The Psychology of Rick Sanchez

“Wubba lubba dub dub!” – Rick Sanchez

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name:  Rick Sanchez (Dimension C-137)
Current Age: 60
Ethnicity/Race: Human
Education: Unknown (on the intake forms, Rick wrote “School is a waste of time and is NOT for smart people.”)
Employment: Scientist and Inventor
Date of Initial Interview: August 6, 2017
Date of Report: September 5, 2017
Therapists: Brandon T. Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem
Rick Sanchez was referred to us by Dr. Wong, a family therapist. Dr. Wong saw Rick and his family for a session following incidents involving his grandchildren, Summer and Morty, at school. Dr. Wong referred Rick for a diagnostic assessment to provide diagnostic clarity and assist in treatment planning for Rick. She believes that Rick has some challenges to overcome in individual therapy before any effective progress can be made in their family therapy sessions.

Dr. Wong suggested that Rick has many interpersonal problems and negative views of authority, emotion, and those who he deems as less intelligent than himself. Additionally, Dr. Wong reported concern with Rick’s alcohol use.

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Family History
Rick is the father of Beth Smith, and grandfather to her two children, Summer and Morty Smith. Rick’s son-in-law is named Jerry Smith, and he is currently separated from Beth. Rick seemed hesitant to speak much about his wife, Mrs. Sanchez. It was not clear to the interviewer whether she was currently alive or deceased, though either way, Rick reported having left her when he returned to live with his daughter and grandchildren, after having been away for twenty years.

Rick reported that, “of course he likes his daughter and grandchildren” (though he stated he has proven, mathematically, that they are both pieces of sh*t). Rick seems to have a hard time balancing his love for his daughter and grandchildren and his need for independence and avoidance of emotion and connection. Although to their faces he appears distant and acts hurtful, on more than one occasion he has shown his deep affection for them (e.g., complimenting Beth’s cooking in the pilot episode, hiding the truth about the Purgenol in the candy bar Morty ate in Look Who’s Purging Now, or beating up the Devil who hurt Summer in Something Ricked This Way Comes).

One area that Rick was clear about was not liking his son-in-law, Jerry Smith. Rick stated that he does not believe that Jerry deserves to be with his daughter. Additionally, and frighteningly, Rick stated that he manipulated Beth into kicking Jerry out of their house because Jerry crossed him by suggesting the family turn Rick in to the Federation (end of Season 2, beginning of Season 3).

Educational/Employment History
Rick declined to report whether or not he had any formal education. In a previous conversation with his son-in-law, Jerry, Rick stated “I’ll tell you how I feel about school, Jerry: it’s a waste of time. Bunch of people runnin’ around bumpin’ into each other, got a guy up front says, ‘2 + 2,’ and the people in the back say, ‘4.’ Then the bell rings and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or somethin’. I mean, it’s not a place for smart people, Jerry. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but that’s my two cents on the issue.”

Rick did report, however, that he uses his natural intelligence in a variety of business ventures. One example includes his creating weapons for his associate, Krombopulos Michael, an intergalactic assassin. Another example is when the Devil opened a store in town selling cursed antiques. Rick opened another store, next door, that removed the curses and allowed the items to be kept with no risk to their owner. Rick seemed particularly proud of this endeavor – not because he saved people from the curses, but because he outsmarted the Devil himself.

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Psychiatric/Medical History
Rick denied any major medical procedures. He reported that he believes he is smart enough to handle any potential medical operations that he might need and would never let a “doctor” near his body (note: the quotes around doctor are included to represent the air quotes that Rick used when saying the word).

Rick also denied any previous psychiatric treatment, other than his session with Dr. Wong, stating that he does not respect therapy or therapists.

Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment material was collected by viewing the hit television series, Rick and Morty. Rick’s view and style of engagement with himself, the people around him, and the world around him suggests that he may be experiencing a personality disorder. The two most likely personality disorders that Rick is exhibiting are Antisocial Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Rick also appears to be experiencing impairment related to his alcohol use.

