In the movie A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe plays as John Nash; an incredibly intelligent man with an abnormal personality and opposition for people. The movie starts with Nash attending Princeton college in 1945 where he later attempts to make a very large breakthrough in mathematics. He appears to be highly stressed and tends to stray away from others. John’s expressions are at times inappropriate and quite frank, he says what comes to mind no matter how it may come across or be perceived. He understands that he does not possess an inviting personality and has no problem with it.
John is able to easily identify the solution to math problems and stay focused on his work. John Nash suffers from schizophrenia, a brain disease where they symptoms transform the mind. Though one of the symptoms plays to his benefit periodically, it ultimately leaves him in turmoil. One of John’s positive symptoms of schizophrenia is that he has delusions of those that are in his life. His delusions can be traced back to the appearance of his roommate and best friend Charles, in graduate school.
John also has the delusion of Charles’ young niece Marcee, who he adores and accepts as another important person in his life. After doing work at the Pentagon, John again has delusions of a coworker William Parcher; who gives John assignments to complete for the Department of Defense. While completing some of his assignments, John becomes very paranoid of Russians chasing him and he develops erratic behaviors, another symptom of schizophrenia. Those who experience the positive symptoms of schizophrenia typically lose a grasp of reality and have the symptoms present at random.
John also was a schizophrenic with positive symptoms, that lost a grasp of what was fictitious and entity. A positive symptom of schizophrenia are the presence of hallucinations, sensory experiences without sensory stimulation, where one will see or hear things that are not present in reality. (Myers 2009:638) John also has hallucinations of his best friend and coworker William, where he engages in conversations with them and allows them to be a part of his life. One may also hear commands in their head or feel as if someone is touching them when there is really no one their in reality.
Another positive symptom is the presences of delusions where one has bizarre thinking with distorted beliefs that are false. John starts to believe that certain magazines and newspapers have hidden messages or codes that he needs to detect and turn into the Department of Defense. He starts to suspect that Russian spies are after him and imagines people are following him. John also experiences the symptom of disorganized thinking where he expresses all the random thoughts he has in a cluster.
For the most part this symptom of schizophrenia aids John in his mathematical genus findings, and his jumbled thoughts allow him to make discoveries and solve problems quite quickly and accurately. It is when John is on medication that he experiences the absence of the disorganized thinking and he realizes it takes him a little longer to make certain connections with his work. Those with negative symptoms often become lazy and unmotivated to do daily activities or keep up with their hygiene and often need assistance. Mental Help) Negative symptoms of schizophrenia can be misconstrued for depression because there is a lack of motivation to participate in daily activities. A negative symptom is the absence of inappropriate behaviors such as expressionless faces, and rigged bodies. (Myers 2009:638) The flat affect is a symptom that some schizophrenics experience where they have no emotion or their emotion is inappropriate to the situation. Those who experience the catatonia symptom are motionless for hours and have strange body movements. John does not experience the negative symptoms for the most part.
I feel it is John’s personality that he is not very expressive with his thoughts or emotions and seems expressionless at times, but schizophrenia may also effect him when it comes to his nonchalant demeanor. Schizophrenia also effects one’s cognition, where it may be difficult for one to understand things and be a productive member of society. By no means does this symptom affect John because he is still able to make significant inferences. From observing John’s actions and thoughts I feel he is genuine with his disorder, he could not control his hallucinations and distorted thinking.
Even when he worked at ignoring is hallucinations, they were still present. Schizophrenia strikes young people as they mature, typically in the 20’s and 30’s age range. Schizophrenia can appear suddenly as a reaction to stress or it can develop gradually over time where it usually goes unnoticed until it becomes severe. The causes of this disorder are brain abnormalities, problems occurring while to the child during mid pregnancy of the mother, some genetic factors and psychological factors, and a stressful environment. Myers 2009:639) The brain abnormalities consist of the patient having an excess amount of dopamine, that can help create those positive symptoms of hallucination and paranoia John was suffering from. Patients also encounter brain abnormalities where there is low activity in the frontal lobes, where problem solving and reasoning take place. The effects on the frontal lobes make it difficult for the patients to maintain a significant level of reasoning and ability function correctly.
