Identifying Disorders in the Media - Essay Sample

Published: 2024-01-11
Identifying Disorders in the Media - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Media Mental health Mental disorder
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1119 words
10 min read


The media's role in portraying mental health disorders has been a topic of debate for a long time. Research provides that the way mental disorders are reported and depicted in the media platforms extensively influences citizens and shapes their attitudes and views regarding mental illnesses. The American Psychiatric Association refers to Schizophrenia as a severe mental illness whereby individuals tend to interpret reality events in an abnormal way (Perciful & Meyer 2017). Symptoms range from difficulties in concentrating and thinking, remaining motivated, delusions, and hallucinations. The disorder is currently affecting more than 1.1 percent of the US population, and when left unchecked, it may interfere with daily functioning (Perciful & Meyer 2017). Such complex symptoms explain why there are increased misconceptions of Schizophrenia.

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Media Platforms

Like other mental illnesses, most media platforms (films) tend to pay attention to the dramatic side of Schizophrenia disorder while overlooking the treatment and management of the disorder. The entertainment media critics' argue that the cinematic representations of Schizophrenia are linked with misinformation and stereotypes regarding the treatment method, causes, and symptoms of the disorder. Although media platforms may not always form such stereotypes directly, research provides that they play a part in reinforcing such misinformation and stereotypes (Owen, 2012). When left unchecked, such conditions may make individuals with mental illnesses reluctant to seek help, affecting them and their families. This is after seeing how individuals suffering from similar mental illnesses are represented inaccurately or negatively in media platforms example, televisions. This paper examines the role of media platforms in portraying schizophrenia disorder.

Portraying a Schizophrenic Individual

Portraying a schizophrenic individual as dangerous, unpredictable, hysterical, and violent is by far the most persistent form of stereotype. Research provides that such views are based on the fact that contemporary films often exaggerate frequencies of violent behaviors committed by schizophrenic individuals. For instance, Hyler and his colleagues (1991), in their argument categorized, "homicidal maniac," as being among Hollywood's pejorative stereotypes on individuals experiencing mental disorders (Hyler et al., 1991). Even though epidemiological research reveals that individuals experiencing schizophrenia show increased violence than others, this is only true for fewer individuals with histories of violence and comorbid substance abuse.

In actuality, schizophrenic individuals are not violent or dangerous. Hyler's argument is in line with that of Beachum, who also argues that although Schizophrenia is linked with violent acts, such behaviors are most of the time exaggerated in movies and other media platforms. Also, characters suffering from Schizophrenia are depicted by names such as "deranged," "loony," and "crazy" by the "sane characters," therefore reinforcing schizophrenic stereotypes in the process (Beachum, 2010). Such exaggerated and wrong schizophrenic symptoms depicted in media platforms adversely impact citizens' perceptions regarding schizophrenia disorder. Research conducted by Domino (1983) revealed that individuals exposed to "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" film in 1975 showed increased negative attitudes and perceptions regarding individuals experiencing schizophrenia disorder compared to individuals who did not watch the film. Such perceptions are persistent and cannot be altered easily even after exposure to positive portrayals of the disorder. Cross also argues in his study that films depict schizophrenic people as a threat to other people and violent (Cross, 2004). Cross states, "the psychiatric label schizophrenia…has not been able to lift the popular meaning of madness out of the realm of lurid imagination" (Cross, 2004, p. 198).

Mental Institutions

Similarly, in most films, mental institutions are depicted as "barbaric prisons," and most of the time, the individuals are poorly treated. Individuals with Schizophrenia are also depicted as having "tremendous intellectual abilities." However, studies also show that even though individuals with Schizophrenia consist of genes that enhance their psychological capabilities, the majority of them do not have the focus or discipline required in executing such traits. A recently conducted study by Owen (2012) also reveals that films are also linked with myths. For instance, it is believed that "schizophrenia can be cured by the special empathetic understanding of a loving helper" (Owen, 2012). However, such assumptions are, not scientifically proven; for instance, most schizophrenic individuals minimize the effects of the disorder by taking prescribed medicine. However, research further provides that such prescribed medications do not work for al schizophrenic individuals.

Various critics have also faulted films and other media platforms, mainly since they show the bizarre and disorganized behaviors of schizophrenia individuals. Most of the time, such individuals are presented experiencing visual hallucinations. In actuality, even though some of the symptoms of people with Schizophrenia may appear grossly disorganized or bizarre, research provides that symptoms such as avolition and flattening are ranked as increasingly prominent (Perciful & Meyer 2017). Also, schizophrenic individuals experience more auditory hallucinations compared to visual hallucinations. Movies may also show the misconceptions that the schizophrenia condition is associated with extraordinary or genius creative abilities, which is a myth.

How films depict schizophrenia treatments, and causation is also by far misrepresented or inaccurate. In this case, entertainment critics argue that films have increasingly portrayed false causes of schizophrenia disorder (Perciful & Meyer 2017). For instance, other films reveal that dysfunctional parenting, among other traumatic events, can be attributed to the condition, which is not always the case.


Upon evaluation of the role of the media in portraying Schizophrenia, it is evident that the influence of media platforms on public opinions regarding mental illnesses cannot be ignored. For instance, portraying schizophrenic individuals as violent makes audiences consider people experiencing such disorders as dangerous and may even remain reluctant to interact with them in the neighborhoods (Owen, 2012). in this case, films tend to portray schizophrenic characters with monstrous and crude qualities, further increasing stigmatizations and discrimination for individuals with the disorder (Perciful & Meyer 2017). Such adverse schizophrenic stereotypes can be eliminated by portraying accurate and exact descriptions of schizophrenia disorder.


Beachum, L. (2010). The psychopathology of cinema: how mental illness and psychotherapy are portrayed in the film. Retrieved from:

Domino, G. (1983). Impact of the film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," on attitudes towards mental illness. Psychological Reports, 53(1), 179-182. Retrieved from:

Cross, S. (2004). Visualizing madness: Mental illness and public representation. Television & New Media, 5(3), 197-216. Retrieved from:

Hyler, S. E., Gabbard, G. O., & Schneider, I. (1991). Homicidal maniacs and narcissisfic parasites: stigmatization of mentally ill persons in the movies. Psychiatric Services, 42(10), 1044-1048. Retrieved from:

Owen, P. R. (2012). Portrayals of Schizophrenia by entertainment media: a content analysis of contemporary movies. Psychiatric Services, 63(7), 655-659. Retrieved from:

Perciful, M. S., & Meyer, C. (2017). The impact of films on viewer attitudes towards people with Schizophrenia. Current Psychology, 36(3), 483-493. Retrieved from:

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