go to bed (get out clothes, get backpack ready, make lunch), let the kid make some choices – blah blah blah, stuff we have all heard.

Others were less common, but possibly better advice. Advices like; give the kid an extra 30 minutes to “wake up” in silence, give the child an incentive to get dressed NOW – like playing Minecraft after he is dressed.  I handle mine with the “don’t talk to him yet” option – waiting about 20-30 minutes before making him get busy.  His siblings aren’t allowed to bug him during this time either.  He can wrap himself in a blanket, stare at the wall or whatever – just don’t go back to sleep.

One lady suggested that the kid should be woken to take his meds an hour before he has to be out of bed. Then let him go back to sleep so that his medicines are working by the time he actually gets up.  I found that last piece of advice to be very helpful. My husband with adult ADHD takes his meds about 4 am and gets up at 6, ready to go rather than rude, obnoxious and unhelpful.

Mental Disorders - ADHDWhat troubled me was a comment from a woman who didn’t actually give advice, but chimed in to complain about how hard her four-year-old was to manage.  She said that he had been diagnosed with ADHD and was on meds, but also said that he had bipolar disorder, and still was a screaming banshee in the morning.  This gives me pause for concern.

I certainly can’t do anything about this particular kid, and I don’t really know the exact circumstances but I find the dual diagnosis with bipolar disorder very troubling for a four-year-old child.  Certainly, kids can exhibit ADHD symptoms at 4, and some will benefit from treatment.  But the medications weren’t working, and I am not so sure about the bipolar disorder.

Traditionally, until a few years ago, no one was willing to consider bipolar disorder as a pediatric concern.  Still today, though bipolar disorder obviously exists in childhood – most of the major issues don’t come out until adolescence.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not recognize the bipolar disorder in children under the age of 13

The National Institutes of Mental Health does acknowledge that bipolar disorder in children MAY exist but also warns that many children are misdiagnosed when the main problem is ADHDNIMH recommends that these children be labeled with Mood Dysregulation Syndrome until such time as a diagnosis can be relied upon.

The main problem in diagnosing young children with any mental disorder is that symptoms in children are vastly different from those in adults.  To complicate matters, symptoms of various Cerebrum Lobesdisorders in children are similar to one another.

Symptoms such as irritability, excessive mood swings, meltdowns, oppositional behavior, trouble in school, social inadequacies, explosive behavior, frequent frustration, and hyperactivity, etc. can point to a number of disorders.  Frankly the child may be ADHD, Bipolar, Depressed, Autism Spectrum… or even have food intolerance.

Because of our family history (not just mine), I watch my children very carefully.  I do analyze everything that happens, and I know that all of them probably have a disorder of one type or another.  Two may have ADHD, one is likely bipolar and one has Asperger’s or mild ASD.  I have sought treatment for some issues – but with others, I hesitate to run to a physician – likely a pediatrician who just doesn’t really know.

Our understanding of mental disorders is still evolving

I was personally diagnosed with the wrong disorder for over 15 years – and I was an adult.  How damaging would it have been if I had been labeled with a disorder that I did not have when I was only four years old?
The particular woman I described with the dual diagnosis child was beside herself.  Despite the fact that the four-year-old was receiving medical treatment for both disorders – it wasn’t working.  To me, this means that the treatment was with the wrong meds and for the wrong disorder(s).  In addition, her management skills weren’t the best.

As I said, I know that my children are likely to have disorders of their own but I don’t want to treat them for just any disorder.  I will want them to be treated for the right disease.  My advice to this parent, or any parent whose child had been put on medication that wasn’t working would be to seek a second opinion.

I am more emphatic about that advice if the doctor was willing to “add” a diagnosis to provide more medication; she should definitely seek another opinion.  Preferably the opinion of a pediatric Ritalin - ADHD Medicinepsychiatrist – or even a pediatric behavioral neurologist.  These specialists are few and far between, but it isn’t worth doing anything, but suffering through all the misery because the treatment isn’t working.

Medications are beneficial in the treatment of some types of mental disorders, but they do “change the brain”.  That is how they work – changing the brain can be harmful if you are changing it in the “wrong” directions.  Just seems like common sense.

Melissa Lind

New Online Tools for Anxiety Disorders

What can online tools for Anxiety Disorders do for free?

There has been a dramatic upsurge in websites, smartphone apps and hi-tech gadgets to monitor health conditions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and calorie output – all physical measurementsMental health doesn’t easily lend itself to computer monitoring.  Most people who need intervention go to a therapist or other mental health professional.  When that isn’t affordable, people usually “go it alone” which can have disastrous results.

Online Tools for Anxiety DisordersA new company “Joyable”, is developing an online web platform for people with anxiety disorders.  The company is a start-up venture that aims to create online tools for a variety of mental health conditions.  So far, they have raised over $2 million from Venture Capitalists – and “Angel Investors” which may bode well for additional funding.  Joyable will be starting with Social Anxiety Disorder but plans expansion into other conditions such as generalized anxiety, OCD, PTSD and others.  The big problem with this development is that it isn’t cheap.

The company plans to offer their online tools for a significant cost of $99 / month. Though hi-tech has entered the medical field in other areas, costs are usually low, if not free and available on a smartphone.  The developers state that their program is usable on a smartphone or tablet through the internet. They also have plans to develop a native app for smartphones and tablets as well, but they will probably still charge for the service.

The NIH reports that 15 million Americans may suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder but only about 15 percent of those are adequately treated – leaving 12 million or so, with unattended issues.  The good news is that there are online tools for people with a variety of mental health conditions, and some of those are free.

Not to disparage therapy – but a lot of it is talk and even with insurance, it can be expensive.  You talk, the therapist talks, you talk, the therapist listens.  If you are in group therapy – you also have to listen while others talk.  Sometimes the problems match your own; sometimes they don’t.  In a lot of cases, you may be able to get some insight from hearing others talk about the same thing – but the best information is stuff that you learn about yourself.

The best place to start looking for help online is through forums – nearly always free.  You can find plenty of people with nearly any mental disorder that you can chat with and take or leave the advice as you want.  There is also no shortage of educational – and even entertaining websites (like this one) that offer information, quizzes, daily planning – all for free.

Smartphone for Anxiety DisorderIf you are willing to pay a bit, there are online therapists who are cheaper than going to an office.  Therapists who will attend you privately on the computer – or even by phone.  Joyable is planning on offering three categories of activities – education, cognitive exercises, and behavioral activities.  They plan to have “coaches” who are “empathetic” and “good listeners” – trained by the company.

Psychologists oversee the program, but it is not very likely that you will get personal attention from a licensed professional.   With a little bit of work, you can probably get much of the same service at a low cost – or even without spending a dime. But for the future, the attention that the service may bring might provide promise and signal hope for people with mental disorders.

One development often leads to another. An App, even at a cost may provide assistance for those who won’t otherwise receive adequate care – particularly with disorder such as PTSD that don’t often get enough or the right kind of attention.  For now, you can probably skip the cost – and gather up the services yourself.

Melissa Lind

“Mania Days” – Movie about Bipolar Disorder

“Mania Days,” Debuts at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin

Mania Days” is a movie by Paul Dalio, features Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as two New Yorkers suffering in the various stages of Bipolar DisorderMovie About Bipolar DisorderDalio, who in actual bipolar mode, wrote, directed, produced, edited and unbelievably – “scored” his own movie which is based on his own discovery of his bipolar disorder.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dalio describes the Holmes character as what he was like when he had his first episode “really scared and ashamed of it”.  The other character, played by Luke Kirby is based on a period of when he “started to romanticize bipolar disorder” and “embraced lunacy”.

Dalio himself endured three years of bipolar misery but eventually adhered to treatment when he recognized the pain he was causing his family.  Now he credits much of his inner peace to meditation (in addition to medication) and adherence to a routine schedule – including sleep.

The film debuts at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film, and Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas which runs a number of independent films.  The film festival coincides with the world famous music festival and an “interactive” conference which includes “gaming” and interactive media.

Katie HolmesKatie Holmes’ presence in the film shows potential for commercial success, but whether it achieves stardom – it is a good thing for bipolar disorder.  Basically, any attention for bipolar disorder is good – even the “bad” of bipolar disorder – as awareness can only reduce bipolar stigma.

