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John Nash - Beautiful Mind- Nursing

22 Sep 2020 272 Views Sarah

Introduction (250 words)

This paper aims to critically analyse the Oscar winning motion picture “A Beautiful Mind” which is based on true life events of Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Nash. The brilliant mathematician is diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age of 30, and is dealing to live with this ailment. This is one of the foremost movies that gives a very in-depth insight into the illness of the mind – schizophrenia- which is often considered a taboo in the world (Capps, 2011). The brilliant mathematician is known for creating the game theory which has usage in several disciplines ranging from economics to international relations to trade. This paper’s focus is also on the impact of this illness on the personal life of John Nash including his wife and the safety of his children. There are several types of schizophrenia, and the movie focuses on the most common type i.e., paranoid schizophrenia (Yastanti & Soraya, 2016). Initially, the disorder begins during his college when he imagines a roommate and his family, while there is visual and auditory hallucinations involving international conspiracies – it is only later in his married life when he understands that these are hallucinations. The boundary between what is real and what is not seems to blur away very easily as he grapples with his illness (Horner, 2018). This is when he begins to take medications but they seem to prevent him from engaging in mathematics or connect with his wife and family as well. Therefore, John Nash learns to ignore his hallucinations and continue his life where he faces a lot of stigma and ostracization as a professor; but he continues to struggle and succeeds in overcoming his illness by leading a life without medications (Capps, 2011).

The aetiology and pathophysiology of the mental illness featured in the film. Discuss in relation to the main character and their experience. Discuss in relation to current research and literature (500 words).

The early signs of illness began in John Nash’s life when he was in his 20s, during his undergraduate years. But at the time, John Nash was not aware that he was having hallucinations or was suffering from this illness. It was at a very later stage, during his 30s, when he realized that he was experiencing a mental breakdown owing to the hallucinations and stories his mind had built (Leweke et al., 2018). One of his closest friends and college roommate, who he confided in was also a figment of his imagination which completely broke him. He shared a great deal of his inner turmoil and his feelings with ‘Charles’ who also helped him with the game theory (Strelets & Arkhipov, 2019).

After his marriage and child, during his research at the university, his hallucinations and stories started to become more dark, violent and negative. In these hallucinations, he saw himself working for a secret service for the United States of America and being deployed to break down soviet codes to prevent attacks and war (Leweke et al., 2018). Although the pathophysiology and aetiology of schizophrenia is not certain but there are several research scholars and clinical scholars present several assumptions. Several research claim that neurotransmitters related abnormalities owing to deficiency or excess of serotonin, glutamate, and dopamine are considered the primary cause for Schizophrenia (Strelets & Arkhipov, 2019). While some other studies indicate the imbalance in neurochemical is because of aspartate, glycine, and gamma-amino butyricacid (GABA). These neurochemicals often are produced suddenly in the brain, and lead to onset of drastic events for a person who may be suffering from Schizophrenia for the past years. This is what happened to John Nash, the protagonist in the movie, where events suddenly spiralled into chaos. The story that he constructed in his mind was underlined by the fact that he worked with a secret spy agency where he worked in collaboration with the government (Nasar, 2016). He continued to decode documents and encrypted words and phrases (according to his narrative in his head) but later on he realized that he was being implicated. Charles and other characters that he had hallucinated were also part of the conspiracy against him. This conspiracy created plenty of paranoia and threatened his and his family’s security (Yastanti & Soraya, 2016).

Although a few scholars believe that genes accelerates the development and progress of the illness of Schizophrenia but there is no data that indicates the direct impact. As discussed earlier, the illness and deviated behaviour is triggered by both brain abnormalities and biochemical imbalances among other factors (Leweke et al., 2018). John Nash’s personality also gives an overview of the influence of the personality on the development of this illness (Yastanti & Soraya, 2016). He is a highly introverted man with slight regard to other people’s reactions and emotions. He is shown to be a, narcissistic individual with a lot of belief in self, wherein, he also tends to focus on the world of mathematics more than the human world. His interaction with numbers and his discipline remains the prime element in his life, as he is shown to be rarely expressive and minimalistic in his interaction with the community (Nasar, 2016).

Any mental health assessments, treatment and or interventions featured in the film that support recovery. Discuss in relation to the character and their experience. Discuss in relation to current research and literature (500 words).

