A Portrayal of Bipolar Disorder

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A Portrayal of Bipolar I Disorder: “Mr. Jones”
“Mr. Jones” is a 1993 film featuring Richard Gere as the manic-depressive eponymous character. Despite having been in and out of treatment facilities for twenty years, Jones happily embraces his grandiose personality and zest for adventure. The audience is introduced to Mr. Jones on the heels of a manic episode, which leads to his arrest and admittance into a mental hospital. As the film progresses we learn of the extent of Jones’ illness through the perspective of his psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Bowen, as well as relationships with his peers, and his daily functions. As a psychology student, my interpretation of “Mr. Jones” is based on the accuracy of the portrayal of bipolar I disorder and other psychological disorders presented throughout the film. Though the main character meets diagnostic criteria for bipolar I disorder, there are several additional psychological disorders introduced during the movie. Dr. Bowen has patients who suffer from a spectrum of conditions including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and various personality disorders to name a few. These characters interact with Mr. Jones, and contribute to his functioning while in treatment and in the real world. Of particular interest are Mr. Jones’ symptoms, etiology of his illness, recommended treatment plan, and the ways in which his illness affects his everyday life. From the opening scene on, Mr. Jones demonstrates numerous symptoms that are consistent with bipolar I disorder. In the first shot, Mr. Jones is seen singing and dancing to James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. This song plays several times throughout the movie and serves as a cinematic tool by informing the audience that Mr. Jones is experiencing a cycle of mania. He appears elated as he struts along the street talking to women, giving money to strangers, and eventually charming his way into getting a construction job for the day. All of these actions are consistent with DSM-IV-TR criteria for a manic episode. Mr. Jones has a “distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive2”mood, and we are led to believe that this has been ongoing for at least one week. While on his job, Jones encounters a fellow construction worker named Howard and insists on stepping out on the ledge of the rooftop they are working on. Upon admiring the planes flying above, Mr. Jones claims he is going to fly as well. His belief in his ability to fly displays his inflated self-esteem at the time, and his actions of grandiosity. An additional symptom that meets criteria for a manic episode is Mr. Jones’s obvious pleasure in the prospect of flying. This is an impulsive action that undoubtedly has “high potential for painful consequences” considering he will ultimately fall to his death. Also because it takes place at his job his episode is affecting his occupational functioning as well. The audience is led to believe that Mr. Jones is not under the influence of alcohol or other substances at the time of this incidence, and thus meets full criteria for a manic episode. At this point in the film I was prepared for Mr. Jones to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder rather than bipolar II disorder because individuals with the latter do not meet full criteria for mania2. Nevertheless, psychiatrists at the treatment facility gave Mr. Jones a preliminary diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and cited symptoms that were not displayed to the audience on screen. Dr. Bowen stated that Mr. Jones was brought in by the police highly agitated, delusional, and having auditory hallucinations. Even if these symptoms were shown to the audience, it is still unreasonable that Jones would be diagnosed with this subtype of schizophrenia. First of all, we are not sure if each of his symptoms had persisted for one month, as stated by the DSM-IV-TR criteria for schizophrenia. Also, a psychiatrist did not speak with him, or give him a full evaluation before...
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