Anxiety Disorders


Analyze This
Genre:  Comedy    Year:  1999    Rating:  R
Actors:  Robert DeNiro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment, Anxiety Disorder
I really liked this movie. The portrayal of mixed anxiety and depression (delayed onset PTSD?) is terrific. Unfortunately, the movie also demonstrates how not to be an ethical psychiatrist (can you count the number of ways that he violates confidentiality?), but he still is effective (if you believe in the therapeutic miracle of sudden insight). The best character in the movie is the loyal goon, Jelly.  He was great. See this one.

As Good As It Gets
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1997    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Jack Nicholson, Greg Kinnear, Helen Hunt
Topics:  Psychopathology, OCD, Personality Disorder, Social
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Actress. Jack Nicholson with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, as well as plenty of Axis II. Also addresses bias (homophobia) and attitude change. Really great movie.

Aviator, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2005    Rating:  R
Actors:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale
Topics:  Psychopathology, OCD, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting actress and other accomplishments (cinematography, etc.).  Excellent movie. There is much room for diagnosis debate – clear OCD symptoms early on, but what about paranoia? Manic-type symptoms? Personality considerations? Be sure to also watch the special features segment on OCD.

Behind the Lines (aka Regeneration)
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1997    Rating:  R
Actors:  Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby, Johnny Lee Miller
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Treatment
Story of psychiatrist treating World War I soldiers with “shell shock”  in an old Victorian castle. Even ECT!

Genre:  Drama    Year:  1984    Rating:  R
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Matthew Modine, John Harkins
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Stress and Coping
An early Nicolas Cage movie with two returning Vietnam vets dealing with the aftermath of their combat experiences – one physically and the other mentally.

Captain Newman, M.D. 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1963    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis, Angie Dickinson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Treatment, Stress and Coping
Great older movie with Gregory Peck as the military psychologist during WW II. Interesting portrayal of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its treatment. Highly recommended, but hard to find.

Genre:  Drama    Year:  1995    Rating:  R
Actors:  Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Forensic
Sigourney Weaver as an agoraphobic psychologist, oh, and there’s a homicidal maniac in the movie. How accurately is the agoraphobia portrayed?

Deer Hunter, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1978    Rating:  R
Actors:  Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Stress and Coping, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actor.  Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep – a top notch cast portraying the impact of serving in the Vietnam War, showing their lives before, during, and after the conflict. Another look at PTSD. Christopher Walken’s character is one worthy of analysis. Also, consider the traumas they experienced as prisoners of war.

Enduring Love 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2004    Rating:  R
Actors:  Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel, has one of the most unique opening scenes. Through a chance event, a strange man develops the delusional belief (erotomania) that he has a romantic relationship with a male college professor, who, ironically, lectures on the sociobiology of love. The professor suffers from acute post traumatic stress disorder, coupled with the anxiety of being stalked.  See my article on the topic for more information.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1993     Rating:  R
Actors:  Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rosselini, Rosie Perez
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Very powerful, have plenty of tissues handy (particularly if you are a parent). The film effectively illustrates how people can have very different reactions to the same traumatic experience, in this case a plane crash. Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez are great. 

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating: NR-PG-13
Actors:  Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Classic. Bette Davis as a reclusive (insane?) woman, suspected of having killed her beau 40 years earlier, who now is faced with losing her plantation home due to a highway project.

Genre:  Drama      Year:  1989      Rating: R
Actors:  Robert DeNiro, Kathy Baker, Ed Harris
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Two Vietnam veterans struggle with returning to civilian life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Jacob’s Ladder
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1990      Rating:  R
Actors:  Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Stress and Coping
Full of plot twists and turns – combat-related PTSD?

Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating:   NR-PG
Actors:  Tippi Hedron, Sean Connery, Diane Baker
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
There is much to this movie. It exemplifies classic Hitchcock in its photography, use of color, and psychological storyline. The psychiatrist role was deleted from the screenplay, with Sean Connery, as the boyfriend, taking over the lines. Was this realistic? Was the ending realistic? Can you explain the theivery? What about a classical conditioning paradigm for the fear of the color red and thunderstorms? How, today, would Marnie be treated?

Matchstick Men 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  2003      Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders, Treatment
Nicholas Cage as the con man with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Very entertaining film. Consider the accuracy of portrayal (was it “real” OCD or a conversion disorder, for example). What about the ethics of the treatment he experienced?

Mommie Dearest
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1981     Rating:  R
Actors:  Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
This film is the source of many cultural references. It is based on the book by the adopted daughter of famed movie star, Joan Crawford and chronicles the actress’s abusive behavior and mental illness. Diagnosis?

‘Night Mother
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1986     Rating:  R
Actors:  Sissy Spacek, Anne Bancroft
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Substance Use Disorders
Plenty of family dysfunction here – declaration of suicidal intention by the daughter whose life consists of a failed marriage, a drug-addicted son, and agoraphobia. Her mother attempts to convince her that life is worth living. From a Pulitzer Prize winning play.

Ninth Configuration
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1980     Rating:  R
Actors:  Stacey Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Forensic
Very good movie about a secret experimental government mental health treatment facility for Vietnam veterans who appear to have had mental breakdowns. One goal is to identify those who are “faking.” Interesting plot twists and ethical considerations. Compare and contrast with Shutter Island.

Ordinary People 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1980     Rating:  R
Actors:  Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actor. Another MUST SEE for psychology majors. Portrayal of how a family deals with trauma. One of the few positive portrayals of a therapist (Judd Hirsch).

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1995     Rating:  R
Actors:  Julianne Moore, Peter Friedman, Xander Berkeley
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Treatment 
A film about “environmental illness” aka multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome. Is there really such a thing? Maybe. Does Carol White in this film have it? Maybe not. Is she depressed? There certainly is plenty of evidence to think so. As you watch the film, keep track of all the things that could be “toxic” from hair spray to car exhaust. Also note the virtually omnipresent background noise – electronics, traffic, etc. Also note when it is and is not present when Carol is at the treatment facility. 

Sophie’s Choice
Genre:  Drama   Year: 1982    Rating: R
Actors:  Meryl Streep, Kevin Klein, Peter MacNicol
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Stress and Coping 
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. Meryl Streep portrays a World War II concentration camp survivor dealing with traumatic memories and guilt. Kevin Klein as her seemingly psychotic boyfriend, and Peter MacNicol as the young writer, who learns of Sophie’s traumatic past.  I would never want to be faced with the “choice” she had to make.

Genre:  Drama    Year:  2005    Rating:  R
Actors:  Lou Taylor Pucci, Keanu Reeves
Topics:  Developmental, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment
This uneven film has some bright moments. It is the story of a teenage boy who still sucks his thumb. He is experiencing a variety of stresses and is treated by his unorthodox dentist (Reaves) and receives school counseling. He is prescribed Ritalin and finds that he then is able to focus to read, grades and self-confidence improve, etc. Was it a placebo? Is so, what accounted for the transformation?

Tic Code, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1999     Rating:  R
Actors:  Chris Marquette, Polly Draper, Carol Kane
Topics:  Neuropsychology (Tourette’s)
Story of a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome who becomes an underage jazz pianist. He pairs up with an accomplished sax player who, ironically, also has Tourette’s and has developed strategies for covering up the symptoms. Interesting contradictions in how each of them views the disorder and the associated stigma. Think about parallels between Tourette’s and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Unstrung Heroes
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1995     Rating:  PG
Actors:  Andie MacDowell, John Turturro, Michael Richards
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Andie MacDowell portrays a dying woman with a young son, married to an eccentric inventor. The two oddball uncles (one’s paranoid, one’s a hoarder) come through for the boy with some remarkable insights and wisdom.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1958     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Jimmy Stewart
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Stress and Coping 
This movie tops many “all time favorites” lists. The story of a police detective, Scottie (also called Johnny), who suffers a trauma, developing acrophobia and vertigo, causing him to retire from the force. He is hired by an old college acquaintance to tail his wife, Madeleine, who seems to have dissociative identity disorder. Scotty falls in love with her, but can’t prevent her from committing suicide. Stop reading here if you don’t want the plot spoiled…Scotty is traumatized, becomes catatonic. Later encounters young woman on the street who looks like Madeleine. Turns out that she truly was the Madeleine that Scottie had followed, but she was part of the murder plot of the real Madeleine, however she really did fall in love with Scottie. Over time, they date, he remakes her into Madeleine (hair color, clothing, etc.). I’ll save the rest for you to see. Did you see Scottie as a sympathetic character? How did you feel about him at the end? Would his efforts to overcome his phobia be appropriate treatment?  Interesting that Madeleine was portrayed as being dissociative and Scottie seems to show many signs of dissociative features, as well, including his two first names…hmmm! A film to be watched more than once. Enjoy!

Woody Allen 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  Variable     Rating:  Variable
Actors:  Woody Allen, Various
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Theory 
Pretty much any movie with Woody Allen in it deals with neurosis! In particular, in “Hollywood Ending” he develops conversion blindness.