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"As Good as it Gets": An Analysis by Samhita Vellala


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An analysis of "As Good As it Gets", a movie portraying the struggle of living with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This paper considers the accuracy of the symptoms and treatments depicted in the movie, and discusses consistencies/inconsistencies. Media portrayal is discussed as well.

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"As Good as it Gets": An Analysis by Samhita Vellala

  1. 1. “As Good as it Gets” An Analysis by Samhita Vellala James L. Brooks​’ "As Good as it Gets" accurately portrays the struggle of living with OCD, and presents the negative implications of this mental disorder. It specifically emphasizes social dysfunction as a result of OCD. Additionally, "As Good as it Gets" informs the public about what OCD ​actually ​is, not what it is thought to be, and reduces the stigma surrounding this disorder. Plot Summary Melvin suffers from OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He's a romance writer, who lives in an apartment in New York, next to his neighbor, a gay artist (Simon). Every morning, he goes to the same restaurant at the same time, and sits at the same table, where he orders his meal. Carol is the only waitress willing to serve him. Carol has a son, Spencer, who suffers from a chronic illness. Unexpectedly, Simon's house is robbed, and he is severely injured, landing him in the hospital. Melvin grows fond of Simon's dog, after taking care of him for a while. This begins to soften his rather volatile personality. Another change occurs in his life when Carol doesn't show up for work because of her ill son. Melvin has begun to develop an attachment to her, to the point where he pays for Spencer's medical testing, just so that Carol can come back to work. This increases Carol's respect for Melvin. Over time, their love for each other grows and develops, even through the difficult times. In fact, Melvin begins to challenge his disorder because of this new relationship in his life. Character Description and Diagnostic Criteria
  2. 2. Melvin favors predictability. He works from home, and writes romance novels. He has constant obsessive thoughts, and acts on them in the form of compulsive behaviors. Melvin’s behaviors and personality distance him from others. He can be offensive at times, and is very private. Melvin doesn't like expressing emotion in front of others, and has not been taking the prescribed pills for his OCD for quite a while. However, he has spurts of kindness, after which he pushes people away. Melvin has a softer side, which he doesn't easily reveal to others. After meeting Carol, and developing feelings for her, he begins to change for the better, and begins to challenge his OCD. Melvin suffers from OCD, specifically with good or fair insight. He meets the DSM-5 Criteria for this mental disorder. To begin with, he is constantly plagued with obsessive thoughts, including thoughts of contamination, and germs. In order to neutralize these thoughts, he performs compulsive behaviors such as wearing gloves when outside, and using several bars of soap a day. He performs other compulsive behaviors, such as locking the door multiple times, as well as turning on the lights several times, in response to his obsessive thoughts. These activities consume over an hour of his day. For instance, he spends several hours in the shower, with scalding hot water every day. His OCD negatively impacts his social functioning as well. He has a hard time getting along with others, and is generally resented by people he meets. He avoids touching anyone as well, and his personality pushes people away. His symptoms are not attributable to any substance or other illness. He seems to understand that his thoughts are probably not true. Nonetheless, he struggles to control them (DSM-5). ​Treatment Treatment of Melvin's illness is briefly mentioned in the movie. Melvin tells Carol about the "pills" he is supposed to take for his OCD. After he begins taking the pills again, and begins
  3. 3. his relationship with Carol, his behaviors begin to decrease in intensity. Additionally, he visits a psychiatric clinic briefly, where he asks his psychiatrist for help, and barges through a group therapy session. Common, effective treatments for OCD include Behavioral and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (Exposure and Response Prevention), medications (SSRIs, particularly), and at the last resort, neurosurgical techniques (textbook, 210-211). Consistencies/Inconsistencies "As Good as it Gets" accurately portrays OCD. Common obsessions and compulsions are exhibited by the main character. The negative impacts of this disorder on social functioning, particularly relationships, are clearly emphasized throughout this entire movie. The treatment methods of OCD in terms of a clinical aspect are not discussed much in the movie. They are not given as much importance as they should have. Additionally, we are not given much insight into the intrusive thoughts that fueled Melvin’s symptoms. Melvin’s relationship with Carol, along with his medications, seem to produce an improvement in his symptoms. "As Good as it Gets" reduced the stigma around OCD. It brought awareness to OCD, and revealed to the public what this debilitating disorder actually looks like. It taught the public that OCD is not a term to be thrown around, and it shouldn’t be used to casually label people who value cleanliness. It is a serious mental disorder, which must not be taken lightly.