Beginning with Antisocial Personality Disorder, the individual must exhibit a pattern of disregarding the rights of others since the age of 15. However, it is not clear whether this is the case with Rick, given the information available. To meet the diagnostic criteria, three or more of seven potential criteria must be met. First, “Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” Rick does this fairly consistently throughout the show. As mentioned earlier, he builds and sells weapons to the assassin, Krombopulos Michael. The second criteria that Rick meets is “Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.” In The Rickshank Redemption, Rick admits to lying and manipulating Beth to have Jerry removed from the home so he could be the undisputed patriarch and a hero. “Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults” is met with Rick assaulting several individuals throughout the series. Rick meets “Reckless disregard for safety or self or others” by putting himself and Morty in harm’s way on almost every adventure that they go on. And lastly, “Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.” In the pilot episode, Rick tells Morty to shoot the soldiers chasing them, as they are just robots. When Morty realizes they are definitely not robots, Rick says: “It’s a figure of speech, Morty. They’re bureaucrats. I don’t respect them. Just keep shooting, Morty. You have no idea what prison is like here!” As such, with the information we have, and some speculation about Young Rick, Rick does appear to meet the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Rick also potentially meets the diagnostic criteria for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder consists of “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood…” When assessing for this disorder, the constellation of symptoms seems to not fit perfectly. For example, when assessing the first criteria, “Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements,” we can start to see already this does not fit Rick. It is well established that, although Rick thinks highly of himself, he is actually the smartest individual in the universe. Rick does not appear to be “preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.” Although he believes he is uniquely intelligent, this does not appear to translate to feelings that Rick is “special and unique and can only be understood, or should associate with, other special people.” He has friends from all walks of life and, although he insults and hurts them, he does love his family. Rick does, however, “require excessive admiration” (see Noob Noob from The Vindicators 3 episode.) He is clearly “interpersonally exploitative.” He does “lack empathy.” He is seen as “believing others are envious of him.” And he is depicted as “showing arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes,” So, technically, Rick does meet for the five required criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

However, when consulting the Differential Diagnosis section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, we can try to differentiate some of the overlap between Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The DSM-5 points out: “However, narcissistic personality disorder does not necessarily include characteristics of impulsivity, aggression, and deceit. In addition, individuals with antisocial personality disorder may not be as needy of the admiration and envy of others…” Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder present with self-esteem that is “almost invariably very fragile” often taking the form of a “need for constant attention and admiration.” Although Rick does meet for the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, his overall constellation of symptoms is much better captured by the Antisocial Personality Disorder, at least based on what has been depicted in the show so far. Sometimes when certain disorders have overlapping diagnostic criteria and presentations, we have to dig a bit deeper into how the disorders are conceptualized to really understand the underlying problem.

 Additionally, Rick seems to experience impairment due to his alcohol use. As such, he was assessed for an Alcohol Use Disorder. To meet the diagnostic criteria, two of the ten potential types of impairment or distress must be present within a 12-month period. The first diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts of over a longer period than was intended.” An example of this is depicted in Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender. Throughout the trials that The Vindicators face, Rick is seen as becoming more and more intoxicated. At one point, he is too intoxicated to devise a trial for the Vindicators to face, and simply asks them to shoot basketball hoops “or something.” The next diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol. There have been multiple times that Rick has threatened Morty, either directly or indirectly through his actions (e.g., Rick threatens Morty with a knife while he is intoxicated in M. Night Shamy-Aliens). Despite this, and other examples, Rick continues to drink even though it creates conflict with his family. The next diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is likely to be physically hazardous.” An example of this is in the pilot episode when Rick drunkenly takes Morty into this home-made spaceship to set off a neutrino bomb in order to get a fresh start. It should be noted that other diagnostic criteria may be met even if not reported. Additionally, some diagnostic criteria require recurrent instances of behavior. However, because we only see a snapshot of time in Rick’s life throughout the show, certain inferences are made about the recurrence of behavior and certain diagnostic criteria may be missed. One piece of collateral information that is relevant to Rick’s alcohol use comes from the episode Ricksy Business. Bird Person tells Morty that Rick is in great pain and uses alcohol to numb himself, explaining that Rick’s catchphrase “wubba lubba dub dub” actually means “I am in great pain. Please help me.”

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 Treatment Recommendations
In sum, Rick’s constellation of symptoms seems to be best captured by an Antisocial Personality Disorder and a comorbid Alcohol Use Disorder. It is worth noting that although Rick appears to meet for an Antisocial Personality Disorder, he does not appear to fall within the subset of those individuals who exhibits psychopathy. Specifically, despite his treatment of his family, Rick does appear to have genuine concern and affection for them and, for them alone, feel concern about how his behaviors might impact them. This is important to consider in treatment planning as there is some evidence to suggest that individuals experiencing psychopathy might actually become worse due to therapy.

