Diagnosing Schizophrenia in John Nash from A Beautiful Mind

July 15, 2021

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According to the American Psychological Association, schizophrenia is a general term used to denote a group of serious psychological disorders characterized by the following symptoms: awkward behavior and speech, illogical and/or incoherent thoughts, hearing voices, hallucinations, and delusions (“Schizophrenia,” 2017). Scientists have estimated that the first symptoms of schizophrenia start to manifest themselves mostly in the early adulthood. “Schizophrenia can cause hallucinations, delusions and unusual behaviors, as well as cognitive challenges, such as problems with memory, attention and concentration” (“Schizophrenia”, 2017, Getting help section, para. 2). Specialists in the field of mental healthcare list delusional beliefs among the characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia (Hankir, Holloway, Zaman, & Agius, 2015). Delusional beliefs, hallucinations, and outbursts of anger are the symptoms that John Nash, the main character of the film A Beautiful Mind, experiences (Grazer & Howard, 2011). The most difficult and, at the same time, the most important part of treating psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, apart from medication itself, is re-socialization of people afflicted with them, in other words, helping mentally challenged people to become a part of broader society again. A Beautiful Mind provides insight into the inner workings of the mind of a person afflicted with a serious psychological disorder. A Beautiful Mind is a story of living with schizophrenia and struggling with it. The film’s main character, John Nash, is a Mathematics genius who allegedly progresses to full-on hallucinations. John Nash’s is the example of a person who managed to get the symptoms of his own condition under control. Admittedly, though, John Nash is never healed.

It is a firmly held belief that psychological problems are difficult to tackle and mental disorders are difficult to cure. Typically, therapists prescribe antipsychotic drugs to relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychological treatments and medication are essential for treating the symptoms of schizophrenia, particularly, cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive psychotherapy prove to be effective. A Beautiful Mind is a conclusive proof that the treatments mentioned above can actually help when they are used together. Therefore, health psychology and community play an equally important role in rehabilitating mentally challenged people, such as John Nash, the main character of the film A Beautiful Mind.

John Nash’s battle with schizophrenia is the focal point of the film A Beautiful Mind. The film is based on John Nash’s life, a Nobel laureate who has been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia for over 30 years (Dave & Tandon, 2011; Araoz & Woods, 2012). The film portrays in detail the onset of Nash’s disease. The main character’s disease began with the vision of a Government agent informing him that those in power have chosen him to decipher a secret the Nazis may be using to denote a nuclear bomb in America (Grazer & Howard, 2001; Dave & Tandon, 2011). Nash believes that they have implanted a chip into his forearm (Grazer & Howard, 2001; Dave & Tandon, 2011). As the symptoms of Nash’s disease start to worsen, it is decided that he should take antipsychotic medication. Eventually, Nash begins to neglect his self-care, which affects his work in a negative way (Grazer & Howard, 2001; Dave & Tandon, 2011). Nash feels unwell and becomes increasingly paranoid as a result (Grazer & Howard, 2001; Dave & Tandon, 2011). Experiencing the side-effects of antipsychotic medication compel Nash to refuse to take it. Nash’s refusal of medication leads to relapse. Due to hallucinations that he is experiencing, Nash hurts his wife (Grazer & Howard, 2001). All things considered, even though A Beautiful Mind can be categorized as a biographical movie, it by no means can be taken as a credible historical source. On the other hand, A Beautiful Mind is a conclusive proof that films of that kind contain an education constituent within them. In other words, films like A Beautiful Mind not only shed the light on the mechanics of mental disorder(s) but also teach how to help the mentally challenged people effectively.

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A Beautiful Mind is a film that portrays living with a disease, specifically how a mental condition can affect the lives of those afflicted with it. In the film under consideration “a crisis in knowing precipitates a crisis of being” (Araoz &Woods, 2012, p. 1). John Nash’s is the case when “schizophrenia is coextensive with a breakdown in the coherence of mathematical language” (Araoz & Woods, 2012, p. 1). A heated discussion ensued after A Beautiful Mind was released in 2001.There were those who criticized the film for the deliberate oversimplification of science, inaccurate and somewhat romanticized portrayal of Nash’s life. People who criticize the film maintain that some sensitive yet important subjects, the facts from the life of the real John Nash, have been overlooked. At the same time, there are many people who praise the film A Beautiful Mind for “accuracy” and the attempt to make “a complex theory accessible and even entertaining” (Araoz & Woods, 2012, p. 4). The film’s depiction of schizophrenia is another point of controversy.

Many specialists in the field of mental healthcare praise the film and recommend using it as an educational tool. Others, on the other hand, prove that the makers of the film A Beautiful Mind have created a distorted and overly optimistic vision of schizophrenia. Personally, I share an opinion that the best way to interpret the film is to realize that the problems addressed in the film lie at the confluence of mathematics (science), masculinity, and mental health. To develop the foregoing statement further, it is worth mentioning that depicting a disease, either physical or mental, in a work of art requires a great deal of tact and responsibility to approach the subject objectively and meet ethical issues.

The evidence does support that A Beautiful Mind shaped real lives. To prove the point stated above, one might like to consider a story of a man, whose narrative/case report became a part of the peer-reviewed article by Hankir, Holloway, Zaman., & Agius:

I’ll never forget how I was diagnosed with schizophrenia the same year that the film A Beautiful Mind (2001) was released in the cinema. I vividly remember how A Beautiful Mind had a profound influence on my understanding of ‘normal thinking’. Until then I could not fathom the ‘poisonous fog polluting my mind’. I now know the ‘poisonous fog’ that clouds my judgement and interferes with my perception of the world stems from a serious neurological dysfunction in the brain (2015, p. 138).

