The movie “As Good as It Gets” portrays a character, Melvin Udall, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder falls under the category of anxiety disorders, which contains a group of disorders that share similar characteristics. Anxiety disorders all typically become aroused over apprehension over an anticipated problem. There are physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms which are elicited from the apprehension. Physical symptoms may include increased heart rate, increased respiration, sweating, and trembling. Cognitive symptoms may include preoccupation, a loss of concentration, and rumination. Finally, emotional symptoms may include apprehensiveness and terror. These symptoms result from the “flight or fight” response triggered in our body. This response comes from the autonomic nervous system and specifically the parasympathetic nervous system. These are parts of the nervous system which control things we do not think about, like breathing and keeping our heart beating. It is not necessarily bad for the parasympathetic nervous system to become aroused because it help in times of danger, but in the case of someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, it becomes aroused too easily or too often. Irrational cognitions lead to its arousal.
In the case of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the subject will typically have intrusive and unwilling thoughts (obsessions) which give rise to anxiety. Because of this created anxiety, the subject will feel compelled to perform a behavior related to the obsession. These behaviors (compulsions) become ritualized to a point where they are detrimental to the subject’s functioning because the compulsions are repeated with a high frequency. Examples of obsessions include fear of contamination, aggressive impulses, extreme doubt, and extreme indecision. Examples of compulsions include repeatedly washing one’s hands, checking locks over and over, and pursuing cleanliness and orderliness through elaborate routines. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic disorder and it is difficult to completely recover from it. It often develops in the subject before age 10 or late in adolescence.
The treatment used to cure obsessive-compulsive disorder, like many anxiety disorders, is through exposure. However, unlike the exposure for most other anxiety disorders which is gradual, the exposure for obsessive-compulsive disorder must be intense. The subject is to be exposed to one of their obsessions, but not be allowed to perform the compulsion associated with the obsession. They can not perform the compulsion at all. For example, if they subject has a fear of contamination and washes their hands multiple times, the treatment would be to make them touch something dirty and not allow them to wash their hands. If you let them wash their hands even once or twice, the treatment would not be effective. Through time their anxiety will extinguish and they will no longer have the obsessions, and in turn, the compulsions.
The movie “As Good as It Gets” is about how the main character, Melvin Udall, is first portrayed as an arrogant, insensitive person who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and by the end, he becomes a more caring person and suffers slightly less from obsessive-compulsive disorder than he does at the beginning of the movie. Melvin is neighbors with an artist named Simon who is robbed and mugged, and goes through some emotional problems. Melvin reluctantly helps him out by watching his dog and by eventually letting Simon move in with him. Carol is a waitress at a diner where Melvin goes for breakfast every day. Eating breakfast at the diner and having Carol serve him is part of Melvin’s routine and when she takes off work one day to take care of her sick son, Melvin becomes very anxious because his routine is interrupted. At this point he starts to become involved with Carol’s life and eventually by the end of the movie they are dating. During the course of the movie, Melvin portrays many obsessions and compulsions.
One obsession that Melvin suffers from is a fear of contamination. Melvin first shows this obsession through the compulsion of cleaning himself. He uses steaming hot water and a brand new bar of soap when washing his hands. He uses the bar of soap for only a few seconds, throws it away, and then opens a new bar of soap to use. When taking showers, Melvin again uses steaming hot water and stays in the shower for much longer than the normal person would. Another way Melvin shows his fear of contamination is by always wearing gloves when he outside of his apartment. He is afraid to touch anything with his bare hands when he does not know that it is clean. He also throws the gloves away after wearing them because he thinks they have been contaminated. Melvin shows extreme anxiety when people try to touch him. The thought of being touched by another person and becoming contaminated controls him, and he makes a very conscious effort to avoid being touched. Lastly, Melvin always brings his own plastic utensils to use at the diner instead of the utensils provided. He thinks that the utensils provided at the diner are not clean, even though everyone else at the diner uses them. This again shows his obsession over contamination.
