Portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Thus, though Melvin is not a picture of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it is clear that James L. Brooks, the movie's producer, has intended to describe him as a sufferer of this disorder.

Reflection of the Positive, Negative, and Correct Portrayal Regarding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the Mental Health Profession

In general as Good as it Gets, is an uplifting movie about how even those with mental disorders and those who are down on their luck, like Carol, can find happiness. Although he suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Melvin is characterized as remotely successful. He is a popular author of several novels, as is exemplified by the fact that, on the way out of his publisher's office, he is met by an adoring fan, even though he treats her with contempt. In addition, Melvin is not only a popular novelist, but the movie suggests that he is also quite well off financially. He is able to pay for a private doctor for Carol's son, live a remotely upscale lifestyle, and do other favors for friends, such as taking Simon on a road trip to see his parents. Although is rude, and at times very insensitive, he is also portrayed as being capable of extreme kindness. For instance, he sets Carol up with the private doctor, takes care of Simon's dog, and eventually allows Simon to stay in his home. This also suggests that Melvin was able to change his attitude. At the beginning of the novel, he was often rude to others, and wanted nothing more than to live in his own world, which was dictated by his obsessions and compulsions. In addition, he was intolerant of others, such as homosexuals, African-Americans, and Jews. At the end of the film, however, he has learned to open himself up to other ideas. Thus, the film makes a positive statement about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, suggesting that those affected by the disorder are able to complete many tasks that other without the disorder could complete, become successful, and even manage to change their views and enter into meaningful relationships.

Despite this positive portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, however, the movie also portrayed the disorder, several times in a negative, or at least incorrect, light. Probably the most famous scene that depicts this point is the scene where Melvin makes anti-Semitic remarks regarding two people who are sitting at the booth where he normally sits in Carol's restaurant. Although it is clear that Melvin is making these remarks because he wants to sit at this particular table, the remarks are scathing, and would most likely be offensive to many. Furthermore, Melvin compounds this image by making intolerant remarks regarding African-Americans, women, and homosexuals throughout the movie. This casts a negative light on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder because it suggests that the obsessions that these people deal with are intolerant in nature, while this is not true. Also, though he is capable of extreme kindness, Melvin has a rather sour personality. Sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be very kind, caring people, despite the fact that they are riddled by obsessions and compulsions. Should someone with no prior knowledge of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder view this film, the combination of these positive and negative viewpoints would be rather frustrating to understand. As the disorder is portrayed correctly, for the most part, viewers may be unsure of what facets of Melvin's personality are simply due to Melvin's attitude and personality, and which are the result of obsessive compulsive disorder. They may think that sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder must be rude, or must make intolerant comments. This may make these people worry about becoming friends with a person who is afflicted with this condition.

Other than simply presenting positive and negative views of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, viewers of this movie may find themselves forming opinions of the mental health profession based on the film. Surprisingly for a film about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the interaction between Melvin and a professional in the field of psychology is only seen once. Melvin walks into the office of a psychiatrist that he's obviously seen before. The viewer can assume that he is trying to seek treatment in order to make himself more appealing to Carol, who still sees him as rather disturbing at this point. The psychology professional becomes frustrated with Melvin, yelling at him and telling him to make an appointment. While Melvin and this professional may have had many interactions in the past that resulted in the professional's current behavior, this scene may cause readers to assume that psychology professionals are mean spirited and unwilling to accommodate their patients. In addition, it may even make some viewers hesitant to consult a psychologist should they need to do so. This is a frightening concept, and should have been considered by James L. Brooks and the film's writers before production.

In addition to this negative portrayal of the mental health profession, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is portrayed in a way that is incorrect several times. The primary instance of this is the treatment of the disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 2008, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is treated by medications and therapy. Although Melvin's obsessions and compulsions seem to lessen at the end of the film, he has not been taking medication, and has clearly not been in therapy, as exemplified in the aforementioned scene where he interacts with the mental health professional. Although he is not undergoing treatment, however, Melvin manages to enter his home without the prescribed five flicks of the switches and turning of the locks, implying that his love for Carol has enabled him to change. This is, of course, rather unlikely. In addition, Melvin's compulsions are not always seen as compulsory. For instance, we see Melvin in the restaurant contemplating eating with Carol's silverware without breaking down, and the audience witnesses Melvin eating in restaurants many times, despite his obsession with cleanliness. Finally, the audience is not presented with any real proof that his obsessions cause him much anxiety or that he fears breaking his compulsory habits because of some consequence that might befall him. For instance, Melvin is often seen as fearful of engaging in a task, like going into the store where men's suits are sold, but no full-blown anxiety attack is ever really witnesses.

Thus, the movie as Good as it Gets discusses the concept of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in both a positive and negative light. The movie, which shows that those afflicted with this disorder can lead successful business and personal lives, may be a good introduction to the ailment for those who feel cautious about befriending someone in their own lives who has the disorder. The negative portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, however, including Melvin's poor attitude and his intolerance, make the movie a poor introduction to the disorder for many. In fact, watching this movie may make the disorder seem more harmful than it really is. In conclusion, while this popular movie depicts Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in a manner that is almost accurate, viewers may have trouble separating the truths from the fabrications. Because of this, viewers must use caution when presenting this movie as a depiction of this particular disorder.


Brooks, James (Producer, Director). (1997). As Good as it Gets [Motion Picture]. United

States: Tristar.

DSM -- "IV Classification. (2004). Retrieved January 17, 2008, at http://www.a2zpsychology.com/resources/dsm_iv.htm

DSM -- "IV: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (2008). Retrieved January 17, 2008, at http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/o-cd.htm

National Institute of Mental Health (2008, July 26). When Unwanted Thoughts Take

Over: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved January 17, 2008, at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/when-unwanted-thoughts-take-over-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/summary.shtml

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