Watching the films like A Beautiful Mind can help to relieve the symptoms of schizophrenias because they help those afflicted with a mental disorder to understand the nature of their condition. Apart from that, the films like A Beautiful Mind can benefit mental health specialists as they provide insight into the experience of living with a mental disorder. More importantly, however, A Beautiful Mind is a kind of a film that shows how one can get the symptoms of a mental disorder under control. In addition, John Nash’s case proves that creativity and love of learning affect mentally challenged person’s ability to heal. Patients and mental healthcare providers need to communicate effectively to ensure better therapeutic outcomes.

“Schizophrenia is arguably the most serious major psychiatric disorder” (Mueser & Jeste, 2011). Schizophrenia is typically developing in adolescence and/or early childhood. The disease has some considerable effect on individual’s day-to-day activities. It affects virtually all aspects of activities of the individuals afflicted with it. People suffering from schizophrenia have difficulty navigating many aspects of daily life, such as taking care of themselves, attending school, working, doing parental and all kinds of social duties, enjoying their leisure time, and building relationships with other people (Mueser & Jeste, 2011). Progress in understanding schizophrenia has marked the recent development of therapeutic techniques. Up to these days, no effective treatment of schizophrenia exists. On the other hand, scientists have found that psychosocial and pharmacological treatments combined prove effective. Apart from that, scientists report that there were some changes in understanding the treatment, course, and outcome of schizophrenia (Mueser & Jeste, 2011). A Beautiful Mind is the film that focuses on living with this mental condition. However, the film in no way sheds the light on the possible causes of schizophrenia. At the same time, the film depicts some real-life strategies of battling schizophrenia. The problem here is that understanding the causes of schizophrenia may potentially be a key to the successful and effective treatment of schizophrenia.

Scientists have estimated that schizophrenia spectrum disorders occur in all societies at a rate of 0,5% (Mueser & Jeste, 2011, p. 23). The risk factors of developing schizophrenia include but are not limited to genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and substance abuse. Substance abuse in schizophrenia is typically associated with “a worse longitudinal course of illness” (Mueser & Jeste, 2011, p. 23). “Schizophrenia often has a chronic longitudinal course, expressly if the onset of the illness is early in life, insidious in onset, and dominated by negative symptoms” (Mueser & Jeste, 2011, p. 23). Lastly, schizophrenia may increase the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. Even though the extensive studies are currently taking place, etiology and pathophysiology of schizophrenia remain understudied. Scientists intend to use brain imaging to shed the light on the causes and pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia has been classified as a familial disorder. By doing so, scientists emphasize the role of the genetic component in developing schizophrenia. Scholars have established a connection between social and emotional reactivity and schizophrenia (Mueser & Jeste, 2011). The evidence does support that life events may potentially trigger the episodes of schizophrenia. The disease is typically associated with the restricted social networks. A lack of confidant has been identified as a factor related to increased symptoms of schizophrenia (Mueser & Jeste, 2011). The first line of treatment has proved ineffective in many cases. Therefore, adjunctive psychological interventions were invented and have already been proven to improve the treatment outcomes. “Psychological interventions seem to work by improving both disturbed affect and cognitive appraisals” (Mueser & Jeste, 2011, p. 81). John Nash in particular exhibits positive (hallucinations and delusions) and negative (avolition) symptoms of schizophrenia alike. Avolition is a condition typically characterized by the lack of motivation and often can be a sign of a serious psychological problem. Involvement in social activity, constant presence of the close people in his life, and doing science are the factors that helped John Nash to get the symptoms of his disorder under control.

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According to DSM-V, a diagnosis can be made only if two and more of the following symptoms have been observed: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech (“Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5,” 2013, p. 3). John Nash obviously has difficulty establishing contacts and interacting with other people (Grazer & Howard, 2001). He has occasional hallucinations and outbursts of anger, all of which are disturbing. To make the relevant diagnosis of John Nash’s disorder, I would ask him about his mood and annoying factors. Additionally, I would question Nash’s immediate surroundings about the changes in his behavior.

As for the treatment plan, if I were a therapist and had a patient with similar symptoms, I would recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. I might as well prescribe some sedatives to help the patient with anxiety and nervousness. I would run some blood test to indicate whether or not hallucinations and/or delusions are drug-related or are symptoms of dementia or delirium. After that, a decision will be made whether the prescription of anti-psychotic medication would be appropriate.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition. Mental conditions are associated with many ethical issues. A Beautiful Mind is one of the films in which a mental disorder is a focal point. Additionally, A Beautiful Mind is a biographical film. The film depicts the Nobel laureate’s John Nash’s life and struggle with schizophrenia. The film is a conclusive proof that medication should be prescribed responsibly when attempting to treat a mental disorder. Additionally, the film shows that identifying the symptoms of a mental disorder and matching them with the disorder requires a great deal of responsibility and competence. The film portrays how living with a mental disorder affects the protagonist’s personal and professional life. The film shows how important in people’s life are achieving peace of mind and inner harmony. With that idea in mind, the makers of the film A Beautiful Mind prove that living a fulfilling life with a mental disorder is possible, even though such disorders are never fully treated.