DSM: Diagnoses Seen in Movies

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


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.

Following are a few examples of how movies illuminate the multifaceted nature of mental disorders and can help us use the DSM for effective treatment planning, and communicating with colleagues as well as with insurance companies.

  • A Beautiful Mind offers a powerful opportunity to understand Schizophrenia.
  • As Good As it Gets demonstrates almost every possible symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  • Analyze This introduces Panic Disorder and in a humorous fashion.
  • Annie Hall illuminates Anxiety Disorder.
  • Mr. Jones offers the opportunity to learn about many aspects of Bipolar Disorder as well as about the differences between this disorder and Schizophrenia.
  • Mad Love depicts a character with symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder.
  • Girl Interrupted invites us to discus Major Depression and the complexities of differential diagnosis.
  • The Hospital offers an opportunity to learn about Dysthymic Disorder.
  • In Country depicts a Vietnam War veteran with severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Affliction demonstrates Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.
  • Blow portrays Cocaine Abuse and Dependence.
  • Play Misty for Me helps us understand Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Wall Street depicts Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Dying to Dance illumines Anorexia.
  • Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby demonstrates Bulimia.
  • Brassed Off illustrates Adjustment Disorder.


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