Currently, we do not have any treatments for Antisocial Personality Disorder that have received strong empirical support. However, if we could have identified these behaviors in Rick as an adolescent, family-focused, multicomponent treatment would have been an option to target and hopefully change these types of behaviors. We do, however, have research suggesting that multiple types of treatment (including Motivational Enhancement Therapy, designed to strengthen desire and ability to decrease substance use) are effective for treating Alcohol Use Disorder.

Status at Termination
Rick never came to therapy again.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Although the situations in which Rick is depicted are sometimes preposterous, the specific symptoms that he is depicted as experiencing do appear to be accurate. Rick is a very complex, multidimensional character and we are looking forward to seeing how he evolves and what we learn about him as the show goes on.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Rick and Morty does portray Rick with a sense of compassion. Although the show is masked with crude humor and adventure, the underlying story is about a man who is in a lot of pain and does not know how to cope with it all. In a lot of ways, the show is a metaphor for Rick himself. Under the goofs and antics, there is a really sad story waiting to be told.

Overall rating:
On a scale from “wubba lubba dub dub” to “Hit the sack, Jack!” we rate Rick and Morty as “BURGERTIME!” That is, to say, we really, really like this show. It does not set out with the intention of depicting mental health, and it is REALLY crude, but the show just works. It is a lot of fun and hits you with blasts of seriousness and emotion that all come together in a really great overall show. We definitely recommend it.

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The Psychology of Peter Parker (AKA The Spider-Man)

“I’m gonna lie close to the ground and continue being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Keep helping the little guy.”          ―Peter Parker

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Peter Benjamin Parker
Date of Birth:  March 10
Education: Some high school, still enrolled
Employment: Stark Internship (former)
Date of Initial Interview: 7/7/2017
Date of Report: 7/24/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problems
Peter Parker was referred for services by his aunt, May Parker. May reported having concerns because he was struggling at school, missing class, quitting extra-curricular activities, sneaking out at night, and losing his belongings. He was also fired from his internship and was being bullied at school. May claimed that she was worried that the combination of typical stress involved in being an adolescent, the loss of her husband and Peter’s other guardian, Ben Parker, and the loss of his Tony Stark internship were taking a toll on Peter.

Individuals Present
Peter felt that he did not need to come in for discuss his challenges today. May reported that she felt Peter was probably nervous, and suggested he bring along his best friend Ned Leeds who might be able to support Peter and help shed some light on what has been going on at school. May was in the session for the beginning of the interview. The remainder of the interview was conducted with Peter and Ned.

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History of Presenting Problem
Peter denied any history of struggling in school or missing class. He reported that he has traditionally done well in school and his extra-curricular activities, but that recently he has had less time to keep up. Peter had been involved as an intern for Tony Stark (local entrepreneur, owner of Stark Industries, and Iron Man). Peter said that he had done his best, but it was not good enough, and he was consequently fired. Peter reports that this has impacted his mood and behavior, but prior to the internship, these behaviors were not present. Regarding the bully, Peter and Ned both reported that their fellow student, Flash Thompson, has always bullied them. Peter denied that it bothered him much.

Family History
Peter’s parents passed away when he was younger; his Aunt May and Uncle Ben were his guardians growing up. Peter then lost his Uncle Ben. Peter said he felt very close to his Aunt and that she is a wonderful role model for him. Peter describes his aunt as doing the best she can for him and he regrets causing her any additional stress with what he has been going through.

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Educational/Employment History
Peter is still enrolled in high school at the Midtown School of Science and Technology and does not know what he wants to do after high scho… OH WAIT! Peter’s friend Ned just reported that Mr. Parker is the SPIDER-MAN and his plan is to someday join THE AVENGERS (videos of the Spider-Man are present on YouTube). Note: We just reminded Mr. Parker about the rules of the office (no hitting, he attempted to hit Mr. Leeds after reporting that he is the Spider-Man) and the rules of confidentiality. After doing so, Mr. Parker confirmed that he is, in fact, the vigilante known as the Spider-Man. In fact, the Stark Internship was him being Spider-Man!

