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mental disorders

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

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

Borderline Personality Disorder in the News

In the news (and movies): Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) doesn’t get a lot of “press” or screen time.

We have all seen movies and news stories about people with bipolar disorder. (Girl Interrupted, Mad Love, Borderline Personality Disorder Newsand the unforgettable Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, drug addiction) (Chris Farley, Philip Seymore Hoffman, and Anna Nicole Smith), and major depression (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, and Princess Diana).  Many of these movies or real-life examples also show how mental disorders are intertwined.

Depression comes with alcoholism, bipolar disorder comes with drug addiction, bipolar disorder comes with a lot of issues – but not much attention gets paid to Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder has a few issues:

  1. It is a personality disorder and not a psychiatric disorder that can be treated with medication
  2. It is hard to diagnose and can often be confused with other disorders
  3. Borderline patients may misrepresent their behavior to medical professionals
  4. Borderline patients are often “difficult” to be around
  5. Borderline personality disorder is not well known – make it not well known… and, for this reason, there is no reason to write a news story or make a movie about it.

“Good news”;

I put that in parentheses because the diagnosis is not great – but it is good that BPD is getting a bit of attention.  Two notable examples – one not so great and one which may or may not be great.

Not So Great;

The trial of Jodi Arias.  In 2008, Travis Alexander was brutally murdered.  He was stabbed over 20 times, shot, and photographed after his death.  The alleged perpetrator: his girlfriend, Jodi Arias.

The case has been pending for many years – one of the reasons may be the development of a clear understanding of why Arias acted the way that she did after the murder.  Reportedly, Arias was witnessed immediately after Alexander’s memorial (including explicit text messages sent for “flirting”), and she has been pegged as a possible borderline patient.  This is in addition to Alexander’s former friends that reported her stalking behavior, and her statements that the boyfriend was a pedophile and a domestic abuser.

Arias’ own friends and a court psychologist have reported erratic behavior, similar to that of BPD.  No verdict has been issued as of yet, and we may never know, but it does bring BPD into the news (not in a nice way but into the light, however).

In fact, some mental health professionals have expressed the belief that BPD patients may be more dangerous – both emotionally and physically – than most other mental disorders, some likening it to a form of sociopathy.

Possibly good news;

Borderline Personality Disorder in the NewsOn the movie front, Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids –and the new, all-female Ghostbusters) has starred in a”dramedy”. Dramedy is  a combination of a comedy and drama that is centered around a woman with BPD.   In Welcome to Me, the character, portrayed by Wiig, wins the lottery and uses part of the money to start a talk show.

Along the way, she skips out on treatment, quits taking her meds and ends up living in a casino.  No word on reviews for the show, but it has some big names including Joan Cusack and Tim Robbins. It is produced in part by Will Farrell, and even though it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, theater showings have not been announced.

If you know a BPD patient – imagine what he or she might do after winning the lottery.  BPD is hard to diagnose, hard to predict and even tougher to be around.

Whether the movie is any good, whether the trial comes to a just end…

Melissa Lind

Borderline Personality Disorder has gotten some attention!

Psychiatric Disorders and Geniuses

A lot of people like to think of themselves as geniuses.  Probably even more people with psychiatric disorders like to think of themselves as geniuses.

MichelangoWho can blame us – with examples such as Albert Einstein, Edgar Allen Poe, Beethoven, Michaelangelo, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton… just to name a few.

As all of these stellar personalities are now deceased and most died before the advent of modern psychiatry, we can only surmise their disturbance – their genius however is clear.

Aristoteles, a Greek philosopher, once said, “There is no genius without having a touch of madness.”

Today, most who are diagnosed with a mental disorder– be it bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or even major depression, would be classified in previous times as “mad”.

A recent article in Psychiatric Times, by an actual physician – Nicholas Pediaditakis – attempts to link the occurrence of major mental disorders and geniusFreud called the difference in “temperament” of genius from that of “normal” people – “narcissistic neurosis”.

