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A Beautiful Mind Critical Analysis Essay

Ron Howard’s The Beautiful Mind is an American film that follows the life of scientific and mathematical genius and Princeton University graduate John Nash. The film begins with Nash and his colleagues at a ceremony where he is a co-reclplent for a math scholarship. HIS obsession with patterns and math Is first noticed when he attempts to match the reflection from the sun and the glass jug to the patterns on a colleagues tie to which he responds: “There must be a mathematical explanation for how bad your tie is,” (A Beautiful Mind, Howard: 2001). In his first appearance he seems anxious and very socially awkward.

But it wasn’t until meeting his roommate, Charles Herman, that things began to change. As a graduate and a new, aspiring professor Nash was under tremendous amount of pressure to publish and become more established. With the increased pressure from both the head of the math department and others, John developed an obsession with finding his inspiration which he gains from his colleagues on a night the decided to see who can best approach a group of women at the bar. This concept leads John to develop and publish his theories and concepts and to a Job he has been seeking.

John presents ith Narclsslstlc Personality Disorder (NPD), an Axis II disorder according to the DSM- IV-TR. Narclsslstlc Personality Disorder Is a cluster B disorder that Is Involves three elements: an Inflated view of oneself, a lack of warmth of empathy for relationships with others, and using a variety of strategies to help maintain this inflated self-view (Campbell & Baumeister, 2006: 423). John’s inflated view of oneself is exemplified when he displays the belief that he is superior to fellow graduates and even the textbooks in which he was made to read in school.

Additionally, he believed he was est able to provide solutions better than a textbook or a professor could ever “train” him to. Another example is when he was playing a game with a friend and upon losing the game, he believed that the game was flawed and it wasnt his fault for losing. His lack of empathy or warmth for his relationships Is shown when he was lecturing his class and closed the window and he had an angry outburst towards a student saying that the students comfort Isn’t as Important as his ability to hear himself speak.

Finally, the third element of NPD Is present In John’s behaviour when e uses scapegoating to explain why the things he does never quite seems to work out as planned, it is always something or someone else’s fault except his. But when it comes to successes, he is happy to take the credit. According to W. Keith Campbell and Roy F. Baumeister (2006), people with NPD aren’t necessarily anti-social, in fact they are very social and it is this socialness that fuels the narcissism and prolongs the beliefs that he or she is superior to everyone and everything else.

Additionally, Campbell and Baumeister (2006) differentiates between two types of narcissism ntra-and-interpersonal narcissism. Intrapersonal narcissism is a desire and fantasy of success and well as the self-serving bias that Is portrayed by John. Interpersonal narcissism Is using personal status and success to boost self-esteem. John displays Intrapersonal narcissism desire through his the validation he feels when he Is able to do things to Impress others such as mentally solve the codes and patterns of the Soviet plot.

Additionally, John display of interpersonal narcissism is exemplified with the same example of him belittling the students’ needs only to prove that his was ore important because he was the professor, the head of the class. Another way is further along in the movie when Charles continues to tell him to show everyone how much of a genius he is continuing to fuel John’s belief that he truly is a genius and thus superior to anything a textbook could every teach. In addition to NDP, John also presents with the Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, a cluster C disorder according to the DSM-IV-TR.

OCD is characterized by the “fixation on getting things done the right way:’ (Barlow, D. H. , Durand, V. M. , & Stewart, S. H. , 2012: 468). However, with John the issue isn’t Just getting things done “the right way’ but Just getting things done and not stopping until he is completely done and have successful fgured out a code or a pattern. This seems to be what happened when John was recruited by Will Parcher to decode the Soviet plot. His completion of this led to his increased paranoia of being watched and followed by Soviet agents.

The stress from this seems to have triggered his schizophrenic hallucinations. Moreover, as the film moves along it is seen that each time John meets with any type of stress he begins to allucinate and imagine different people and different scenarios. Additionally, it is evident that John displays evidence of OCD because he displays several of the features. Some of the features he displays include being so work oriented that he has poor social relationships (Krasean, 2013). When Will Parcher first arrived, John describes himself to him not as needing any friendships but as being a lone wolf.

He shows no sign of longing for any type of social relationship but Just that he wants to focus on his craft and his work. Another characteristic John displays is that of being xtremely orderly in everything he does. He has a step for everything and there is an order, everything he says seems to have been strategically thought out. This tells me he is extremely cautious of what he says and how he says. It also tells me that he takes care in making sure that what he says makes sense and that others are able to see his vision and be convinced by it.

