(As Good as it Gets)
What’s the Matter with Him?
Melvin’s problem (Other than his name) is a type of anxiety disorder called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Most people recognize OCD when they see someone going out of their way to make sure certain things are clean. While there are other indicators for OCD, that is certainly one of the telltale markers for it. Like its name suggests, people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder harbor obsessions and/or compulsions. Since we never get inside Melvin’s head (There’s no room up there), we are left to analyze his behaviors…
*Compulsions: Repetitive behaviors that Melvin feels driven to perform, according to rules that must be followed rigidly
Between the way he packs for a trip to the methodical way he enters his home, Melvin definitely suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
What is interesting to note about Melvin is that he also avoids stepping on sidewalk cracks. While this has nothing to do with cleanliness, there is a childhood superstition that relates to breaking your mom’s back if you step on a crack in the sidewalk. Melvin’s mother is probably no longer alive (Because he’s like a hundred), but for whatever reason, this notion that he cannot step on any cracks still affects the way he walks on the ‘walk.
With people that suffer from OCD, obsessions are usually the driving motivation for their compulsions. They may have a strange belief – such as that they will break their mom’s back – if they forget to perform their compulsions, so many of them will start over if there is a break in their routine. Some people with this disorder even believe that they have to do things a certain number of times, and will start over if they lose count. Needless to say, that can be pretty exhausting (For everyone involved).
In the case of Melvin Udall, his relationship with his father could relate to his mental illness; he doesn’t tell us a lot about his dad (Because he keeps interrupting Simon to try and talk about it), but he reveals a few qualities about his father that made Melvin’s childhood stressful. A person who slaps someone’s hands when they make a mistake playing the piano probably has a penchant for following the rules (Or hates the sound of pianos), and therefore Melvin’s upbringing could have played a role in his obsessions, and later, compulsions.
Is there Hope for Melvin?
In the form of a no-nonsense waitress, Melvin meets his match. When she starts to point out the oddity of his behaviors, Melvin decides to visit his former psychiatrist. It is when Melvin takes medication for the disorder that he starts to see a marked improvement in his life: He forgets to perform pieces of his compulsive routine, and he even becomes a little bit nicer to his neighbor (And his dog).