Psychiatric/Medical History
Peter denied any past emotional struggles aside from the expected grief he experienced following the death of his parents as well as his Uncle Ben. Beyond that, Peter stated that the only significant medical event in his life was a spider bite. The symptoms of the bite, which remain, include an almost spider-like physiology. This includes Peter being able to walk on walls, move very quickly, and be physically stronger and more durable than other people. He also possesses enhanced senses including keener eye sight and faster reflexes. And, irrelevant of the spider bite symptoms, Peter is also a gifted person. He is intelligent, quick-thinking, trilingual, and thoughtful.

Diagnostic Impressions
Although Peter is experiencing some social and school impairment, the cause is not related to any mental health concerns. However, we recommend that Peter is monitored to ensure that these kinds of symptoms to not develop in response to the experiences he will have as a superhero.

Treatment Recommendations
We strongly encouraged Peter against a life of vigilantism (even though we think superheroes are awesome, we can’t advocate an adolescent fighting crime illegally!) However, he insisted that he would continue. We used the remainder of the session brainstorming ideas ghat Peter could try to reduce the risk of being hurt or hurting others, falling behind on home, social, and school obligations while still maintaining his role as Spider-Man. We also insisted that Peter return for occasional check-up sessions to monitor the impact of crime-fighting stress.

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Status at Termination
At the end of the session, Peter seemed to understand the importance of balancing his life as Peter Parker and his life as Spider-Man. He also agreed to return to we could monitor he mental health and process any difficult experiences he faces as the Spider-Man. Ned seems like a good source of social support. In addition, Peter feels confident that he would have the support of Tony Stark if he truly needed it. This case will be updated as needed (i.e., check back after Infinity War!)

 THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
There was very little, if any, mental illness portrayed in Spider-Man: Homecoming. One character, at one point, uses the term “psychopath” to describe The Vulture. The character is not a therapist and is not using the term in the psychological sense.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?As stated above, as the movie does not portray any specific mental illness, but we feel that Peter is generally depicted with compassion. He is a resilient and good-hearted adolescent trying his best to make the world more positive.

Overall rating:
As the film does not portray any mental illness, we are instead going to simply rate it in terms of enjoyment. On a scale of Andrew Garfield (our least favorite) to Tom Holland (our most favorite), we rate this depiction of Spider-Man as Tom Holland! That is, we loved it! The film truly is a lot of fun. It is light-hearted, does not get bogged down in the details of an origin, and overall is just a solid action-comedy. We can’t recommend it enough!!

 

Analyzing Oliver Queen (Arrow, Season 1)

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Oliver Jonas Queen
Date of Birth: May 16, 1985
Ethnicity/Race: White
Occupation: Billionaire
Date of Initial Interview: October 10, 2012
Date of Report: April 4, 2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem:
Oliver was referred by his mother, Moira Queen, for a diagnostic assessment following his return from a deserted island. Oliver was previously presumed dead. In actuality, he was the sole survivor of the sinking of his family yacht, The Queen’s Gambit. He reported living alone on the island for five years before being rescued.

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Family History:
Oliver has one remaining parent and one sister. His father, Robert Queen, was on the yacht when it sunk. Oliver reported that he did not see his father die, but solemnly stated that he, Oliver, had to have been the only one to survive. His mother, Moira, took over the operations of Queen Consolidated after his father passed away. Oliver reported that he is very close to his sister, Thea (or Speedy, as he likes to call her). He reported having some regrets about the type of role model he was to her before the island and wanted to do better for her now.

Educational/Employment History:
Oliver reported never having a job, instead relying on his family’s fortune to make his way. He attended some college. He said that he only went because he was expected to. Beyond that, he reported that his primary goal had been making friends and partying to the extent that the only book he read during all of college was The Odyssey. It was not clear whether he actually completed his studies and received a degree.