Studies have also shown that while the patent is hallucinating, their brain becomes very active in the thalamus; where sensory signals are filtered and transmitted to the cortex. (Myers 2009:640) Some causes of these abnormalities that can reduce brain development, can be traced back to distress during birth delivery or a mid pregnancy viral infection where the mother catches a flu during the second trimester. There is evidence that genetics do play as a factor for inheriting this disease, those who have family members that carried schizophrenia have a chance of also caring this disease. Myers 2009:641) The psychological factors of schizophrenia can be traced back to possible warning signals of the patient having poor peer relationships, emotional unpredictability, disruptive behaviors and also being exposed to parents that also have severe schizophrenia. (Myers 2009: 643) It is certain that John must have had those brain abnormalities that led to his disease and possible psychological factors such as poor relationships with others and abnormal behaviors. In the movie, John had never really belonged to a peer group and acted awkward and expressionless towards others.
In John’s case, his schizophrenia developed gradually and became more severe. His symptoms intensified his behaviors and it was easy to detect that he had this disorder once he was placed in a stressful environment and became extremely paranoid. John’s schizophrenia gradually emerges over years and the symptoms eventually became more prominent. The prognosis of this chronic schizophrenia is that patients are unlikely to fully recover. Though schizophrenia is present in both males and females, research shows that men suffer more severely. Myers 2009:639) Ultimately, there is no cure for schizophrenia but there are several treatments that can avoid some of the life altering symptoms and allow patients to restore balance and repossess their previous healthy life. (Mental Health) John later realizes that his own prognosis is also that his recovery is questionable, and he realizes that he may always have the hallucinations of those he admires. As years pass, John learns to ignore his hallucinations and seems to gain some recovery due to medication and therapy.
John comes to understand that his schizophrenia will continue to challenge him and at times be out of his control, but he is able to identify when he may be hallucinating and potentially prevent some of the symptoms overcoming him. His therapist suggested that with medication and an low stressful environment, that there is hope for recovery. Because there is no absolute cure for schizophrenia, medication is essential for recovery and aids in normalizing the patient’s behaviors.
Each patient reacts differently to certain medications therefor, it is important that they are able to find something that works best for them and does not provide another series of symptoms that suppresses one’s ability to interact with others and be themselves. Referring back to A Beautiful Mind, John’s first medication did diminish some of the symptoms associated with his disorder, but it also diminished his ability to be able to function normally, be an appropriate husband and father for his family, and think analytically as he did before.
As far as treatment and therapy go, most schizophrenic patients; including John Nash; need medication along with a possible combination of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and family therapy. (umm. edu) I would personally recommend these listed therapies, along with medication because those with schizophrenia often have trouble with an unconscious force, their behavior and self doubt, and relationships with others. Psychodynamic therapy aims to reduce anxiety and help the patient obtain self insight, here their emotions may be provoked in order to assist them in identifying what may be the cause for their anxiety or distress. Cognitive therapy aims to improve thinking and behavior, with reversing self doubt and allowing the patent to also be able to identify when a disrupting symptom is emerging and control their unconditioned emotions. (Myers 2009:656) Family therapy offers support to the patient and allows they whole family to come to understand each other’s perspective and see how each individual’s realties correlate to their attitude and approach with one another.
I would expect that with all these therapies combined with an appropriate medication with symptoms that were not life altering, the patient would respond well to the therapy and ultimately grow closer to a healthy recovery. In the movie John receives therapy shock therapy 5 times a week for 10 weeks, that holds the purpose of manipulating the brain by calming neural centers. Myers 2009:675) I feel that therapy is able to reach its full potential when the patient is able to accept their condition and need for help, and inspire the patient to continue to pursue their passions. John is able to endure his schizophrenia and still surpass his aspirations. “I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites; like my appetite for patterns; perhaps my appetite to imagine and to dream. “
Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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