Another obsession Melvin has is about organization and control. His apartment is portrayed as being very organized and that he made a conscious effort and took time to organize it. For example, he has jars filled with hundreds of “Skittles” or “M&M’s that are separated by their color. Melvin’s day must also be standardized and routine. He goes to the same diner every day for breakfast and has the same waitress wait on him, which in turn gives him a sense of control. When the waitress is not there to serve him one day, he becomes very anxious because her absence ruins his organized and routine based day. Also, when Melvin is asked to take Simon to visit his parents in Baltimore, Melvin is very reluctant to take Simon partially because he does not want his routine to be interrupted. Melvin is a writer, so he could easily take a couple days off for the trip, but the thought of breaking his routine troubles him.
One last obsession Melvin shows is that of doubt. Melvin has a compulsion of locking the door to his apartment several times, just to make sure it is locked. When Melvin and Carol are going out for dinner, Melvin asks several people if the restaurant serves hard shell crabs. Everyone he asks replies “yes”, but because of his obsession about doubt, he asks multiple people. If he were to only lock the doors once or only ask one person if the restaurant carried hard shell crabs, he would become anxious because his obsession of doubt.
Melvin shows a few other compulsions during the movie which do not seem to have blatant corresponding obsessions. For example, it is stated that Melvin has written 62 books. That is an extreme number of books for anybody to write. The high number of books Melvin has written may be due in part to his obsession about routine and organization. It is not clearly shown in the movie, but part of Melvin’s routine may be to write for so many hours of each day or to write a certain number of pages each day. One other compulsion Melvin shows is that he does not step on cracks. Whether he is walking on a tile floor, a brick pathway, or on the sidewalk, he will make a very conscious effort not to step on any cracks. One way to explain this might be through his obsession about doubt. Something bad may have happened to him in the past when he stepped on a crack, so now he has a recurring thought that something bad will happen to him again if he were to step on a crack. He could have an obsession of doubt about his safety.
The symptoms portrayed in the movie seem very accurate for someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder; however the means through which Melvin’s symptoms are diminished do not match the normal treatment for someone with the disorder. The main way to treat the disorder is through intense exposure to the obsessions without letting the subject perform the compulsions associated with the obsessions. However, in the movie Melvin mentions that his doctor prescribed him medication to deal with his disorder. Medication is not the typical means to treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. Melvin also mentions that his doctor told him he should break his routine. This would be a more correct way for Melvin to overcome his disorder, but it does not sound like his psychologist gave him specific instructions. In my opinion, it seems like Melvin was given the discrepancy to determine when he wants to break his routine and the extent to which he would deviate from the norm. This would not be good judgment in part by the psychologist. They should have probably exposed Melvin to some of his obsessions during therapy and not let him perform the compulsion.
Also in the movie, it is suggested that as Melvin becomes connected to Carol the waitress his symptoms start to diminish. For example, near the end of the movie, Melvin is preoccupied with thoughts about Carol and he forgets to lock his door. Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder would most likely not forget to perform their ritual of locking their door just because they are thinking about something else. Usually the obsessions are so engraved into their minds that they will stop to perform the compulsions no matter what. His fear of contamination also diminishes to an extent when he is with Carol, as he allows her to kiss him. This exposure seems like a more clinical approach to extinguishing his fear of contamination. It is a sudden and intense exposure to possible contamination. Melvin can not just go and brush his teeth after kissing her because that would be rude and he likes her, so he starts to see his fear of contamination may be irrational and he starts to become more physical. This is shown when he pats Simon on the shoulder later on, which is something he never would have done at the beginning.
Lastly, at the very end of the movie Melvin finally walks on cracks when he is with Carol. He is forced to walk on the cracks because he would look silly walking 10 feet away from her where there are no cracks. It is a sudden and intense exposure to walking on cracks, and Melvin sees that nothing bad happens, so his obsession of doubt may start to diminish. Overall, the movie “As Good as It Gets” does a fairly good job at portraying obsessive-compulsive disorder, however it tries to portray the way it is diminished is through personal connection, rather than through intense exposure to obsessions without the ability to perform the associated compulsions.
