Mental Illness in Movies

I’ve been busy today preparing education for third year medical students. It’s their first engagement with psychiatry. In preparing before psychiatric examination they have to watch several video’s and answer questions about the psychiatric examination. These video’s were made by actors and some of them are small parts of Hollywood movies.

For OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder I used a fragment of The Aviator. It’s the story of the life of Howard Hughes.

With The Aviator, director Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio breathe fresh life into this old story with a soaring and soulful portrait of the enigmatic, troubled millionaire Howard Hughes. They succeed by focusing on the triumph that preceded the tragedy and sustaining a deep sense of empathy and compassion for this misunderstood trail blazer

The movie itself has some nice scenes expressing symptoms of OCD. Further on in the movie the psychiatric symptoms become severe. In 1947 when Howard Hughes was 42 years he descended into one of the most bizarre episodes of his life. So bizarre that it almost puts to question the diagnosis of OCD. Especially with younger patients with bizarre OCD symptoms the diagnosis of schizophrenia should be considered. Was Howard Hughes suffering from OCD or was it more complicated than that. Probably, but we’re unable to do a thorough psychiatric examination. He died on April 5, 1976 in extremely poor physical condition.

A subsequent autopsy noted kidney failure as the cause of death. Hughes was in extremely poor physical condition at the time of his death; X-rays revealed broken-off hypodermic needles still embedded in his arms and severe malnutrition. While his kidneys were damaged, his other internal organs were deemed perfectly healthy.

Here is a short video with movies depicting some sort of mental illness.