DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies

  • Using movies to understand common DSM diagnoses
  • Learning about the DSM-5 with fun and the movies
  • What can movies teach us about diagnosis?

Movies are particularly well suited to depict psychological phenomena. The combination of images, music, dialogue, lighting, camera angles, and sound effects in a film mimic thoughts and feelings that occur in our consciousness. Since characters in many popular films portray persons who live with mental disorders, these depictions offer a unique learning opportunity.

Therefore, films can help us learn about the use of the DSM-5 for effective treatment planning and communicating with colleagues, as well as with insurance companies, in an enjoyable and emotionally engaging way. Following are a few examples of how these movies can illuminate the multifaceted nature of mental disorders.

Our Latest Online CE Course

DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies

Developed by Cinema Therapy Expert Dr. Birgit Wolz
5 CE Credit Hours



Samples of Movies & Diagnoses:

  • Young Adult illustrates borderline personality disorder.
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps depicts narcissistic personality disorder.
  • A Beautiful Mind offers a powerful opportunity to understand schizophrenia.
  • Flight demonstrates substance-related disorders.
  • Silver Linings Playbook offers the opportunity to learn about many aspects of bipolar disorder.
  • Mad Love depicts a character with symptoms of cyclothymic disorder.
  • Girl Interrupted invites us to discuss major depression and the complexities of differential diagnosis (major depression vs. borderline personality disorder).
  • American Splendor offers an opportunity to learn about persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia).
  • As Good As it Gets illustrates almost every possible symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • The Sopranos teaches about panic disorder.
  • Annie Hall illuminates generalized anxiety disorder.
  • In Country depicts a Vietnam War veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.




Did you know these facts about the DSM-5?

  • One of the biggest changes in the DSM-5 is the elimination of the multi-axial system.
  • In the revised manual, substance abuse and substance dependence have been combined into one overarching category called substance use disorder.
  • The introduction of a severity scale for substance use disorders is meant to help addiction treatment fall in line with physical medicine.
  • In the DSM-5, bipolar disorders are given a section separate from depressive or unipolar disorders.
  • In the revised DSM-5, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder have been removed from the family of anxiety disorders and given their own diagnostic categories.
  • The DSM-5 pays more attention to the behavioral symptoms that accompany PTSD than had the DSM-IV.
  • Critics are concerned that normal grief becomes major depressive disorder, thus medicalizing and trivializing our expected and necessary emotional reactions to loss.
  • Critics are also concerned that the revised manual will divert precious mental health resources away from those who most need them.


Sign up for topical updates and invitations to participate with Dr. Zur