This academia was first published 6 Apr 2008 and last revised 13 Feb 2016.Adam Cap is a sometimes raconteur, rare dingus collector, and webmaster probably best known for SixPrizes (serving as “El Capitan”) and PkmnCards (read: fine art purveyor). He scrapbooks yonder every minute or three.
The movie, As Good As It Gets, brought out the true picture about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The production, As Good As It Gets, provides a base for people to learn more about the above anxiety disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is brought about biologically, and it attacks the brain bringing in compulsions and obsessions. The compulsions and obsessions give an individual uncontrolled anxiety. This anxiety majorly affects the day to day functioning of an individual as the individual experiences repetitive compulsive behaviors. The compulsive behaviors assist them to prevent the feared anticipated results the obsession might bring.
When analyzing the movie, I gained more knowledge on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and the effects it has on the character that has it. We also understand the impact the disease has on the immediate relations of the character. The main character in the movie, Melvin Udall, is a middle aged man who is apparently despised by his neighbors. He lives in New York City, in an apartment where a female neighbor shows disgust when she meets him in the hallway.
The otherwise happy neighbor is clearly displeased by the condition of the main character. She insults the main character then moves into her apartment. Simon Bishop is another neighbor in Melvin’s flat. Bishop is gay and portrays to Melvin that he does not love anything. It is easy to see that the neighbors do not like Melvin. This can be attributed to his illness. The appalling behavior demonstrates how the people who surround people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder think of the disease (Leticia, 1999).
Melvin’s condition causes him to react weirdly to certain scenes. Melvin, the main character, picks up the neighbor’s dog and places it down the rubbish chute. When Melvin was confronted about the issue, he hurled insult to the neighbor, Simon, because he was gay. The insults also target Simon’s partner, Frank, the art dealer, because he is black. The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder causes Melvin to behave as if he enjoys insulting the neighbor, but it caused him great distress. This is shown when Melvin sighs a sign of relieve when he gets back into his apartment.
The main character, Melvin not only shows social ineptness but also shows compulsive behavior. This can be seen when he constantly counts aloud while he turns the top and then bottom lock five times each. This is done every time he opens or locks the doors. It is also demonstrated when he flicks the lights five times, washes his hands with very hot water and with a new bar of soap every time disposing full bars of soap at each wash. Melvin also has a routine systematic hand washing ritual that is done twice; he also disposes his used gloves outside his apartment (Craik, 2006).
Melvin’s behavior might be seen as insane, but his deeds are very normal. His psychiatric rehabilitation diagnoses show that he had a normal and stable living environment. He had clean items for his used and a well stocked array of assorted goods he needed for his day to day activities. Melvin did not share his apartment with anybody; therefore, he had complete control of the hygiene, orderliness and the people who visited his home. This is conceived to be a well functioning living environment for any human being.
The main character, Melvin, is a freelance writer. He works in the comforts of his home by himself. This shows that his working environment was also as controlled as his home environment. He appears to be satisfied with his life, both the lining environment and the work environment. Melvin’s vocational success, though it looks satisfied, is optimized because of his type of work environment and his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. His working environment allows for flexibility in scheduling to accommodate any fluctuations experienced. The fluctuations can be unexpected interruptions.
We see that there are consistent day to day expectations that make his work consistent and predictable. He also minimizes the need to make decisions and dictates his own work pace to accommodate his perfect behaviors and tendencies. The main actor avoids the need to work closely with others as he exercises full control of his working environment. He does not disclose his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This is because his books sell and, therefore, he does not require any financial assistance.
