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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

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s – A parent’s journey to being grateful

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s, I have gone through a series of emotional stages, and though I never thought I would be grateful, I am.

Aspergers SyndromeWhen I first realized my kid had Asperger’s, I was relieved.  I was relieved because there was suddenly an explanation.  I had thought that there was something “wrong” with him, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Finding out that he has Asperger’s let me know that he is “different” but not “bad.”  He isn’t just a kid who chooses not to behave.  He isn’t a kid with a mom who doesn’t make him behave.  He has Asperger’s.

Then, I was sad.  I was sad for all the times that I didn’t understand.  I was sad for the fact that others have taught him he is a “bad” kid.  I was sad for all the times I got frustrated and lost my temper.

I was also angry.  I was angry because even the health care “professionals” did not see.  They focused on his “bad” behavior.  They focused on what I wasn’t doing to make him better. They did not truly understand that he is “different” and they certainly did not see how great he is.

Today (several years later) I am in acceptance. I accept that my child (now 10) is different.  I accept that he will have difficulties.  I accept that his school will call about once a week to describe some heinous event.

I am also grateful.  I am grateful that I know.  I am grateful that I can appreciate the terrific kid that he is and mostly know how to help him through. I do still get frustrated and lose my temper but at least I know what I am doing wrong.  I no longer have to feel like I am doing everything wrong – or that I just don’t know what to do at all.

Autism Spectrum DisorderI am grateful that at least right now, he is fortunate enough to have a teacher that gets Autism Spectrum Disorder.  A principal that gets it – and both of these wonderful ladies see how lovable he is, how smart he is, and even though they may get frustrated and angry, they still get it.   I am grateful that I have enough information to know that there are just some things that we cannot do, and that really we shouldn’t bother.

I was thinking about this because I heard about a convention that I could go to.  The convention organizers have a “kid camp.”   The children are put on a bus and taken to some activity – a museum, a park, a walking tour…and even though he is 10 and even though he is “high-functioning” – he could not do this.  He could not be calm and collected and manage.

He has difficulty with scheduling, he has difficulty with noise, he has difficulty with crowds, he has difficulty with spontaneous activities, he has difficulty with new food… I would not even consider sending him to “kid camp” or any other activity that I could not be at.

This is not because I won’t “allow” it.  It is because the well-meaning organizers will not be able to predict and compensate for his Aspergers Children“different-ness”.  He would not have a good time; I would not have a good time – it would not be best for him.  I cannot go to that convention, but that is OK.

Not every kid who has Asperger’s has the same “different-ness”, and not every parent feels the same way. But I am grateful that I have gone through the relief, the anger and the sadness, to be accepting of my life and his life.

I am thankful that I can compensate for his differences and see how terrific he is.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have different different-nesses!

Melissa Lind