The hallucinations and delusions made it more and more difficult for John Nash to work, and to pursue his research. He began working on decoded and encrypting data and phrases that did not exist, and continued to build patterns in cases and stories that did not exist. He was once called to Pentagon, and that visit aided him in a building story where he was a spy for the Department of Defence in Unites States of America (Horner, 2018). His position and security was threatened by the soviet spies who began following him (hallucinations).One of the prominent scenes for the debacle of his career and a professional low point was while he was delivering a lecture, he runs off the stage as he sees a number of society spies coming from all sides to murder him or imprison him (Donaldson, 2015). It was his wife Alicia who played a prominent role in his life, she begins to observe frequent cases of paranoia and odd behaviour which she had not witnessed. This is when she takes him to a psychiatrist, and he is admitted in psychiatry ward where he is asked about the people he sees; this is when he confides in him and explains his narrative (Nasar, 2019). His wife does not refute his beliefs but instead asks for the details, and follows him one night. This is when she witnesses that he ventures into an old and uninhabited building and continues to submit parcels that are not taken by anyone. She confronts him, and tries to show him that all of this is a figment of her imagination (Capps, 2011). By this time also, it is only the soviet spies that seem to be his hallucinations. One of the lowest points for John Nash on a personal level is when he attempts to get over his illness, and then begins to delve deeper and is about to drown his young baby during bathing him. This is the time when he also threatens his wife’s life, and applies his mind to understand that these individuals never age – and therefore must be a figment of his imagination. This occurs when he begins to withdraw from medication as he is not able to work or connect with his wife (Nasar, 2019).

During his stay at the psychiatry ward, he cuts his wrist to show the psychiatrist the implant but he does not see this. He is given medication which includes 10 weeks of insulin shock therapy with 5 sessions every week.  These large levels of dosage of insulin make the person docile and in a coma like condition while these treatments are effective for catatonic and paranoid schizophrenia than hebephrenic (Capps, 2011). During his stay at the hospital, he was subjected to extremely regressive, violent, and non-effective methods of treatment like shock therapy. It was after a few decades that the therapy was discontinued as anti-psychotic drugs replaced them (Horner, 2018).

John Nash begins to control his hallucinations by acknowledging their presence but he does not continue with his medication apart from some mild medication. His life consists of him dealing with his illness continuously while he is working and interacting with his family as well (Donaldson, 2015).

The impact of this illness on the individual, their family and the community. Discuss in relation to the character and their experience. Discuss in relation to current research and literature (750 words)

The movie highlighted the secondary trauma and suffering that the family members of the patient also felt and went through. They had an equally or even more problematic situations to deal with. It took plenty of time for Nash to even believe his wife, and he also felt that her life may be threatened (Nasar, 2011). There was increasing discontent between the couple owing to the deteriorating condition of John Nash. The emotional turmoil was really high, and the situation became highly charged when both of them could not understand each other (Nasar, 2019).

After a point of time, when he stopped taking his medication he was withdrawn into his illness even more. He was made to believe that the psychiatrist was part of Russian spy conspiracy, and he wanted to torture him to know the truth. One of the key reasons for Nash to withdraw from medication was a lack of connection with his wife and loss of sexual drive which created more distance within the couple (Nasar, 2016). The drug therapy proved to be a huge impediment for his research work and his professional work, he lost his grant and it was his colleagues who helped him and his wife. His wife worked in double shifts to accommodate their financial needs while looking after their infant baby, there was very little work that John Nash could do along with his heavy medication. When he was falling back into the condition, he was getting his infant ready for bath (Yastanti & Soraya, 2016). This is when he begins to hallucinate that someone enters their house, he is about to drown the baby and Alicia comes running as she hears the cries of the baby. Upon witnessing this scene where he is drowning the baby in the bath tub, she rushes to him and takes the baby away, wraps him in towels and starts shouting (Capps, 2011). They have a highly charged conversation where he witnesses the spies standing next to Alicia and he takes out his gun to detest the spies but is pointing at Alicia. This is the most frightening experience for Alicia and her child as well.  Medication although important to prevent hallucinations often tends to impede the thinking ability of patient (Donaldson, 2015).

After this he decides to manage his own illness and face his own demons. The movie depicts how he understand the situation by applying his mind, and is constantly telling himself that it is a figment of his mind (Rahmatullah, 2016). He goes back to Princeton to work and support his family, and manages to deal with his illness with a lot of effort, patience, and willpower. He continues to pursue his discipline, and begins to engage with students as he is very thorough with mathematics (Simanjuntak, 2020). He begins to finally enjoy his work wherein teaching and interacting with students helps him personally to overcome his illness as well. It keeps him distracted and busy, and he builds connections with students as he is a dedicated professor with a knack for brilliance and excellence (Capps, 2011). This is also the period when he wins the Nobel Prize as he is acknowledged by his colleagues within the university for his work and his accomplishments as a mathematician. Rationalization of his illness is one of the brilliant yet difficult things that has no record in mental health literature but is depicted in the movie and in the life of John Nash (Donaldson, 2015). He receives immense support from his colleagues, friends, and wife, this helps him manage and orient his life better and continue to pursue his work in the discipline. Although his struggle of differentiating between what is real and what is not stays with him till the end, as he uses the testimony of others to verify the people he witnesses even as he continues to work at Princeton (Nasar, 2016).

