6 Must Watch Films About Anxiety Disorders

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6 Must Watch Films About Anxiety Disorders

Psychological Disorders are difficult to slot into one conventional box and thus nearly impossible to define in a way that's not overtly technical.

Take the version 4 definition that is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): “A mental disorder is a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.”

And if that was not confusing enough, here's the upgraded, and only slightly more complicated, version 5: “A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.”

You could try and decipher these or take the more entertaining, and definitely easier way out, and watch a few films that will help you understand and humanely relate to mental disorders that affects millions across the planet, perhaps even us.

While there are hundreds of mental conditions with many categories and sub-categories, they can be approximately divided into disorders related to Anxiety, Amnesia, Autism, Mood, Conduct, Delusion, Dementia, Dissociative, Eating, Hypersexuality, Pervasive Development, Personality, Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse.

Here we look at three of the primary Anxiety based psychological disorders and must watch movies that depict the disorders: Obsessive–Compulsive, Post-Traumatic Stress and Social Anxiety. A fourth but the largest, Phobic, will need much more space and time.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD) is a psychological condition in which an individual has unmanageable as well as recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or ritualistic behaviours that are uncontrollably repeated (compulsions). Some common actions include excessive hand washing, touching, counting, arranging, hoarding, repeating words or phrases, etc.

While all of us have had moments when we wonder whether we missed out on a tap or a switch, those suffering from OCD cannot ignore such a thought and it distresses them. No matter how many times they verify it, they still need to do so one more time. And although the demeanour generally makes no sense, even to the sufferers themselves, if left unchecked it can have a damaging effect, even leading to suicide.

A fantastic portrayal of OCD is by Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets” (1997) by James L. Brooks, where he stars as a novelist who hates people. But forced to take care of his neighbour's dog and due to his interest in a waitress, played by Helen Hunt, he slowly starts to accept and then get over his anxiety.

Nicholson and Hunt both won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Actress, and the movie is in the list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

But possibly one of the best films on the subject is “Aviator” (2004) by Martin Scorsese, which is written by John Logan and is based on a biography, 'Howard Hughes: The Secret Life' by Charles Higham. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the American tycoon, aviator, inventor and film-maker. The film also has Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale playing movie stars Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner respectively. The story spread over two decades (end 1920s to end 1940s) depicts Hughes' success in aviation and films but also his downward spiral into depression, paranoia and mental breakdown, exacerbated by his OCD.

The movie was nominated for eleven Oscars and won five including by Cate Blanchett and for Cinematography and Editing.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) according to WebMD.com is a serious condition that can develop traumatic ordeals causing intense fear, helplessness, or horror, after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which the person was severely threatened or serious physical harm occurred. This could be a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers.

Most people who witness or experience a trauma normally react with shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt, but these reactions go away after a while. For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life.

“Waltz with Bashir” (2008) is an Israeli animated documentary written and directed by Ari Folman, where he interviews fellow veterans of the Lebanon War of 1982, who were involved in a Palestinian refugee camp massacre, in order to try reconstruct his own memories and thus overcome his self created amnesia due to PTSD.

The film was extremely well received and is today considered amongst the best of world cinema. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or, won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film as well as a BAFTA for Best Non English Language Film.

“Fearless” (1993) directed by Peter Weir and written by Rafael Yglesias from his novel by the same name, stars Jeff Bridges as the survivor of an air-crash, who starts to believe he is immune to death. This causes his psychiatrist to believe he is suffering from PTSD, has become disconnected from reality and so gets him to meet another survivor (Rosie Perez), who is suffering from survivor's guilt, in the hope that they will be able to help each other to cope better.

Perez was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress while Jeff Bridges' work is widely considered to be his best ever.

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER (SAD) is defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) as an extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations. Sometimes misunderstood as shyness, its symptoms can be so extreme that they may disrupt daily life. People with this disorder, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.

As per ADAA, though sufferers recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, they feel powerless against this anxiety and are terrified that they will humiliate or embarrass themselves. The disorder can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, get a job, and be in friendly and intimate relationships.

“Amélie” (2001), directed by French film-maker Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Jeunet along with Guillaume Laurant, is the story of the titular character, a socially anxious waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who is unable to interact directly with people and so decides to bring happiness to others, anonymously. But in doing so discovers her way out of her anxieties.

The movie won Best Film at the European Film Awards, two BAFTAs including for Original Screenplay and was nominated for five Oscars.

“The King's Speech” (2010), a biopic by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler, stars Colin Firth as King George VI who suffers from intense social anxiety and which manifests primarily in the form of severe stammering. He reluctantly meets up with an unconventional speech and language therapist from Australia, and slowly forms a friendship. Ultimately with his help the newly crowned King is able to make a successful first broadcast.

The movie was a huge commercial and critical success, winning many awards and nominations, including Golden Globe for Best Actor, Best Film and Actor at BAFTA and four Academy Awards including Best Director, Picture, Screenplay and Actor.

Do you believe that watching a movie about psychological disorders would help to understand better those suffering from it? Tell us in the comments below...

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