(Ordinary People)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Conrad’s brother recently died in a boating accident (in the middle of Illinois somehow). Since Conrad was there when older brother, Buck met his demise, he struggles with overwhelming guilt and sadness following the accident.
His emotional state led Conrad to try and kill himself, but fortunately his father and mother were home and were able to save him. Finally deciding to go to a therapist once he is released from the hospital, Conrad is trying to understand himself and to feel better.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A disorder that receives a lot of attention is commonly called PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Military veterans returning from combat sometimes go through this, but anyone recovering from a traumatic experience can suffer the same condition. Some indications Conrad may have PTSD include the following symptoms:

*Exposure to Actual or Threatened Death
Obviously, Conrad experienced both when Buck (Seriously, who named these children?) died and Conrad almost died.

*Recurrent Distressing Dreams in Which the Content of the Dream is Related to the Traumatic Event
When we first meet Conrad, he wakes up from a disturbing dream about the accident. He continues to have them throughout the movie.

*Avoidance of or Efforts to Avoid People that Arouse Distressing Memories, Thoughts, or Feelings About or Closely Associated with the Traumatic Event
In a conversation with his friend, Joe, Conrad tells him that he doesn’t want to hang around with Joe anymore because it hurts too much. This is after Joe reveals that he, Conrad, and Buck were all close friends.

*Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood
…This one seems obvious.

*Irritable Behavior and Angry Outbursts (with Little or No Provocation)
This one doesn’t happen a lot in the movie, but it is there. (Mary Tyler Moore brings out the rage).

*Reckless or Self-Destructive Behavior
This one is self-explanatory. Other than his suicide attempt however, Conrad is a pretty careful guy (When he’s not yelling at his mom, of course).

What About Beth?

That’s a tricky one.
She definitely had a hard time with Buck’s death and it’s even implied that he may have been her favorite (Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but even parents are not perfect. I know. I was shocked too). Although her husband does go to see Conrad’s therapist in an effort to help out their remaining son, Beth refuses to go and becomes angry when husband Calvin (One of those kids should have been named Hobbes) tells a friend of theirs about Conrad’s therapy.
Since the focus of the film is on Conrad, it’s not clear what Beth is thinking (Ever), but it may be that her cold demeanor and avoidance of getting in touch with her own mentality are products of her own, normal grieving process. It’s hard to say for sure since she is so closed off from Conrad, but grief does strange things to us all.

Is There Hope for Conrad?

Yes! Going to therapy and opening up to his father (And trying with his mom, but she’s hopeless) are good signs that Conrad is going to be okay. He even gets a second chance with Jeannine. Anxiety disorders like PTSD are not touted as curable, but they can be managed if the person with them makes an effort to do so. It looks as though Conrad is finally willing to make the effort and forgive himself.

What Do You Think?
Conrad 2
Share your thoughts with us!


(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.

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).
Melvin Knows How to Pack
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?
Melvin & Verdell
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).

What Do You Think?
Melvin Asleep

Share your thoughts with us!