Stigma and or discrimination in the film. Discuss in relation to the character and their experience. Discuss in relation to current research and literature (750 words)

Movie has shown the brilliance of John Nash and how the illness can cripple the best of the minds in our world. It reflects upon the everyday struggles of people dealing with schizophrenia in managing their motor abilities and creating connections with people (Rahmatullah, 2016). Through the character of John Nash, the emotion connection that the movie builds between the audiences and the protagonist reveals how mental illness is as or even more worse than a physical disease; and how it can distance one with their loved ones and there is very little control left with the patient in dealing with such an illness (Simanjuntak, 2020). Although the movie did put too much emphasis on family’s support and how it is most important to overcome an illness. The support system that an individual has is definitely instrumental in dealing and fighting with this illness, but family’s support alone cannot cure an illness like schizophrenia which is an illness triggered by neurotransmitter or biochemical imbalance (Rahmatullah, 2016).

Although John Nash is shown to be arrogant, narcissist, and is not too popular among his friends as he often denigrates them. He is also considered as overtly dedicated to mathematics, as he continues to see mathematical equations all around him; and even witness and study the world through mathematical lens and phenomenon (Martinez & Castro-Villarreal, 2017). In addition the treatment of John Nash through adrenaline and insulin is not considered as a verified treatment for the disorder according to literature, and the presence of a relative of the patient during the course of the treatment is not a common practice in mental health practitioners (Rahmatullah, 2016). It creates more negativity around mental health professionals for the brutal treatment of patient by the doctors (Martinez & Castro-Villarreal, 2017).

Many individuals who have dealt with schizophrenia are discriminated against by the society that does not understand this illness. It tries to ward off stigma by letting the audiences into the life of the patient, his family and friends (Nasar, 2011). One of the most common stereotype is the behavioural and characteristic changes that people undergo which are taken as part of their personality; it becomes difficult for people to understand the connection between mental capacity and its impact on the behaviour; and how an individual has absolutely no control over this (Donaldson, 2015). The reality and the imaginary worlds integrate so effectively for these patients that they are not able to distinguish between it (Capps, 2011). This social ostracization of people is not what the director is also trying to address by telling the audiences that this is not the patient’s fault or under their control. The blurring of the lines of reality and imagination is very difficult for people to detect as their brain makes them witness it (Martinez & Castro-Villarreal, 2017); and it becomes their reality. The movie also depicts discrimination as colleagues and students tend to mock John for his illness initially when he joins Princeton (Nasar, 2016).

Conclusion (250 words)

The movie does not do justice to the illness of Schizophrenia by portraying an over dramatic case of John Nash, the idea behind the movie seems to be to sell the movie rather than to give a more realistic understanding of the illness. Besides, John Nash’s case study that the director has taken up is not a common case, it is rather an unusual case where the individual decides to fight his illness by willpower. In a way, the movie is discouraging the use of medication and struggling with illness which is somewhat warped considering that asking for help in mental illness is still considered a taboo. And a lot of organizations work on dissociating medication with the stigma attached to it, and is always the preferred route that is suggested by any and every health practitioner. The movie rather show how John bravely fights with his illness throughout on his own which is a partial and biased view promoting a wrong practice according to mental health experts. There are several crests and troughs that are experienced by Nash while he is shown to be quite inexpressive and unemotional, he was indeed a brilliant mathematician who is still regarded for his game theory. The short scene where John Nash comes up with the game theory in a bar has been shot well, and is the real story as well. The usage of game theory has been across disciplines from economics to International Relations to trade to social science experiments etcetera. The character of his wife has been portrayed very well, and the light on her struggles is an important part of the movie; as she suffers equally or even more than John Nash. Social support is essential but that cannot be the sole cure for a disease as severe as schizophrenia.


Capps, D. (2011). John Nash, game theory, and the schizophrenic brain. Journal of religion and health50(1), 145-162.

Donaldson, E. J. (2015). Beyond a beautiful mind: Schizophrenia and bioethics in the classroom. Disability Studies Quarterly35(2).

Horner, J. (2018). A Beautiful Mind. 100 Greatest Film Scores, 19.

Leweke, F. M., Mueller, J. K., Lange, B., Fritze, S., Topor, C. E., Koethe, D., & Rohleder, C. (2018). Role of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: implications for pharmacological intervention. CNS drugs32(7), 605-619.

Martinez, M., & Castro-Villarreal, F. (2017). A Life On Hold: Living With Schizophrenia by J. Mendez-Negrete: (2015). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. Paperback, $21.79. 296 pp. ISBN: 0826340563.

Nasar, S. (2011). A beautiful mind. Simon and Schuster.

Nasar, S. (2016). A beautiful mind. WF Howes Limited.

Nasar, S. (2019). John Nash, His Life. In The Abel Prize 2013-2017 (pp. 357-377). Springer, Cham.



Strelets, V., & Arkhipov, A. (2019). O-09 Some new links in the pathophysiological mechanisms of paranoid schizophrenia. Clinical Neurophysiology130(7), e24.

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