Psychiatric/Medical History:
Oliver has no documented psychiatric or serious medical history. However, it should be noted that medical reports indicate that his body is covered with scar tissue following his return from the island. At this time, it is unclear how this scar tissue was obtained. Oliver’s primary care physician indicated that Oliver claimed the injuries happened while attempting to survive. However, the report indicates the injuries are more consistent with weapon or combat trauma. Further assessment may reveal further events that happened on the island.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment and diagnostic information was collected with Oliver one month after his return from the island (i.e., at the beginning of season one of Arrow). It should be noted that we felt Mr. Queen was not being completely forthright with us during the diagnostic interview. We offer this assessment based on the information we have. As treatment continues, we suspect that what Oliver is willing to report about his time on the island may change (What we are subtly saying is, if you like this post, let us know! We will turn it into a series covering each season!).

Treatment Recommendations
In light of the limited information revealed by Oliver Queen, it is difficulty to conclusively identify the source of his problems. Further assessment should be conducted in order to understand the impact that his time on the island and loss of his father had on him. We recommend that a patient approach is taken, such that the therapists can build a sense of trust and rapport with Oliver over time. Perhaps once Oliver feels more trust in the therapists, we can gain a more precise understanding of the issues he is facing and plan treatment accordingly.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST


1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
At this point, there is not enough information to determine whether there is a mental illness, accurate or not.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Oliver Queen is an intriguing character because he is depicted as pretty despicable prior to his time on the island. However, when he returns, he has changed so significantly that it’s hard to not feel compassion for the struggles he’s suffered through.
We are also thrilled that the actor who plays Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell, has raised funds and awareness for mental health issues.

Overall rating:
On a scale of what’s a quiver? to master archer, we rate this depiction as……to be determined as the evaluation of Oliver Queen continues in future seasons!

Ridin’ along with “Mad” Max Rockatansky

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: “Mad” Max Rockatansky
Date of Birth: Pre-nuclear apocalypse
Occupation: MFP Pursuit Officer (former)
Road Warrior (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 05/5/2015
Date of Report: 02/01/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

NOTE: Some information in this report contains chronological gaps and inconsistencies. This information was collected via diagnostic interview (i.e., watching the films, playing the game, and reading the graphic novel) while roaring through the wasteland in Max’s V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special being pursued by raiders from Gastown. This made for a difficult intake session…

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Presenting Problem:
Max was self-referred to therapy with the goal of reducing his distress levels. After the loss of his family and some other traumatic experiences, Max reported having intrusive thoughts and flashbacks that interfered with his everyday functioning.

Family History:
Max did not disclose much about about his childhood. He mostly responded with grunts when asked about it. In his previous position as a police officer, Max was a highly-skilled driver who often engaged criminals in high-speed chases on the open road. Realizing that he was losing himself in his work, Max retired and moved to the country with his family. Unfortunately, his past followed him. A gang leader took revenge on Max by killing his wife and son in front of him, and he was reduced to a shell of his former self. As a result, he left his life completely behind and became a road warrior in the wasteland.

Occupational History:
Max commandeered the V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special and his old police gear. He was able to locate and take revenge on each of the gang members who took his family from him. For three years after, Max traveled the wasteland with a dog aptly named Dog. Max moved into his car, which was heavily modified for long distance travel. While scavenging, Max was nearly ambushed by a gyrocopter pilot. Turning the ambush around, Max forced the pilot to bring him to a nearby compound where he could obtain fuel.

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Once there, Max saved people who were under attack with the hope of being rewarded with fuel. Instead, they detained Max and his car. Eventually, Max made a deal with their leader, offering to retrieve a vehicle that they could use to transport gasoline away from the compound in exchange for his car and fuel. After delivering on his end of the deal, Max left the compound. However, he did not make it very far before being run down by Lord Humongous’s gang. Fortunately, he was saved by the gyrocopter pilot. After being nursed back to health, Max agreed to help the people in the compound escape with gasoline. He lead the escape in the tanker. It was then that Max learned that the tanker was filled with sand, and that it was all a ruse to get the hidden fuel away in smaller vehicles.

Many years later, Max was still wandering the wasteland and found his way to Bartertown. Max was forced into entering the Thunderdome, Bartertown’s gladiatorial arena, where he was pitted against Master Blaster. Max was could not bring himself to kill his opponent, who was an innocent man with a disability.

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Because he did not kill Master, Max had to “face the Wheel.” With the Wheel of Fortune deciding his fate, Max was sent into the wasteland to die. Max was saved by a tribe of young children who believed he was their hero of prophecy. Max returned to Bartertown to find Master,  who he believed could help the children. He fled Bartertown with Master in tow, which lead to a terrible road war. Eventually, Master and the tribe of children escaped.

