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Disorder in “As Good as it Gets” Term Paper

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Updated: May 2nd, 2020


Psychopathology has been represented in various books and films in the society. The author of the current paper explored the depiction of this phenomenon in a popular movie. There are different types of mental disorders. They include, among others, dissociative, mood, personality, and psychotic disorders. Others touch on the use of substances. In this paper, the author focused on anxiety disorders. The anxiety complication discussed in the movie As Good as it Gets is obsessive-compulsive disorder. The author showed how the main character in the movie is affected by the condition.

Other elements associated with the disorder were discussed. More specifically, the author described the condition, its symptoms, and diagnosis. In addition, the strategies used to deal with the problem were also analyzed. Different scenes that show the effects of the disorder were also be discussed. An analysis of the positive and negative messages communicated by the producers of the movie in relation to obsessive-compulsive disorder was provided. Characterization of how the disorder is depicted in the movie was also included in the paper.

Keywords: As Good as it Gets, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mental disorders

As Good as it Gets is a movie that depicts a common mental disorder that affects many people in today’s society. It is a 1997 American romantic comedy. It is produced by James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, and Kristi Zea. Brooks also acts as the movie director. It is a psychopathology movie that provides information on an anxiety disorder.

The disorder is a serious mental illness that causes a feeling of fear and worries among the people affected. Sometimes, the condition can be crippling and overwhelming. Anxiety disorders are of different types. The one highlighted in this film is the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It affects the main character in the story.

In this paper, the author will analyze how the condition is depicted in the film. To this end, a comprehensive description of the disorder will be provided. After this, the author will highlight three scenes in the movie where the symptoms and signs of the complication are depicted by the main character. In addition, a reflection on the positive and negative messages communicated by the producers in relation to the disorder will be provided. Finally, the author will critically review how well OCD is portrayed in As Good as it Gets.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Description of the Psychopathology

According to Butcher, Mineka, and Hooley (2007), OCD is an anxiety problem that causes the affected individuals to remain trapped in cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors. Usually, the mind of these individuals cannot function properly. They keep thinking about something that may later cause stress to them. People suffering from this disorder are sometimes trapped in distressing thoughts, fears, and images that they can barely control. The situation forces the patient to engage in routines that make them feel relieved of the distress in their minds.

The routine activities are referred to as compulsions. They act as mechanisms of dealing with the obsessive thought. It is noted that they may work or fail to achieve the intended objectives (Butcher et al., 2007). The disorder can be dangerous if not addressed on time. When it goes unchecked, OCD can control the activities that the individual engages in. One suffering from the disorder may spend a lot of time carrying out the obsessions. Psychiatric help can aid in reducing the effects of the problem in the brain.

The condition is associated with a number of symptoms. Most of them revolve around the obsessions and compulsions (Butcher et al., 2007). Some of the common obsessions likely to be exhibited by the affected persons include fear of entertaining evil or sinful thoughts. Others include fear of behaving in a certain way that may be embarrassing to the society and avoiding mistakes.

The individual may also have a pathological fear of harming others and getting contaminated with dirt. In addition, they have many doubts and express the need to be orderly and exact (Butcher et al., 2007). Most persons suffering from OCD have a fear of being wrong. They want to be perfect, which makes them engage in activities that would see them do things perfectly. In most cases, it is hard to achieve this.

Obsessive and compulsive behaviors are evident in As Good as it Gets. For example, Melvin is obsessed with the idea of having breakfast in one restaurant. Carol works as a waitress here. Melvin has to sit on the same table every day and has to be served by Carol and not by anybody else. He uses the same plastic utensils every day (Brooks, Johnson & Zea, 1997). Melvin is also obsessed with washing his hands using new bar soap.

He throws it away after use. The behavior may result from the fear of catching germs from used soaps. Whenever Melvin is putting on his shoes, he always sits on his bed. He then does a back-and-forth dance around them. As depicted in the movie, this is another obsession he has (Brooks et al., 1997). Locking and unlocking the door when entering the house just to make sure it is secure is another obsessive behavior depicted by Melvin.

Some of the compulsive behaviors expressed by patients suffering from OCD involve dealing with dirt and contamination. They also feel the need to perform a certain task repeatedly for a number of times. In addition, they are stuck in words and thoughts that may cause sleepless nights. The patients hold onto certain items that have no apparent value. They repeat words and phrases and count out loud or mentally when performing some routine tasks. In addition, the patients eat food by following a certain order (Butcher et al., 2007). Compulsions are of different types. The ones listed above are just some of the common ones.

