Realm of Psychological Disorder Through the Use Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

realm of psychological disorder through the use of a character assessment. The character in question is fictional and the data used to evaluate the psychological profile derives from a movie. Melvin Udall, the main character in the movie "As Good as It Gets" serves as the character used in this assessment. Ultimately, I find and explore specific links to Melvin's condition in the movie to that of one suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

In order to discuss the relationships previously mentioned, I needed to perform several steps in order to logically conclude that Melvin represents someone suffering from OCD symptoms. In order to accomplish this task, I first watched the film and examined many of the traits that Melvin demonstrated. Next, I used a set of ten questions which provided a baseline assessment formula. These questions are each answered separately within the body of this essay. This character assessment is also supported by arguments from research throughout the composition of this essay to help add context and support to the claims. By answering these questions, a steadfast revealing of Melvin's condition points to a man with a severe, yet improving Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


The 1997 feature film " As Good as It Gets" documents the happenings of the life of OCD sufferer Melvin Udall. Melvin lives in New York City, and works as a very successful and profitable romance novelist. The film depicts Melvin as a very bothersome, rude and non-empathetic personality, extremely dependent on certain routines and rituals. Throughout the film his life becomes intertwined with his homosexual, and, according to Melvin, loathsome, neighbor Simon. Additionally, Melvin's favorite waitress, and maybe the only one who really likes Melvin, Carol begins to play a larger role in Melvin's life as the film progresses.

As the lives of these three people begin to relate to each other in new ways throughout the movie, Melvin displays the attributes as someone with Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. The OCD afflicting Melvin is at times humorous and provides comic relief especially when it backfires towards Melvin. Also, however, we see that Melvin does suffer from serious and often torturous episodes of breakdown and conflict stemming from his personality disorder.

A character assessment case report using ten separate criteria will provide the necessary evaluation to successfully examine Melvin:

1. Presenting Problems

Melvin has problems that stand out. Mostly, his problems deal with his need to have things his way. Melvin resists at all times his ability to become socially flexible. This stubbornness materializes into a series of conflicts that appear as destructive. Melvin's use of strong and harsh language, especially in social settings, makes it hard for Melvin to attract quality people into his life.

Melvin's other most distinct problem, is his tendency to perform physical rituals. These nervous tics are also very disruptive and seemingly irrational. Melvin, for instance, will only be served by one certain waitress, Carol at her specific restaurant. Melvin, throughout most of the movie, also engages in ritualistic behavior including avoiding cracks in the sidewalk while walking, shutting the door multiple times when entering a room, and displaying a strong phobia of germs from human contact. Melvin is seeing a psychological doctor but rarely takes his prescribed medicine.

2. Mental Status Examination

Melvin is a middle aged man, physically strong with good posture. He is well groomed, with an extraordinary eye for detail. His manner is forceful and strong. Melvin is extremely alert of his circumstances but reacts oddly in ritualistic behavior when encountered in stressful situations. Melvin has fine motor skills, and speaks clearly and forcefully.

Melvin is a very moody individual, but mostly cantankerous and sullen. But, when agitated, he becomes very aggressive in speech mostly, but has physically threatened others at times as well. Melvin is depressed by nature and possesses a pessimistic attitude in his relationships with others. Ironically, his odd behavior shows no negative effect on his ability to engage in a very successful career as a novelist. Melvin is very intelligent and understands human emotion very well even though he has trouble controlling his own emotional condition. He is not abnormally confused and seems to be quite aware of his illness. He often seeks psychiatric counseling but does not take his medicine unless properly motivated.

3. History of Presenting Problems

Not much is known of Melvin Udall's past. Melvin once and briefly complained of his father's abuse which may contribute to some of his own disruptive behavior. Melvin's short-term history is noteworthy however. It seemed that throughout the month or so the movie played out, Melvin's condition gradually became better as he was more receptive to taking his medication. It appears that his relationships that developed over the history of this time had a positive and harmonizing effect on Melvin.