Some time following these events, Max was again run off the road and taken captive. This time, Immortan Joe and his war boys took Max to use him as a “blood bag.” Finding his blood being drained while strapped to the front of a car racing across the dessert, Max was able to escape while the war boys pursued Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s Imperators.

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Max joined with Furiosa who was fleeing the warlord dictator, Immortan Joe, with his Wives. Max and Furiosa were ultimately able to escape with the Wives and find Furiosa’s old clan. Furiosa learned that The Green Place that she had been seeking was no longer there. Furiosa decided to take everyone and flee across the wasteland instead. Max, with his own supplies, went in the opposite direction.

Then, Max experienced a flashback of a young girl. This prompted him to go back to Furiosa and her group. He believed that their best bet for a safe home was to take the Citadel from Immortan Joe while his forces were out pursuing them. After yet another destructive road war, Max, Furiosa, and the rest were able to defeat Immortan Joe and his army. They returned to the Citadel as heroes and liberators. However, Max left them behind to continue his life alone.

Psychiatric/Medical History:
Max denied any history of psychiatric treatment. With regard to medical history, Max suffered an injury after being shot in the leg and subsequently wore a leg brace.

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Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
Max’s symptoms appear to be best captured by a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition.

As detailed previously, Max has experienced a variety of traumatic events (defined by the DSM-5 as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence). Max’s symptoms primarily seem to be related to the people he has been unable to save throughout his life. For example, Max appears to experience multiple intrusive symptoms in Mad Max: Fury Road. These flashbacks consist of a young girl asking Max for help. They appear to be very distressing. Beyond that, Max also appears to engage in avoidance of situations that remind him of the traumatic events. Specifically, after losing his family, Max is seen refusing to get close to others again and again. This is particularly worth mentioning as solitude in the wasteland almost always means death. Additionally, following the loss of his family, Max appears to have negative changes to his thoughts and moods. He goes from being a light-hearted, family man to a dark killer. His life goal becomes revenge. Additionally, Max appears to have suffered from changes in his arousal and reactivity (e.g., irritable mood, angry outbursts, etc.). Max is always on alert for danger. He rarely falls into a trap (such as the one set by the gyrocopter pilot) and is usually on edge.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Max appears to meet full diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Fortunately, evidence-based treatments are available. Such treatments include therapist-guided processing of traumas (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure) and decreasing unhealthy behavioral patterns without focusing directly on the trauma (e.g., Present-Centered Therapy).

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
    The changes that Max undergoes after losing his family do appear to be within the realm of possibility for someone experiencing such trauma. Max loses his sense of his former self, exhibits extreme negative affect, avoids getting close to others, and experiences many reminders of those he has lost.
  2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
    Overall, Max was not written specifically to depict mental health issues. That being said, he does appear to be a character who, despite intense trauma, is able to rise above and help those in need. Additionally, Max refuses to harm Blaster, of Master Blaster, while battling in the Thunderdome, as Blaster appears to have a developmental disability. So, not only is Max depicted with some compassion, he also displays some. Nice work, George Miller.

Overall rating:
Overall, we rate Mad Max as SHINY AND CHROME! That is, totally awesome. Max is a complex character. He is continually seen trying to shun connections with others, often acting as if he only cares about his own safety and survival. Despite this, he always ends up being guided by his moral compass. Time and time again, we see Max come to the aid of those in need, never able to completely turn away.

Killing Time with Kelly Kapoor

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Kelly R. Kapoor
Date of Birth: February 5, 1980
Education: High school diploma
Employment: Customer Service Representative, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (current)
Date of Initial Interview: March 24, 2010
Date of Report: May 16, 2013
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

Presenting Problem
Kelly Kapoor presented as a 30-year-old woman who was referred for treatment by her on-again/off-again romantic partner, Ryan Howard. Ryan was not very friendly or clear about why he was dropping Kelly off at our office. He kind of just ushered her in, while she was speaking to him rapidly about the latest pop culture drama, and then quickly left the building.

History
Listen; to whoever reads this report, we’ll be honest. It was very hard for us to get any relevant history from Kelly during this interview…we learned that she has three living sisters and one who passed away. She also mentioned that she spent a year in a juvenile detention center for stealing her ex-boyfriend’s father’s boat.

The rest of the interview covered an incredible range of information on various celebrities’ lives. At one point, after asking more about her life, she explained that she had so much to tell us about and then proceeded to report that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had a baby that they named Shiloh. We reiterated our question asking for more information about her life, and she replied that she had just told us more. This example is representative of what the entire interview was like.

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Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was gleaned from behavioral observations (i.e., watching The Office more times than one would think is humanly possible – like, probably thousands of times between the two of us). It appeared that Kelly’s presenting problem was best captured by a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder, which is “a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.” Specifically, she met criteria for 5 of 8 symptoms of histrionic personality disorder: 1) is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention (e.g., Kelly’s new year’s resolution was “to get more attention by any means necessary”); 2) interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior (e.g., she asked a co-worker if she should seduce her new boss, Charles Miner, shortly after meeting him; she started a musical duo with co-worker, Erin, that is ironically called Subtle Sexuality); 3) shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion (e.g., in an effort to get her ex-boyfriend and boss, Ryan, to pay attention to her, she asks him, “How dare you?” in the middle of a work meeting that he is conducting and also faked a pregnancy, when deciding between getting back together with Ryan and staying with her boyfriend Ravi, she said, “Ravi makes me incredibly happy. And Ryan puts me through so much drama. So, I guess I just have to decide which of those is more important to me”); 4) is suggestible (i.e., is easily influenced by others or circumstances; e.g., Dwight convinces Kelly to apply for an executive training program to suit his own needs, describing her as a “malleable simpleton who can be bought for a few fashion magazines”); and 5) considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are (she overestimates the strength of her romantic relationships with Ryan and Darryl, as well as the strength of her friendship with Pam – e.g., she asks Pam if she can be her bridesmaid).

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Treatment Recommendations
Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for histrionic personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials. Approaches that have been used effectively include cognitive therapy focused on thoughts and behaviors that emphasize assertiveness and sharing attention with others over theatricality and self-centeredness in interpersonal interactions.

Status at Termination
The last we saw of Kelly was at Dwight and Angela’s wedding. Ryan intentionally induced an allergic reaction in his child, so that Kelly’s husband, Ravi (a pediatrician), would focus on the child’s medical needs, while Kelly and Ryan ran off together. Needless to say, this does not reflect a ton of therapeutic progress or serve as a great prognostic sign for things to come.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Though it is unlikely that Kelly was purposely designed as a character with histrionic personality disorder, the depiction nonetheless portrays some of the symptoms accurately. However, the symptoms are exaggerated, at times, for comedic effect.

  1. Was the character with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Kelly was not particularly characterized in a way that elicits compassion. She typically appears to be viewed as annoying and shallow by her co-workers.

Overall ratingIf this depiction of histrionic personality disorder in Kelly Kapoor were to receive a Dundie, it would be the Jenna Maroney-of-30-Rockish Dundie.

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Diagnostics with Dwight

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Dwight Kurt Schrute III
Date of Birth: January 20, 1968
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian
Education: High school diploma
Employment:  Assistant to the Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (past)
Paper Salesman, Staples (past)
Beet Farmer, Schrute Farms (current)
Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 09/23/2010
Date of Report: 05/16/2013
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem
Dwight Schrute presented as a 42-year-old male who was referred by his boss, Michael Scott, via the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Michael had some concerns that Dwight was “kind of weird” and seemed to “not get along with others.” We’re not sure of the scientific validity of that assessment, so we decided to continue with an assessment of our own. Behavioral symptoms seem to include a variety of interpersonal conflicts that have influenced Dwight socially and vocationally.

Social/Family History
Dwight comes from a large and eccentric family. He recalls his own birth, stating specifically that his father, Cody Schrute, removed him from the womb and his mother bit off the umbilical cord. Dwight has one brother and one sister. Beyond that, he stated that he also had a twin in the womb, but he “reabsorbed” his twin giving him “the strength of a grown man and a little baby.” Dwight was born weighing 13 pounds and five ounces and performed his own circumcision. Growing up, Dwight reports that, as per family tradition, the youngest child raised the other children.