Lastly, John presents as emotionally shallow again in the sense that he takes no fear in the fact that he has no close relationships, other than the one he later develops with Alicia and the one he has with Charles Herman. This shows me that he is not only strategic in the way he befriends people but also that he might feel as though for him to be friends with the someone that he or she is lucky to have him as a friend and that he is Just there for his ego to be stroked. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is given to John because of his increased hallucinations and delusions that seem to disrupt his ability to function in his daily life.

Although he is still capable of performing tasks such as providing a solution to codes and drawing patterns with numbers and letters, John is unable to perform simple tasks such as caring for his family. In addition to these characteristics, John also meets several of the characteristics of as defined by the DSM-IV-TR. Schizophrenia is sometimes difficult to diagnose because “a number of the behaviours are not necessarily shared by all the people who are given the diagnosis,” (Barlow, D. H. , Durand, V. M. , & Stewart, S. H. , 2012: 478).

However, despite this fact, researchers were able to define a number of characteristics and symptoms that make up the disorder. The two most predominate symptoms are hallucinations, seeing or hearing things other do not see or hear, as well as believing n unrealistic, bizarre notions not shared by others in the same culture, better known as delusions (Barlow, D. H. , Durand, V. M. , & Stewart, S. H. , 2012: 478). These are two of the things that John profound displays throughout the duration of the film.

Although viewers were not privvy to this information at the beginning of the film, but John interactions with Charles Herman and later his niece were actually hallucinations that no one else saw nor heard happening. This was also true for the mysterious William Parcher who recruited and hired John to solve the patterns of the Soviet plot. Upon being committed to a psychiatric facility, Dr. Rosen, John therapist reveals that not only do Will and Charles not exist, but that there is also no Soviet plot and that it was all a fgment of John’s imagination.

John’s delusions is also exemplified through his belief that there is a Soviet plot and that he needs to solve it before anything can happen. He becomes increasingly agitated by the fact that no one believes him, which leads to more proof that he was only imagining these events. Another example is when Alicia visits him at the facility and he expresses the fact hat they need to be careful about what is being said because there might be microphones and cameras watching their every move.

This is an example of his belief that everyone in the facility is a Soviet agent who have locked him up to keep him from decoding the plot. Lastly, the use of antipsychotic medication and shock therapy to treat John are indications to a schizophrenic diagnosis. To conclude, a score of 50. 5 on the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale has been given to John. This is because although John shows signs of impairment to point of not being able to unction, he is still able to perform the tasks such decoding and solving patterns.

However, he is unable to perform the task of caring for his family on a daily basis and has become increasingly difficult to connect and have a conversation with. Additionally, John tends to have aggressive and sometime violent outbursts that have triggered panic attacks. He also presents with difficulty to have and keep friendships, although he is able to continue his friendship with Charles and Will. Lastly, he presents with obsessive rituals like his constant fidgeting and is incapable of keeping still.

The film “A Beautiful Mind” characterizes the story of the brilliant mathematician John Forbes Nash who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. This film was directed by Ron Howard and it's based on a true life story of the genius mathematician Nash which is portrayed by the actor Russel Crowe. At the beginning of the film Nash starts his career at Princton University as a mathematics graduate student where he was well known for his intelligence. Nash is an arrogant, awkward socially-inept mathematics student, who spent most of his time making an effort to discover a revolutionary equation in mathematics. At half way through the film, we discover that half of the places and situations that occur in the film are only illusions within Nash's “beautiful” mind. This is when we determine that Nash is suffering from a severe illness which is schizophrenia. One of the first imaginary characters that Nash develops in his mind is his roommate Charles Herman, (Paul Bettany) a student of English Literature.

Schizophrenia has been defined as “ “split mind”. It refers not to a multiple personality split but rather to a split from reality that shows itself in disorganized thinking, disturbed perceptions, and inappropriate emotions and actions” (Myers, 2007, p678). Nash experienced severe delusions and hallucinations which were then diagnosed as symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. There are subtypes to Schizophrenia, and paranoid schizophrenia is when being preoccupied with delusions or hallucinations, generally with cases of persecution or grandiosity (Myers, 2007).

According to the DSM -IV the following is the diagnostic criteria (1994).

