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Running head: Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind
Colton Fredy
Salt Lake Community College
Schizophrenia has long been an enigma. In Hollywood and in television series,
schizophrenia is one of the most popular mental illnesses. In the movies, it is usually
depicted as some crazed person that kills due to their illness. Due to the depictions in
television series and in Hollywood, I began to question what a real-life representation
would look like. As such, I decided to watch A Beautiful Mind in order to study
psychological disorders. In order to know what schizophrenia is and how it relates to this
movie, it must first be defined. According to Mcintyre and the American Psychiatric
Association (1994), in the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV, schizophrenia is two or
more symptoms that are each present for a significant portion of the time during a 1month period (or less if successfully treated). There are five symptoms of which two
or more must be present. The symptoms include:

Disorganized speech (e.g. frequent derailment or incoherence)
Grossly disorganized catatonic behavior
Negative symptoms, i.e., affective flattening, agolia, or

However, despite the qualification that two or more must be present there is a special
note at the bottom of the page that indicates that this might not always be the case. In
special cases, [o]nly one Criterion A symptom is required if delusions are bizarre or
hallucinations consists of a voice keeping up running commentary on the persons
behavior or thoughts, or two or more voices conversing with each other. Criterion A

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

symptoms are classified by, hallucinations or delusional perceptions (,

If these criteria were to be followed, it can be analyzed if A Beautiful Mind
accurately represents schizophrenia. This paper will also analyze if the movie accurately
depicts how schizophrenia was treated. As stated earlier, movies can often get caught up
in the Hollywood appeal of dramatization, so the question is, does this one? For the
purpose of this paper, a brief synopsis of the movie will be provided followed by an
analysis on the events described in terms of the symptoms and the treatment.
With the start of the movie, we are thrown into a conglomeration of math experts
at Princeton University. Among them is John Nash, a socially awkward individual that
has a great need to accomplish an original work to feel as if he actually matters. Amidst
John Nashs intense concentration on the solution enters Charles, a wild individual that
tries to gain friendship with John Nash in the most peculiar of ways, in the end obtaining
his goal.
As John strives to think of the solution that will make him stand out in Princeton
he becomes extremely frustrated banging his head against the window, cracking the
window and cutting his head. Charles steps in, calms him down, and alleviates his fears
enabling John to succeed.
After college John moves on with life, Charles with his, and they go separate
ways. John, soon thereafter, begins teaching as a professor, and a man named William
Parcher approaches John to help solve conspiracy theories for the government. William
Parcher tells John that he has great potential and extraordinary brightness. John is the

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

only one he can rely on. John then starts delivering secret messages and claims that it is
A girl named Alicia catches his eye and they begin to court each other. Charles
drops by for a visit with a recently acquired child, Marcee, from his dead sister. John
grows affection for her and his happy to have Charles back.
John gets married to Alicia and they have a baby son. Life is going good. Then,
out of nowhere, men come from the psychiatric ward. They take him into custody and
soon find out that he has hallucinations and delusions. Charles, William Parcher, and
Marcee are characters created by his imagination. He cant tell they arent real. He denies
that they dont exist.
They start shock treatment five times a week and give him medicine. John Nash
can no longer think the way he used to. His relationship suffers. He cant take care of the
baby. He secretly stops taking the medicine. The characters return, and he believes they
are real. Because of this, the baby almost drowns because he believes Charles is watching
the baby.
He is almost recommitted but then he realizes they cant be real because Marcee
never ages. They decide he is going to try to live life without the medicine. At first it is
very bumpy and frightening, but eventually he becomes more and more in control and
wins the Nobel Prize.
John Nashs mind didnt just make up his characters. His mind made up entire
events that would have existed in real life circumstances. In this way, John meets the
symptom requirements of having delusions and hallucinations. Not only does a voice
keep up running commentary on Johns life, there are also two or more voices

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

conversing with each other as is described by DSM-IV. Not only are they voices they
are complete entities that guide his life. The truth, however, is that none of it ever
happened. He also demonstrates catatonic behavior by banging his head on glass and
running around trying to get the packet from Parcher. His baby almost drowns due to his
hallucinations. There are segments where it shows John with derailed speech. All of the
requirements manifest themselves in one way or another. In the movie, these symptoms
lead to treatment as they would today.
Back then, the treatment they used was insulin shock therapy. This is seen in the
movie as they administer shock treatment 5 times a week. John was also put on a laundry
list of drugs that he took on a regular basis. Some of them deeply impacted his life in
ways that could not be recovered. This was typical treatment for Schizophrenia in John
Nashs time. They would use a combination of insulin shock therapy alongside
medication. Medication tends to change as technology improves. However, despite this,
we are still using shock therapy (ECT) as well as drugs (Jaffe, n.d.). Today ECT has been
known to progress the improvements of schizophrenia patients as compared to John
Nashs time when it really only had negative effect. ECT can have less negative side
effects than the antipsychotic drugs which are more numerous in variation. Treatments for
schizophrenia are still highly controversial and difficult on families and individuals, thus
given Johns decision to stop his medication.
In conclusion, the film portrayed John Nashs case of schizophrenia accurately
without as much flare for the dramatic as most Hollywood movie. John clearly
demonstrates most of the diagnostic symptoms of DSM-IV, if not all of them.
Schizophrenias effects learned through research supported the films story. In essence,

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

this movie clearly illustrates how [s]chizophrenia is characterized by profound

disruption in cognition and emotion, affecting the most fundamental human attributes:
language, thought, perception, affect, and sense of self (, 2010). Not
only does it provide a clear depiction of the symptoms of schizophrenia it demonstrates
treatments that are still widely used and the risks associated. The treatments portrayed in
the movie are also very similar to todays treatments. For people curious about
schizophrenia, this movie is very informative about schizophrenia, how it impacts the
lives of those it afflicts, the treatments associated with schizophrenia, and the hardships in
the lives of those around schizophrenics.

Psychological Analysis: A Beautiful Mind

American Psychiatric Association & Mcintyre. (1994). Schizoprenia and other Psychotic
Disorders. In A. P. Mcintyre, Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria (pp. 147161). American Psychiatric association.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statictical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revised). American Psychiatric
Association .
Jaffe, D. J. (n.d.). Electroconvulsive Therapy Overview. Retrieved from schizophrenia: (2010). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from Schizophrenia Symptons: