Client Name: Jeffrey Lebowski, AKA The Dude, His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing)
Occupation: Currently unemployed
Date of Birth: December 4, 1942
Date of Interview: March 6, 1998
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton
Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski was referred for a psychological evaluation by his special lady friend, Maude Lebowski, who told him that we were good people “and thorough.” Once described as “quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the running for laziest worldwide,” The Dude presented as a 47-year-old man who was dressed casually in a lavender t-shirt, patterned pants, and jelly sandals. Right away, the mental status exam raised clinical concerns, as The Dude did not seem fully oriented to time, person, and place. When asked the date, The Dude responded with, “Is this a…what day is this?” and then asked, “Mind if I do a J?” When asked what his chief complaint was, The Dude explained that his rug had recently been destroyed by people who broke into his house. He appeared very distressed by this, and when asked why it was so bothersome to him, he replied that, “it really tied the room together.”
Gathering a comprehensive history was challenging with The Dude. He reportedly attended college and spent most of his time there “occupying various administration buildings…smoking a lot of Thai stick…breaking into the ROTC…and bowling.” When asked about the type of degree he was pursuing, The Dude stated, “To tell you the truth, I don’t remember most of it.” In response to a question about the kind of work he did, The Dude said, “a little of this, a little of that.” He recalled being a roadie briefly for Metallica on the Speed of Sound tour. He remarked that they were “a bunch of assholes,” and also reported hating “the <expletive> Eagles, man.” Earlier in his life, The Dude engaged in some social activism, reporting that he was one of the Seattle Seven and contributed to the first draft of the Port Huron Statement. Lately, his career had reportedly “slowed down a bit,” such that he spent the majority of his time bowling, driving around, and having an “occasional acid flashback.” The Dude stated that he had friends who he spent time with, and in particular, someone named Walter who played in his bowling league (except on Shabbos). When asked about his marital status, The Dude replied, “Do you see a wedding ring on my finger? Does it look like I’m <expletive> married?”
All assessment information was obtained through observing The Dude in The Big Lebowski. In general, The Dude presented as a laidback, go-with-the-flow kind of guy who seemed generally happy with his life. Thus, we approached our diagnostic examination with an effort to not over-pathologize his eccentricities and stuck to exploring potential areas of distress and impairment. The Dude’s areas of distress included the loss of his rug and tense interactions with his friend, Walter (e.g., when Walter pulled a gun out during a bowling league game). Meanwhile, The Dude exhibited impairment in managing some of his responsibilities (e.g., failing to pay his rent on time, driving unsafely). For example, The Dude attempted to throw a joint out of a closed car window while driving, and it fell in his lap and burned him. He then poured the liquor he was drinking on it and crashed his car.
The possibility of adjustment disorder following the loss of The Dude’s rug was investigated. While The Dude’s emotional and behavioral reactions to the stressor (e.g., going to the real Jeffrey Lebowski’s house to demand a new rug) were a bit out of the norm, they did not cross the threshold into a pattern of clinically significant emotional problems that caused substantial impairment in important areas of functioning. Therefore, adjustment disorder was ultimately ruled out.
The full extent and range of The Dude’s alcohol and other substance use at the time of assessment was not totally clear, but he did mention at least some previous LSD use and tell Maude that he was “adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my (his) mind limber.” He appeared to, at a minimum, regularly smoke marijuana and drink White Russians. Due to the limited available information, we could not conclusively determine whether he met full criteria for alcohol use disorder. However, he likely met criteria for cannabis use disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), cannabis use disorder is defined as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two” of eleven specified symptoms (e.g., tolerance, repeated failed attempts to quit using). He appeared to exhibit the following: 1) a great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to use cannabis 2) recurrent cannabis use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving), and 3) craving, or a strong desire or urge to use cannabis.
Overall, this is a very complicated case with a lot of ins, a lot of outs, and a lot of what-have-yous. However, the probable diagnosis for The Dude is cannabis use disorder. If The Dude decided to pursue treatment, there are several well-established treatments for substance use disorders that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on enhancing motivation for change (motivational interviewing, motivational enhancement therapy), identifying and changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to the substance use problem (motivational enhancement therapy plus cognitive-behavioral therapy), and participation in a behavioral program that reinforces drug abstinence (prize-based contingency management).
Status at Follow-Up
The Dude abides.
THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST
Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
The Dude’s primary purpose as a fictional character is comedic in nature. Nonetheless, he does exhibit some symptoms that are realistically consistent with cannabis use disorder (as outlined above). Remarkably, his character was based on a real person who has striking similarities to the fictional Dude. Check out this video about the real Dude (Jeff Dowd), who views his fictional counterpart affectionately as a holy fool, which he defines as “one who subverts conformity in order to point to the truth in a funny way.”
Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Even though The Dude is fairly irresponsible during the time period depicted in the film, people seem to really like him, want to emulate aspects of his approach to life (e.g., some view it as consistent with Zen philosophy), and feel sympathy for the loss of his rug. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that he is portrayed with some compassion…but, that’s just like our opinion, man.
Overall rating: On a scale of very Dude to very un-Dude, we rate this portrayal as calmer than you are!