The movie “A Beautiful Mind” is the memorable and touching story of John Forbes Nash Jr., an economist and mathematical genius who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1994. Nash is said to have battled with an illness called paranoid schizophrenia.
1) Said to be the most feared and disabling of mental illnesses, paranoid schizophrenia is said to be ‘characterized by illogical thinking and hearing unreal things’ (How to get rid). This is much like the way John Nash was portrayed by actor Russell Crowe in the movie.
The initial part of the movie showed that John had such a great mind, and his mind worked in a very complicated way. He was so dedicated to his work and can get so caught up with what he was doing that he sometimes stayed at the library for 2 days in a row solving mathematical equations. For John, the numbers just seemed to come alive as if they were begging for his attention.
The way he stretched the use of his brain to look at things from a mathematician’s point of view is just so astounding. John correlated everything to math – simple things like the movement of pigeons, picking up girls in a bar, and asking for approval from a girl.
The later part of the movie however, shows John as slowly being transformed to the queer individual who speaks of conspiracies, Russians, classified information, and other spy terminologies. He surreptitiously spends most of his time cutting newspapers, magazines, scribbling, deciphering codes, and dealing with shady characters.
As the story further unfolds, it is revealed that characters seen by John are only imaginary and that he has to be treated soon, or else he might put his own family in danger. As John’s psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen, says in the movie, “the nightmare of schizophrenia is in not knowing what’s true”. Indeed, John had a difficult time making the distinction between his hallucinations and realities.
2) In the movie, John was given insulin shock therapy 5 times a week for two weeks. Furthermore, he was released from the hospital on the condition that he would take his anti-psychotic drugs, so that the degree of his illness would not progress any further.
Insulin shock therapy was discovered by Manfred Sakel in 1927, where an injection of insulin was administered to the patient, who went into a superficial coma, and eventually recovered from his/her psychotic state (The History of Shock Therapy). This therapy worked positively on John, who showed significant signs of improvement after undergoing this treatment.
With regards to medications, at first, all went well when John did as he was told. Eventually, however, John stopped taking them and hid the medicines in a tin can which he – without his wife’s knowledge – hid in a drawer on his desk.
This made John’s delusions all come back to life, and all the paranoia and hallucinations haunted him once again. This occurrence almost cost the life of John’s son, so John’s wife once again sought the help of Dr. Rosen so that John could be returned to the psychiatric hospital. When Dr. Rosen arrived, John was asked why he stopped taking his medications.
His answer was because ‘I couldn’t work, I couldn’t help with the baby, and I couldn’t respond to my wife’. John was in such a pathetic state that his wife took pity on him and just let him stay, but she left her baby with her mom temporarily. Gradually, John recovered even without the aid of medications. As one website mentions: “The notion that schizophrenics must spend a lifetime on these (anti-psychotic) drugs is a ‘myth’” (John Nash: Recovery without Drugs), and John did pretty well on this.
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