Melvin’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder required assistance, but his environment prevents him to access it. The psychiatric diagnostic informs readers that the illness can be controlled and is symptom driven. Frank and Gagne show the failure of psychiatric diagnostic brought about by his extensive research. The outcome of psychiatric research is based on its success that requires no control over outcome or predicts rehabilitations (Trek, 2001).
There are people with mental disorders, like Melvin’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, who have not performed their role in life nor established their learning and social environments. It is important for people with the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to develop a psychiatric rehabilitation diagnosis that address the function and is environmentally driven. It is environmentally decided because different skills are required in different fields. If the patient is in the front office business, one might require different skills for the telephone receptionist and the welcoming attendant.
The psychiatric rehabilitation diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients is specified to the individual patient. This follows the multi axial components. Assessment of the patient is done individually for the living standards, learning environment and achievement, social environment and working environment.
The main character’s condition can be addressed by use of both Axis 1 and Axis 2 diagnosis. His clinical disorders caused him to make rush reactions. They required medical attention to control his behavior. His mood and anxiety disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, requires Axis 1 intervention.
Melvin is also characterized as having mental disorders. His compulsive personality requires the Axis 2 interventions. He is avoidant, dependent, obsessive and compulsive. All these fit in the Axis 2 interventions (Bower, 2006).
The diagnosis in the field of psychiatry addresses illnesses and symptoms that drive them. Melvin demonstrates both compulsion and obsession and, therefore, we understand his medical requirements. Obsessions witnessed are his persistent ideas and hygiene habits. His impulses and thoughts are experienced as inappropriate and intrusive. This is because they cause distress and marked anxiety.Melvin’s fear of touching people or being touched can be explained as obsession as it is repeated thought of contamination. His aggression is seen in the decision of throwing the dog down the rubbish chute because he unexpectedly met it in the corridors.
Melvin does not have any commitment to change as he locks himself up in his ideal environment. He does not see the need of involving himself with others. Commitment and belief to change is necessary for every person with OCD. Melvin is advised to archive self closeness and correspond with the practitioner for assistance. His level at which he allows relationships is demanding.
Melvin is self aware as he understands personal values and interest. He takes care of his interests and has created an ideal environment for himself. The self-awareness brought environmental awareness in him. He has knowledge of his past, present and future alternative environments.
My evaluation reveals that Melvin requires rehabilitation in some of the above areas. With assistance Melvin will develop his individual readiness with motivation and a more positive belief. Melvin lacks individual self-confidence and hence needs a push to complete any rehabilitation efforts.
The general rehabilitation that Melvin requires, overall rehabilitation goal, will be established if he achieves readiness to rehabilitation. The overall rehabilitation goal identifies specific environments for a period of six to twenty four months. It is established through a network of interviews where the client’s personal alternative environments and personal profile are examined. Without assistance Melvin will never access this help.
Melvin’s unpredictable, spontaneous and unplanned response shows the importance of interventions. Melvin gets upset when Simon knocks on his door. He becomes agitated, hurls insults at Simon calling him a stool pusher. He orders Simon not to knock on his door again and goes back to his writing. Few minutes later, Frank interrupts Melvin again. Fe unlocks the door chanting how he is really pissed. When Frank reaches for Melvin, Melvin begins to panic. He repeatedly yells not to be touched. Melvin’s responses show his impulsive nature. We see Melvin’s demonstration as an identified trait in his character. During confrontations, he erupts in distress and yet he cannot help himself (Stern, 1978).
The psycho dynamical nature of people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is explained as character rather than symptom. The reaction experienced by the patients, in this case Melvin, is formed by obvious patterns of behavior and consciousness. The attitudes are attributed the opposite of the impulses driving the individual. To neutrals, these factors are deemed very offensive. For a person who does not understand Melvin’s condition, it is very easy to misjudge him and take drastic measures against him. This could cause major emotional trauma and bodily harm to the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder patient. Therefore, information on the conditions of patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder should be readily availed to stop unnecessary harm to the patients. Melvin should accept his condition and come out to the community to avoid endangering his life.
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