A. Symptoms of schizophrenia:
3.Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence
4.Grossly disorganized or catatonic behaviour
5.Negative symptoms, I.e. affective flattening, alogia, or avolition (DSM-IV,1994).
295.30 Paranoid Type –Schizophrenia
A subtype of schizophrenia which the following criteria are met:
A. Preoccupied with one or more delusions or usual auditory hallucinations.
B. The following are not noticeable: disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behaviour, or flat inappropriate affect (DSM-IV, 1994).

Patients with schizophrenia have either positive or negative symptoms. The positive symptoms are hallucinations, speech disorganized, delusions, inappropriate laughter, and tears. Patients with negative symptoms are usually quite, toneless voices, expressionless faces, and rigid bodies. Inappropriate behaviours are usually governed by the positive symptoms, and the absences of appropriate behaviours are the negative symptoms (Myers, 2007).

Scientists are still not clear about the specific causes of schizophrenia; however research has demonstrated that people with schizophrenia have different brains than those who don't have the illness. Schizophrenia is like many other illnesses such as cancer, and diabetes, it is caused by a mixture of problems such as genetic vulnerability and environmental factors that happen while a person goes through development. A recent study shows that specific genes increase the risk for schizophrenia. The genes do not cause the illness but they increase the percentage up for developing it (NAMI, 2007).

Treatment approaches used with schizophrenia are usually a mixture of therapies. The different approaches are chosen to reduce the symptoms and lessen the chances of the symptoms to return to the individual with the illness. There are about nine therapy approaches: Medication treatment, Antipsychotic Medication list, Psychosocial Treatments, Rehabilitation, Individual Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, Family Education, Self-help Groups, and Community and Social Support (Franklin, 2004).

Antipsychotic medications have been used since the 1950's. These medications reduce symptoms in schizophrenic people, and allow them to function efficiently. The antipsychotic drugs do not cure schizophrenia but they do reduce the symptoms of the illness. The dosage of medication varies from one patient to another, and it's all up to a qualified psychiatrist in the medical treatment of mental disorders to make decide on the dosage. New Antipsychotic drugs, such as risperidone (Risperdal) and olanzapine (Zyprexa) or clozapine are better than the old drugs that were used to treat patients. Antipsychotic drugs are efficient at reducing specific symptoms such as hallucinations, and delusions, which are very common in schizophrenics. These antipsychotics have side effects that are unwanted which are: drowsiness, restlessness, muscle spasm, tremor, dry mouth, or blurring of vision (Franklin, 2004).

Antipsychotic Medications are used as well.

Brand & Generic Names of some medications.
  • Abilify -aripiprazole
  • Clozaril -Clozapine

  • Geodon -Ziprasidone

  • Haldol- Haloperidol

  • Lidone- Molindone

  • Loxitane -Loxapine

  • Mellaril-thioridazine

  • Moban-molindone

  • Navane-thiothixene

  • Orap - Pimozide

  • Permitil-Fluphenazine

  • Prolixin -Fluphenazine

  • Risperdal-Resperidone

  • Serentil-Mesoridazine

  • Seroquel-Quetiapine

  • Stelazine-Trifuoperazine

  • Taractan-Chlorprothixene

  • Thorazine-Chlorpromazine

  • Trilafon-perphenazine

  • Vesprin trifuopromazine- Trifuopromazine

  • Zyprexa-Olanzapine (D.Franklin, 2004)

Psychosocial treatment is to help those patients with less severe symptoms of schizophrenia. This approach of therapy helps patients social functioning, whether it's at the hospital, community, home, or on a job. The reason why this therapy is important for patients with control over their psychotic symptoms, is because the age they're at is the critical career years of life which is around 18-35 years of age. Patients will have difficulties in communication, self-care, motivation, and maintaining relationships. Thus, this type of therapy is great for those that want to rejoin society again (Franklin, 2004).

Rehabilitation are non-medical interventions for patients that suffer from schizophrenia. They are programs that help patient’s social skills and vocational training. There are a variety of programs for the rehabilitation that are, vocational counselling, job training, finance management, public transportation, and social skills. All the programs help patients get back to their original self, and be able to function well in society (Franklin, 2004).

Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy has been known to be the most efficient type of psychotherapy when treating a psychological problem. Cognitive therapy is “therapy that teaches people new, more adaptive ways of thinking and acting; based on the assumption that thoughts intervene between events and our emotional reaction” (Myers, 2007, p52). Also, behavioural therapy is combined with the cognitive therapy and therefore, it should help the patient perform effectively in life by reducing the symptoms and focusing on the important aspects of life.