The cause of OCD is not yet clearly understood. However, it is believed that a combination of different environmental and biological elements is behind it. Environmental stressors lead to the development of the problem. They may also make it worse. The stressors may be relationship concerns, illnesses, death of a loved one, or a change in living conditions. Other issues include abuses in the past and work-related problems.

The examples are some of the common environmental factors known to trigger the problem (Butcher et al., 2007). Biological factors affect the brain. They impair the functions of the neurons responsible for the transmission of signals in the body. As a result, communication between the brain and the rest of the body is interrupted. The development leads to the disorder.

The diagnosis of the problem has not yet been medically established. Medics who deal with the condition rely on the symptoms exhibited by an individual and the time taken to carry out various tasks. They use these indicators to establish whether an individual is affected or not. The disorder can be treated using different approaches. The commonly used strategies include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The latter helps individuals to conquer their fears and reduce levels of anxiety through ritual behaviors. The behaviors, also known as exposure therapy, reduce catastrophic thinking normally associated with people suffering from the disorder. Medical therapy involves the use of antidepressants, such as serotonin, to help in treatment (Butcher et al., 2007). Antipsychotics like Risperdal may also be used.

Description of the Scenes Portraying Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in As Good as it Gets

The first scene is the one involving Melvin and Carol. From the film, one can tell that being obsessed with someone is another symptom of OCD. In this scene, Melvin is shown as a person who is obsessed with taking breakfast in a cafe where Carol works as a waitress. He has a special table where he takes this routine breakfast. It is only Carol who serves her and nobody else. Carol knows the special utensils that Melvin likes to use. In the scene, Melvin finds that some persons have occupied his table (Brooks et al., 1997). He yells at them until they leave. He is left alone with his place.

It is clear that the cafe and the table are some of Melvin’s obsessions. He cannot do without them. His greatest obsession, as shown in the movie, is Carol. At one time, he went to the cafe and found that she was absent. Another waitress served him, but he was not satisfied. He complained to the manager and asked for Carol to be returned (Brooks et al., 1997). His obsession with the girl cannot allow him to stay a single day without seeing her.

Another scene is where Melvin finds an excuse to get to Carol’s apartment. After finding her, he implores the girl to get back to the café so that she can continue serving him the routine breakfast. The lady explains why she cannot go back to work. She informs me that she has a son suffering from a chronic problem. Melvin decides to help her get medical help from the husband of his director, who is a doctor. He also pays for the bills (Brooks et al., 1997). Such attention towards someone is an indication of obsession.

Another scene depicted in the movie is where Melvin shows his obsession with an animal. Simon had given Melvin a dog to take care of on his behalf. In this scene, he comes for the animal after his release from the hospital. Melvin is heartbroken when the dog leaves (Brooks et al., 1997). He had established a relationship with the animal. However, he cheers up when Simon allows him to take it for daily walks.

In yet another scene, Melvin invites Carol to a trip he is taking with Simon. The invitation appears to have a purpose. Carol is not ready to be in a relationship. Melvin is also afraid of declaring his love for her. However, the girl seems to be falling for Melvin. She plans a surprise date for him and buys him a suit. Love can also be explained as a form of obsession that has started taking effect on her (Brooks et al., 1997).

A scene in the movie shows Carol trying to seduce Simon. The man is not interested in given that he is gay. Melvin finds Carol naked on the bed as Simon carefully paints her. He is jealous and becomes furious (Brooks et al., 1997). He demands to know if they have had sex.

The compulsive behavior, in this case, is expressed in the form of jealousy and anger. If Melvin was not obsessed with Carol, then he would not be angry at all. It shows the extent to which he wants Carol for himself. However, he is afraid to admit the truth. After their trip, Carol is quite sure that Melvin is in love with her. But his obsession is making her concerned. Her mother convinces her to give it a try. On his part, Simon persuades Melvin to open up his heart to Carol. The obsession ends up in a relationship.

