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Paranoid Schizophrenia in a Beautiful Mind

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Paranoid Schizophrenia in A beautiful Mind


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        This paper explores paranoid schizophrenia as illustrated by John Nash, the main character in the movie A Beautiful Mind. The symptoms of the disorder are discussed relative to the social and professional life of Nash. Studies on the disorder are also reviewed to understand the manifestation of the condition, methods used to diagnose and distinguish it from other forms of schizophrenia and the effectiveness of the various methods used in treating paranoid schizophrenia. The advantages and disadvantages of each of the treatments are also discussed in detail. Care is taken to distinguish paranoid schizophrenia from other subtypes of the same disorder such as disorganization and simple-type schizophrenia. The administration of neuroleptics and the use of shock therapy, used in the movie to treat Nash, are discussed into details.

Keywords: paranoid schizophrenia, neuroleptics, shock therapy

Paranoid Schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind

        The main character, John Nash, in the movie is a brilliant student who developed the Nash Equilibrium concepts in Economics. The movie is set in 1947 when Nash joins Princeton University through the Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics. Nash becomes a friend to Bender, Ainsley, and Bender who are all good graduate students of science and mathematics. Nash has a roommate named Herman who studies literature. At this time, Nash is trying his best to develop a new concept in Economics. Following a scene on Nash and his friends discussing the best strategy in approaching a group of girls, he comes up with an original idea on how business dynamics work earning himself an appointment to Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is later joined by Sol and Bender. Nash’s brilliant idea comes after Hansen, a representative of popular economic theories of that time, quotes Adam Smith saying that it is best for every business entity to make decisions independently but Nash believes that cooperation is a better economic approach.

        Nash is presented as an intelligent scholar. His prowess earned him an invite to the Pentagon so that he could offer his expertise in cracking enemy telecommunications that were heavily encrypted. The team hired to decrypt communications in the Pentagon is amazed by his ability to crack the code mentally. He is curious about a man who he calls the Big Brother and he is inquisitive of his position in the Pentagon. The man, a general, does not provide any answers leaving Nash to conclude that it was because of confidentiality reasons. Later in the film, Nash meets the Big Brother who introduces himself as William Parcher. The man says that he works for the United States Department of Defense. William Parcher offers Nash a job of decoding messages in order to find a bomb that the Soviet Union is accused of hiding in an unknown location. Information about the bomb is believed to be contained in published materials such as magazines and newspapers. Nash is given an "assignment' of establishing patterns in publications and report back to Parcher so that they could stop the Soviet plot that the bomb was a part of before a serious attack occurred. Nash becomes obsessed with his assignment and he becomes paranoid to the extent that he believes that Soviet agents follow him as he takes his findings to a secret mailbox.

        Nash meets Alicia Larde who he proposes to and marries upon visiting Princeton. Nash once witnesses a fierce shootout between Soviet agents and Parcher, which makes him want to abandon his assignment. Parcher uses blackmail to make the terrified Nash keep working on the assignment. Nash’s paranoia worsens after the incident. He is invited to give a lecture at Harvard University where he flees from a group of people that he perceived as Russian agents. He punches Dr. Rosen, one of the men that he believes are a Russian agent, as he attempts to get away. Nash is taken to a psychiatric care center, where according to his delusion is run by Russians. Nash is diagnosed to have paranoid schizophrenia by Dr. Rosen who discloses the news to Alicia. Dr. Rosen reports that Parcher only exists in Nash’s imagination. Nash was subjected to antipsychotic medication and insulin shock therapy. Nash is frustrated with the side effects of the medication since it made him unresponsive and lethargic. Nash stopped to take the prescribed medication which gave him a relapse in which he “met” William Parcher again. Alicia notices that Nash has again resumed working on his assignment after he left their baby submerged in a bathtub which was filing with water believing that Charles was watching it. Alicia calls Dr. Rosen who finds Nash convinced that Parcher is plotting to kill him (Nash). Alicia threatens to leave Nash who then accepts that the incidents are hallucinations.

        Nash agrees with Dr. Rosen diagnosis but he does not resume the prescribed medication. Alicia promises to stay and help in taking care of Nash. Nash drops his assignment and goes back to Princeton, where he meets Hansen who has then become the head of the mathematics department. Hansen allows Nash to work on minor projects and he learns how to ignore his hallucination for the next two decades that follow. Nash is finally allowed to resume teaching in the late 1970s. Nash wins the Nobel Prize in Economics courtesy of his developments of the game theory. The film ends with Nash, his son and Alicia leaving the auditorium. Nash sees Parcher watching him and he does not flee this time around.

Diagnostic Impression

        Patients with paranoid schizophrenia have paranoid delusions (Bedi, 2017). Patients believe that someone is out to hurt them even if evidence and logic prove that the patient is safe. Nash, for instance, was convinced that Soviet agents were following him with an aim of killing him. He was always worried that some agents were following him as he took the reports to the secret mailbox. He, like patients with paranoid schizophrenia, feared that a superior organization (the Soviet spy agency in Nash’s case) was monitoring all his activities. Nash associates every unusual thing and people to the Soviet spies. The scene where he tried to flee from Dr. Rosen and his colleagues best illustrate his paranoia. He believed that he had been tricked into the lecture and the psychiatry center that he was taken to was run by Russians.  Later, Nash is convinced that Parcher also wanted to kill him for abandoning the assignment. The delusions were mostly illogical since Parcher was in the same team as Nash and he could never hurt him. The Soviet spy agency was also probably unaware of his involvement in the assignment. The agents could have stopped him a long time ago instead of just follow him as he thought.



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