The basic theory as proposed by the author of the article says that people with certain mental disordersbipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and OCD in particular – ‘tend to “think” the world rather than “feel” it.’  He goes on to say that many are dysphoric and tend towards feeling a void and aloneness within themselves which can often lead to substance abuse and suicide – all too true.  His conclusion is that these illnesses cause an absence of adherence to social norms, not because you want to, but because you have to – but that it frees up parts of the brain for creative processes.

In addition, many artists, actors, comedians, writers acknowledge that much of their creativity comes from painpsychic pain not physical pain that is often experienced by those with mental disorders. This doesn’t seem to translate to genius in science, math, or other concrete areas, but the idea of a mind that has free space to concentrate on specialty areas does fit.

While I, personally, find offense in part of his statement (the part about wanting to think rather than feel) – I also find it true.  I, and those I know, would rather “think” rather than “feel”, but often we feel too much and cannot stop.

Aside from my bristling at the implication that mental illness is a choice – I find it amusing that science may be able to prove that there is a “mad genius” in me – someday.

Melissa Lind

A genius with a psychiatric disorder.

Mental Disorders Failure to Take Medications Consistently

Don’t skip your meds – even if you are sick!

It is cold and flu season in the Northern part of the world, and though that isn’t the only time people get sick, it brings up an issue common in Bipolar disorder and other mental disorders.

Medication - Mental DisordersOne of the biggest problems in maintaining a level mood state or semblance of “normalcy” in people with mental disorders is the failure to take medications consistently.  In a lot of instances, mentally ill persons will stop taking the medication on purpose because they are “better” and “don’t need it”.

As mentioned many times before – this is, usually, done in secret. Without consultation with professionals, friends or family members who do not find out until someone with a mental disorder has gone “off-track” and had an “episode”.

But, another cause of medication non-adherence is forgetfulness. Forgetfulness wouldn’t seem to be a big deal as many medications are “forgotten” one day and resumed the next – blood pressure medicine, birth control pills, and antibiotics etc. All with each of their own ramifications.  In the case of the forgotten anti-depressant, anti-manic agent, anti-psychotic, a different set of events comes into play.

Mentally ill people may “forget” the first day but by the second day, the thoughts of “I am OK” start to intrude.  This may lead back to the first case of non-adherence where the patient then decides to quit purposefully taking their medication – obviously without telling anyone.

Mental MindWith your illness, you may not feel like getting up.  You may not feel like eating.  You may not feel like taking your medicine – but you should.  You must.  Even when your mental illness seems secondary to a physical illness, the medicine that keeps you functioning on a semi-even level is vital.  Allowing yourself to skip, even one day can ultimately cause a “relapse”.

If you skip today because you don’t feel good, you may skip tomorrow.  If you skip today and tomorrow, because you didn’t feel good, you will probably hear the voice that always says, “I am doing OK,” because you are OK – for today.  A week or two, maybe a month or two – you won’t be OK.  You haven’t been in the past and likely you won’t in the future.

No matter why you skip your meds – don’t.

There are legitimate medical reasons not to quit without supervision – such as drug withdrawal and increases in seizure potential which are real, unpleasant, and possibly dangerous. But the biggest reason is the same as it has always been.  Eventually, it will lead you back down the path, and you won’t know until you are already out of balance.

One of the biggest challenges for a bipolar or schizophrenic (or many other) patient is to ignore the impulse to give in to “See, I’m OK and I don’t need this”.  In your rational mind, you know that you do.  You may resent it, but you know.

You may have to remind yourself of how far you have come – and remind yourself that this wasn’t the first time that you had to dig yourself out of a mess.

Remember how it was, how awful it was, and how hard it will be the next time to recover.

Melissa Lind

The medicine that keeps you functioning is vital – even if mental disorders seems secondary to physical illness!