The treatment that was demonstrated in the movie had different approaches. Nash was put into a psychiatric hospital, and he received anti psychotic medications. Also, towards the middle of the film he was administered insulin shock therapy.

Nash enters a world of mystery and imagination when he meets Parcher who asks to help the pentagon with their code decyphering. Now Parcher is the second person that he creates within his mind. In addition, this job that he has been given arouses his interest and he becomes part of the government where he's relied on. At one point in the movie he has to locate and stop the Russian nuclear bomb. This is the second situation that he creates within his mind, where he's unaware of its nonexistence.

Nash's roommate Charles introduces his young niece Marcee to Nash. Subsequently, Nash proposes to Alicia one of his students that he met and admired. Nash continued teaching but one of the symptoms that Nash exhibits was being paranoid in class, where he sees’s men outside stalking him. This demonstrates paranoid schizophrenia, and till now he is still unaware of his illness. His wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) becomes pregnant, and Parcher starts stalking Nash asking him for help to break the code or the Russians will come after him.

One day where Nash was lecturing men come in and therefore, he escapes. At that instant the psychiatrist Rosen introduces himself and Nash escapes. Thus, Rosen takes him to the psychiatric hospital to help him out with his illness. It became very difficult for Nash to cope with his and relationships.Nash was admitted to the hospital to see a psychiatrist where he was asked to talk about who he see's and what are his complications. Nash cut's his wrist to look for the implant that Parcher implanted and he discovers that it's gone. The psychiatrist Rosen diagnoses Nash with Schizophrenia where he receives 10 weeks of Insulin shock therapy.

Alicia suffered from all the difficulties that Nash is going through. She stood by him and tried to prove that he has delusions, and hallucinations, but Nash gets upset at her for not believing him. The problem with schizophrenia is that patients see things as a normal brain see's things. It seems so real that it's so hard to believe that they're unreal. He continues to stay far from Alicia not like before, and Alicia stands by him to help him overcome the illness. Nash was prescribed antipsychotic medications by Rosen, but he stops taking the medication, and therefore, his hallucinations come back again. The result of not taking the medication has been putting Nash's family in danger. Alicia asks him to watch their baby at one point and he goes on with his hallucinations saying that Charles was watching the baby. Alicia becomes very frustrated and asks him to get back to the hospital, and calls Rosen but Nash runs after her and hurts her. As she was running away from the house Parcher asks Nash to “finish her” meaning kill her. Nash see's Marcee again, and runs to Alicia telling her that Marcee isn't real because she never gets old. This is where Nash wakes up from his hallucinations and starts thinking critically about his illness. Then he gets back to the hospital again and signs commitment papers to stay and receive therapy.

After he comes out of the hospital he goes to his old friend from Princeton University Martin, and asks him if he can work in the library. But, unfortunately his hallucinations come again when Parcher shows up. This incident demonstrates Martins kindness and loyalty by standing up for Nash. Then he goes back to work on some theories in the library, and although Charles, Marcee, and Parcher show up he learns to ignore them. Despite the serious illness he had he worked hard and came up with the game theory and received a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. At the end of the film Martin asks Nash if he still sees’s Charles, Marcee, and Parcher. Nash replies in an inspirational positive way which really appealed to the viewers, and his reply was “No, but I've gotten used to ignoring them, and as a result, they've kind of given up on me. I think that's sorta what it's like with dreams and nightmares. We've gotta keep feeding them for them to stay alive.” This shows a great philosophy in overcoming difficulties and shows great strength in Nash himself.

As for the portrayal of the paranoid schizophrenia in the film it is very much the same as what the Psychology Eighth Edition in Modules presents. Both the positive symptoms and the negative symptoms had been described in the book. And the character Nash shows all the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Except for the therapy, the textbook doesn't mention that Insulin shocks therapy is a cure to schizophrenia whether it's paranoid schizophrenia or any other subtype. But the film demonstrates this type of therapy when Nash is admired to the hospital. As for the medications, the textbook, and the movie state that medications are crucial to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, and that the medications have side effects. Overall, this is an excellent film for demonstrating schizophrenia, and it was well covered in terms of the aspects of the illness, and the therapy.

Film clip:


National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2007) Mental illnesses. Schizophrenia. Retrieved from

Franklin. D (2004) Psychology Information Online. Treatment of Schizophrenia. Retrieved from

Myers, D. (2007) Psychology Eighth Edition in Modules. New York: Worth Publishers

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders (4th ED). Washington DC