4. Environment/Era

It is important to note the urban background to Marvin's life. New York City, one of the largest and most busiest places in the world is where Marvin resides. City life places unique stresses on the human mind as much more opportunities for relationships are offered. A continuing bombardment of new and unique stimuli may cause some people to erect certain psychological defenses. The dense population habitat that Marvin navigates on a daily basis exposes him to much of the degenerative behaviors played out publically in large urban areas frequently.

Marvin's immediate environment also poses some questions about its contribution to his mental stability. Marvin's apartment is very nice and orderly however, he detests having visitors. Progress was gained in this area by the end of the movie as Melvin allowed Simon to move in with him. It seems that the more Melvin interacts with people on a deeper level the more he is willing to take on in terms of empathetic responsibility that accompanies such relationships.

5. Past Treatment

It appears that Melvin's work with his psychotherapist has not been working well. Throughout most of this film, Melvin had many troublesome episodes dealing with his emotional and mental troubles. He mentioned on occasion that he disliked taking his medication due to the side effects. By the end of the movie, it seems Carol's willingness to accept Melvin has motivated him to keep to a more regimented medicine schedule. Melvin explicitly offered this as he proclaimed she made him "want to be a better man."

6. Formulation

Leckman et al. (1997) concluded that "Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a multidimensional and etiologically heterogeneous condition. " Furthermore their research suggested that OCD can by identified by four factors: obsessions and checking, symmetry and ordering, cleanliness and washing, and hoarding. These factors help positively identify who may be suffering from this disorder when these behaviors are being demonstrated.

The symptoms mentioned above are all on full display throughout the film's portrayal of Melvin. Melvin obsesses about his routines as only certain tables at restaurants and certain foods may be consumed. Melvin also demonstrates an extreme tendency to order his surroundings. This stereotypical male homosexual behavior serves as a bonding moment as Melvin admires Simon's ability to order his suitcase and packing abilities.

Melvin is very driven to avoid excessive contact with humans as he fears the foreign germs and bacteria will ultimately harm him. This symptom again points to Melvin having some sort of OCD. The fourth and final symptom of hoarding is not as evident as the other symptoms. Melvin does in fact hoard Simon's dog, as he grew a deep affinity to the pet after he looked after it during Simon's crisis. This tendency to keep things to himself does not resemble hoarding per se, but helps round out a clearer picture as to the specific qualities of OCD that Melvin continues to display.

7. Is the character's behavior abnormal?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing." To determine if Melvin is acting abnormally then the focus should be on his stress levels. Melvin seems very much in distress and in complete disharmony with is environment. This suggests that Melvin's behavior transcends normal habits into a realm of obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

8. Diagnosis: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCD)

Multi-axial summary:

Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder DSM-IV-TR: #300.3

The source suggests that Melvin is suffering from this anxiety disorder. Biological and psychological causes are both suspected as contributing cases of this particular disorder. This disorder falls under the second axis of categorization. OCD differs by lack of purpose behind the ritualistic behavior displayed. Ritual is taken to an extreme where temporary relief is gained by displaying this behavior.

The etiology behind this disorder is not fully understood. There is some correlation behind genetic causes but not overwhelmingly. Brown suggested that "Overall, it appears plausible to say that in most cases, obsessive-compulsive disorder represents an inherited

abnormality of serotoninergic…

Sources Used in Document:


Atkins, L. (2009). A radical treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder patients. The Guardian, 14 Dec 2009. Retrieved from gamma-knife

Brooks, J.L. (1998) As Good As It Gets. Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear. Tristar Pictures.

Bouchard, C. Rheaume, J. Landouceru, R. (1998). Responsibility and perfectionism in OCD. Behavior Research Therapy 37 (1999). 239-248. Retrieved from s/Assigned%20Readings/Experimental%20Psychopathology/Bouchard99.pdf

Eddy, M.F., & Walbroehl, G.S. (1998, April 1). Recognition and treatment of obsessive- compulsive disorder. American Family Physician, p. 1623-1632.

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