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Health

Mental Health and Childhood Sexual Abuse – Don’t Carry the Secret

Recently I saw something on Facebook that was very sad.  It was a video of a 50 plus year old man named Scott – also called “Spider,” who told the story of his life through written cards, in a fashion similar to Ben Breedlove’s “This is my story” about his heart condition. In the video, this tough looking man, confessed the trauma of his own sexual abuse and the damage it had done to him over the years – drug abuse, divorce, culminating in an arrest for beating his child’s sexual predator with a bat.

The story was naturally sad but is all too common.  In fact, statistics shows that 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18 and worse for girls with 1 in 3.  The other sad fact is that many, many children who are sexually abused don’t tell anyone.  Either they are threatened or ashamed – or both.  They carry the secret for much of their lives.

Trauma, abuse, neglect – biology didn’t account for its infliction on children.  As children, our brains develop best in a loving,
supportive environment with plenty of nutritional food and quality exercise so that our bodies become the best they can be.  Childhood Trauma - Mental HhealthAround the world we see the damage that poor nutrition, neglect and physical abuse can do to children.  What is not so obvious is the damage wreaked by sexual abuse – it is a hidden traumaSexual abuse is hidden by the child, hidden from the adults, hidden from other children, and sometimes even hidden by the child’s memory.

Secrets are always dark.  Carrying secrets can ruin a relationship or ruin a career.  Carrying secrets imposes a burden of stress on your body – your heart doesn’t work as well, your adrenal system gets burned out, your sleep is affected.  Carrying a secret like that can change a child’s brain.

Studies have shown that abuse or childhood trauma actually causes physical changes to the developing brain.  It can make the child unable to grow to what they would have been.

So what does this have to do with mental health?

The effects of childhood trauma are hard to predict.  Mental health is hard to identify – particularly the cause.  In some cases, we can easily point to the parents and say “Mom and Grandma have clinical depression; it is no surprise that the daughter has depression.”  Schizophrenia has been shown to be driven by over 100 genes and a child with one schizophrenic person has a 13 percent chance of developing the disorder.  Some people are “born” alcoholics in that they are missing an enzyme that allows them to process alcohol properly and will nearly always become addicted if they drink.

In other cases – we can’t identify the cause.  You have some cases of mental disorders that develop in people with perfect childhoods.  You have people with horrible experiences who are remarkably healthy – rare, but true.  In many cases though, someone with a history of child abuse will develop some mental disorder – but the type is very hard to predict.

In “Spider’s” case, he became a drug addict, had an anger problem and felt that he had to prove he could “conquer” women (his own words), leading to the destruction of his family.  Likely he suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, and possibly Mental Health - Child AbusePost-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Telling the “secret”, not carrying the weight may, just may have kept him from his self-destructive behavior.  Unfortunately, it may not have stopped his daughter from being a victim, but it might have allowed him better tools than a bat to deal with her problem.

In severe cases, extreme trauma can actually cause the personality to “split,” in “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID), which was previously called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD).

(Photo-source: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/08/scott_spider_spideralamode_facebook_molest.php)

Sexual abuse has another problem – that children are often disbelieved which worsens the trauma.  Unlike physical abuse, unlike neglect, unlike starvation – there are no “obvious” signs.  There are signs, but you have to know what they are.  Children who have been sexually abused do exhibit signs:

•    changes in behavior or personality type – a normally outgoing child becomes withdrawn, a normally gregarious child becomes angry and sullen
•    bed wetting and nightmares (oddly the bed-wetting may be punished)
•    refusal to go to school, church, sports or club activities or to a certain friend’s house
•    sudden clinginess or a sudden desire to be left alone

Too often, adults don’t ask.  Too often, children don’t tell.  Sadly, sometimes adults won’t listen.  If you know of a child that has
sudden behavioral changes – ask.  If you are an adult, believe.  If you are a victim, tell.  Even at a late date, telling can change your life and resolve some of your “issues.” I think in the end, “Spider’s” main message was “tell your kids to tell.”

What does this have to do with mental health?

Sexual abuse can contribute to:

PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, Attachment Disorder… and many more.

History of Child Abuse – Free PDF

Melissa Lind