DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies: Using Movies to Understand Common DSM Diagnoses

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Developed by Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT

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This course is also offered as part of a Treatment & Education Through Cinema Certificate Program of 27 CE Credit Hours.

General Course Description

Movies are particularly well suited to depict psychological phenomena. The combination of images, music, dialogue, lighting, camera angles, and sound effects in a film mimic thoughts and feelings that occur in our consciousness. The viewer experiences what a character sees and feels. Since characters in many popular films portray persons who live with mental disorders, these depictions offer a unique learning opportunity.

This informative, three-part intermediate course provides up-to-date information about common DSM-5 diagnoses by exploring the most relevant changes in the diagnosis of psychopathology from the DSM IV-TR to the DSM-5. It offers an effective tool to help clinicians use the DSM-5 for effective treatment planning, and for communicating with colleagues as well as with insurance companies.

The course makes use of movie vignettes to teach these diagnoses. For example, the portrayal of the mathematician, John Nash, in A Beautiful Mind offers a powerful opportunity to understand schizophrenia. Flight is used as a tool to teach substance abuse. As Good As it Gets demonstrates almost every possible symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Young Adult illustrates borderline personality disorder and Silver Linings Playbook demonstrates many aspects of bipolar disorder. Subsequently, the terminology of the character’s possible DSM diagnosis is described. Commentary in the literature and lists of relevant films follow this description for every diagnosis. Since movies are generally associated with entertainment, absorbing information through film descriptions brings an entertaining element into the learning process. When we enjoy ourselves and are emotionally engaged, this process can be very effective, even though much information in the DSM-5 is complex and sometimes dry. This course also discusses the intense controversy about the revision of the manual. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Due to copyright laws, this course does not include movie clips, only descriptions of the movies.

Disclaimer: This course is purely educational and does not intend to serve as a license (or permission) to mental health professionals to prescribe or practice any of the approaches discussed in this course unless they fall within the scope of practice of your profession. Check with your licensing board about the scope of practice of your profession to make sure you practice within that scope.It also does not serve as a permission to title yourself in any specific way.


Educational Objectives:

    This course will teach the participant to

  • Describe the development of the DSM-5 in its historical context.
  • Identify the rationale and the resulting changes of disorders between the DSM-IV-TR and the DSM-5.
  • Understand common diagnoses thoroughly for effective treatment planning and communicating with colleagues as well as with insurance companies.
  • Gain clarity about the complex and sometimes dry information in the DSM-5 through movie descriptions in an enjoyable and emotionally engaging way.
  • Evaluate many of the controversies surrounding the revised DSM-5 manual.

Course Syllabus:

Part I

  • Introduction
  • History of the DSM
  • Development of the DSM-5
  • Controversy Around the Latest Revision of the DSM

Part II

  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders
    • Alcohol-Related Disorders
      Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol Intoxication, and Alcohol Withdrawal– Affliction
    • Stimulant-Related Disorders
      Stimulant Use Disorder, Stimulant Intoxication, and Stimulant Withdrawal – Blow
      Example for Alcohol and Stimulant Use Disorder – Flight
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders
    • Schizophrenia – A Beautiful Mind
  • Bipolar and Related Disorders
    • Bipolar I Disorder – Mr. Jones, Silver Linings Playbook
    • Cyclothymic Disorder – Mad Love
  • Depressive Disorders
    • Major Depressive Disorder – Girl, Interrupted
    • Persistent Depressive Disorder – The Hospital

Part III

  • Anxiety Disorders
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Annie Hall
    • Panic Disorder – Analyze This
  • Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – As Good As it Gets
  • Trauma-and Stressor-Related Disorders
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder – In Country
  • Eating Disorders
    • Anorexia Nervosa – Dying to Dance
    • Bulimia Nervosa – Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby
  • Adjustment Disorder
    • Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood – Brassed Off
  • Personality Disorders
    • Borderline Personality Disorder – Play Misty for Me, Young Adult
    • Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Wall Street
CE Badge Created with Sketch. 5 CE

Cost: $49.00

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