Schizophrenia in movies: don't believe everything you see

July 13, 2012
Schizophrenia in movies: don't believe everything you see
Hollywood portrayals are often inaccurate, misleading, study shows.

(HealthDay) -- Movies often stereotype people with schizophrenia as being violent and unpredictable, says a researcher who claims Hollywood dispenses misinformation about symptoms, causes and treatment of this mental illness.

For the study, published in the July issue of , Patricia Owen of the psychology department at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, reviewed 41 English-language films released between 1990 and 2010 that featured at least one main character with schizophrenia.

Owen found that 83 percent of those characters were portrayed as dangerous or violent to others or themselves. Almost one-third engaged in homicidal behavior, and one-quarter , the researcher said.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, the risk of violence is small among people with schizophrenia. But is higher than average. About 10 percent, mostly young men, do kill themselves, the agency notes.

Delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and disorganized speech or thought were displayed by most of the characters, the study author pointed out in a news release from the .

But much more common symptoms of schizophrenia -- such as flat affect, lack of speech and lack of motivation -- were seen much less frequently.

Although schizophrenia incidence is nearly equal among women and men, almost 80 percent of the characters with schizophrenia were male, the study found.

The review noted, however, the movies did get some characterizations of schizophrenia right. Specifically, about half of the characters had , which is consistent with data on the illness. Moreover, about half of the movies depicted or alluded to the use of medication to treat the mental illness. Psychotherapy and group therapy were not portrayed often.

Owen suggested that more research is needed to understand how films influence about schizophrenia, and to determine how to increase empathy and understanding.

Films featuring a character with schizophrenia include A Beautiful Mind and Donnie Darko.

Explore further: Study finds bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy

More information:
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides more information on schizophrenia.


Related Stories

Study finds bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy

September 19, 2011
Researchers from Taiwan have confirmed a bidirectional relation between schizophrenia and epilepsy. The study published today in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), reports that patients ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ghostfire89
not rated yet Jul 14, 2012
Of course, and they're invariably shown committing bizarre and gruesome crimes; you never one knocking over a 7-11 or mugging someone.
Hollywood should be ashamed. Life for people with schizophrenia is joyless enough with everyone thinking they're the Joker.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.