I know that in my own journey over 20 plus years, I have gone through many stages.  I don’t much remember being “scared” of the diagnosis – or even of my behavior.  I have chosen to steel myself with “it is what it is”.

I did, however, maintain a long romance with the idea of “crazy” is good.  I spent many years believing (and many hours arguing with my therapist) that being “normal” was boring.  The last thing I wanted to be was “normal”.

I would like to say I was young and stupid – which I was but maybe part of the truth was that I had been crazy for so long that it was “normal”.  Eventually, crazy is exhausting – and you can’t do it anymore.

In most cases – you are eventually stopped from being crazy – up against a wall, sometimes caught by family members but sometimes a lot worse.  You get normal – only to get bored and do it all again.

As much as I would like to say that there is a real way to stop this cycle – in many cases there is not.  Even with medication, the cycle will continue – for a while.  Eventually, hopefully, you just get too tired of doing crazy.  Lost relationships, lost jobs… lost stuff.  It is exhausting.

Today – I am stable on medication.  Like an alcoholic – I say today.  Tomorrow and likely next week I will be stable on medication.  I would like to say forever – but I remember (at least what I do remember) that someday I may not.  The best I can do is to be open and forthright about my disorder so that those around me may know the signs if I decide to do “crazy” again.

Even though, I live near the festival and have many friends who are attendees, musicians, event planners, and sponsors – I won’t be seeing the film in Austin… crowds, excitement, and all that are no longer my thing – but I will see it, and I hope it is good.  Even if it isn’t great, it is another step in the right direction for the disease.

The Movie about Bipolar Disorder, “Mania Days”, Debuts at Film Festival in Austin

Melissa Lind

Face of Borderline Personality Disorder

Pro Football Player Brandon Marshall Wants to be the “face” of Borderline Personality Disorder

Brandon Marshall - The Face of Borderline Personality DisorderIf you don’t follow professional sports in the U.S., you may not know who Brandon Marshall is. He is an NFL Wide Receiver, recently acquired by the New York Jets. His long history of violent outbursts, brushes with law enforcement and behavioral issues that have affected both his personal and professional life.

Marshall had played professional football since 2006 when the Denver Broncos drafted him. He has since played for the Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Bears and was recently acquired by the New York Jets. The Wide Receiver played in five Pro-Bowls, receiving an MVP award in 2011 and has set several receiving records during his NFL career.

Brandon Marshall - BPDThough he has played for four different teams in only nine years, most of the trades have come after a series of injuries. Not all of those injuries, however, have come from football and Marshall has a long history of legal trouble, and those issues have affected various team’s willingness to put up with his erratic behavior.

One notable injury was sustained in 2008 when he slipped on an empty bag in McDonalds. While this seems like a complete accident, the incident occurred during a physical scuffle with “family members”. Shortly after the event, he fell through a television set at his home, causing a severe arm injury.

Marshall has faced multiple fines with the NFL including two penalties for violating the team’s dress code by wearing brightly colored cleats during a game. The list of legal troubles he has had include drunk driving charges, domestic violence, assault, battery and disorderly conduct. Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011.

Borderline Personality Disorder is not a well-known disorder and is highly stigmatized, with many people unwilling to disclose the condition. It is characterized by severe abandonment issues, risky behavior, personal identity issues, rapid changes in an Borderline Personality Disorder - Brandon Marshallemotional level, and high potential for self-harm. Treatment is largely comprised of behavioral therapy. However, some patients receive medication for other psychiatric disorders that may improve BPD symptoms. There is also some thought that medication treatment may be useful in Borderline Personality Disorder. However, no drugs are approved to treat the condition.

Marshall’s diagnosis of BPD likely comes as no surprise to those who understand the disorder. His willingness to come forward and publicly announce his condition may help others to understand BPD. He has been and is currently undergoing treatment and is in the process of filming a documentary about his battle with BPD. Marshall has stated that his goal is to be the “face” of Borderline Personality Disorder to bring public awareness for those who struggle with the condition.

Though he has been forthright, many in the sports world had stated that the New York Jets will have their hands full when he joins the team as his troubles have decreased only slightly since he began treatment.

Melissa Lind