In yet another scene, Melvin is seen washing his hands every time with new bathing soap. It is something that continues to take roots in his mind. He finds it difficult to do away with. He does this to ensure that he is not contaminated with dirt (Brooks et al., 1997). In another scene, Melvin is seen to lock and unlock the door several times. He is not quite sure whether he is safe or not. That is why he keeps checking on the lock. At the beginning of the film, he is seen tampering with Simon’s dog, Verdell. He throws it into a dustbin. Simon spends days looking for it.

He finally approaches Melvin and asks him about it. However, Melvin lies that he has never seen the animal. In a real sense, he is afraid of lying. Melvin runs back to his house when Simon goes to pick up his phone. Among many other fears, Melvin is afraid of what Simon can do to him if he learns what he did to the dog (Brooks et al., 1997). It is the main reason why he constantly keeps checking his door to make sure it is securely locked.

Characterization of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in As Good as it Gets

The movie characterizes the disorder clearly. The audience can identify the things that cause anxiety to Melvin. The major one has to do with Carol. Different scenes in the movie also show the symptoms exhibited by Melvin in relation to the disorder. Some of them include stress, failure to take breakfast, and getting emotionally attached when he realizes that Carol is in problems. In addition, the movie shows how Melvin is unable to cope with his problems. He harbors feelings for the waitress but does not know how to break the news to her. He gets the courage when he is convinced by his friend (Brooks et al., 1997).

At one point, Melvin seeks help from Dr. Green, a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the doctor has relocated. Something in Melvin’s mind was pushing him to seek help. He knew he had a problem but was in no position to attend to it. People are suffering from this condition resort to routines that help them relieve their stress. Similarly, Brooks et al. (1997) show how the main character engages in such activities.

They include taking breakfast at the same place and been served by one person. He has always wanted to have Carol by her side. Having her is like medicine to his soul (Brooks et al., 1997). The movie clearly depicts the effects of the disorder on this character.

Positive and Negative Messages about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in As Good as it Gets

The film portrays OCD in a clear manner. It contains both negative and positive messages about the condition. Melvin’s obsession with Carol is depicted as both a good and a bad attribute. On the negative side, the main character is supposed to have a normal breakfast time each and every day, regardless of the waitress serving him. He is supposed to be stress-free every morning.

However, the obsession affects him negatively. His breakfasts are not peaceful if he is not served by Carol. If, for example, Carol happens to relocate to another place, Melvin’s mornings will be in disarray. He will continue to suffer from stress as a result of not seeing having a favorite waitress around. Stress will impact negatively on his health. It may lead to depression. The character can solve this problem by having Carol around (Brooks et al., 1997).

The positive thing about Melvin’s obsession with Carol is that he is able to lure her back when they get into a relationship. His feelings are fulfilled by having her around. What this means is that he will no longer experience stress with regards to his feelings towards her. The characterization in the movie shows that this is a positive thing, even if it is achieved after a lot of struggle (Brooks et al., 1997). However, Brooks et al. (1997) conclude that it is important to express feelings as early as possible. The aim is to avoid the stress that may lead to mental disorders.

Closing the door and making sure that the lock is securely placed elicits fear in Melvin. However, this shows a positive aspect of the character, which entails the need to ensure that he is safe at all times. However, a negative part of the disorder is shown when Melvin uses a new soap on a routine basis to wash his hands. The obsession leads to misuse of resources.

As such, one may argue that the disorder results in wastage. Throwing away soaps subjects, Melvin to financial constraints. He uses a lot of money to buy new items. He can avoid unnecessary expenditures by using soap until it is exhausted (Brooks et al., 1997). Even though he gets clean, this is a negative message portrayed in the movie.


Obsessive-compulsive (OCD) disorder affects many people in society. As illustrated in the movie As Good as it Gets, most patients are not aware that they have the problem. OCD can cause harm if not taken care of in a timely manner. Other complications associated with the problem include depression and high blood pressure. Patients suffering from the disorder can receive psychiatric help to correct it.

Relationships are the major causes of the problem in modern society. It is recommended that couples should seek help to avoid the adverse effects of the disorder. Fear and stress can be effectively dealt with. As a result, the individual can dedicate their time to constructive activities. They avoid wasting resources on less important routine duties.


Brooks, J., Johnson, B., & Zea, K. (Executive Producers) (1997). As good as it gets [DVD]. New York: Gracie Films.

Butcher, J., Mineka, S., & Hooley, J. (2007). Abnormal psychology (16th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

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