Dwight did not seem to want to spend much time describing his childhood. He did mention that he was shunned by his family from approximately age four through age six after he failed to save the extra oil from a can of tuna. He also reported losing an elementary school spelling bee by misspelling the word “failure.” This writer wonders whether these negative events created an avoidance in Dwight when it came to discussing his childhood. At any rate, Dwight was quick to begin describing his life as an adult and time working at Dunder Mifflin.

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Currently Dwight lives in a nine-bedroom, one-bathroom home located on a 60 acre beet farm that he inherited from his family. Dwight currently lives with his cousin Mose. Beyond growing beets on their farm, they also operate a small bed and breakfast and host events including weddings and garden parties. Currently, Dwight is employed as Assistant Regional Manager (it should be noted that his boss, Michael Scott, clarified that Dwight’s actual title is Assistant to the Regional Manager) at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Dwight has been employed with Dunder Mifflin for several years and is considered one of the top sales staff in the company.

Interpersonally, Dwight seems to have a higher than average amount of conflict with his coworkers. This information was primarily obtained through collateral sources (i.e., Dwight’s coworkers and his personnel file). When asked about some, or most, of these incidents, Dwight seemed to not understand why his coworkers reacted the way that they did. A select list of these conflicts follows (for a more thorough review of these conflicts, please consult the large, surprisingly full, manila folder next to Dwight’s medical file). In one instance, Dwight attempted to test his coworkers’ emergency preparedness by locking them all in the office, simulating a fire, and yelling commands to them through a microphone. His coworker, Stanley, had a heart attack. During a subsequent CPR training, Dwight cut the face off the CPR dummy and wore it a la Silence of the Lambs.

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In another instance, Dwight tricked his coworker Phyllis into coming with him on a sales call. He actually drove her to a bad part of town, took her phone and wallet, and left her to walk home. He did this to help his branch win a corporate weight loss competition by forcing her to exercise. A final example included Dwight asking his coworker, Stanley, to join him on a sales call. Stanley declined. As such, Dwight shot Stanley with a bull tranquilizer, wrapped him in bubble wrap, slid him down the stairs, and loaded him into the car. Dwight then took Stanley, unconscious, with him on the sales call. These three examples are a fairly representative example of the types of behaviors in which Dwight engages at his workplace.

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Psychiatric/Medical History
Dwight has not received any formal psychological assessment or treatment. Despite this, there is some indication that he may have suffered from mental health symptoms in the past. For example, in episode 6.12, “Secret Santa,” Dwight says “… I’m just tired. The days are short. I don’t know. Maybe I’m depressed.” In addition, in episode 9.5, “Here Comes Treble,” Dwight says “You don’t think I have anxiety? I have anxiety all the time. Every waking moment of my life is sheer torture.” Taken together, these quotes suggest that Dwight may have previously struggled with an undiagnosed mood or anxiety disorder.

Diagnostic Impressions
All diagnostic assessment information was obtained through an interview with Dwight, his manager, and his workers. Beyond that, we reviewed his HR personnel file (i.e., we watched every episode of The Office. Multiple times). Based on the client’s history and presenting problems, diagnoses related to Cluster B and Cluster C personality disorders were considered. Diagnoses related to depressive and anxiety disorders were not further considered, as the symptoms related to each appeared very brief and not distressing.

A diagnosis related to Cluster B personality disorders, specifically a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, was considered. Dwight only meets the requirement for two of the five or more symptoms required to make the diagnosis. Dwight does exhibit a “grand sense of self-importance.” One example of this behavior in the way in which Dwight persists in calling himself Assistant Regional Manager as opposed to Assistant to the Regional Manager (much to the chagrin of his boss). Dwight also exhibits “arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.” This seems to occur quite often, with Dwight often commenting on how he is a better salesman than his coworkers.

When fully considered, the symptoms that Dwight Schrute is experiencing are best captured by an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. He exhibits 1) an excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (Dwight once comments on a sale that he never takes vacations, sick days, nor celebrates any major holidays – a pattern of behavior that is reinforced when he is named Northeastern Pennsylvania Salesman of the Year), 2) is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (Dwight allows himself to be fired to respect his girlfriend, Angela’s, prioritization of privacy in the office; he instigates a formal investigation, including drug testing of every employee of the office, after finding a small amount of marijuana in the parking lot; he goes to excessive lengths to act consistently with his highest personal value, which is respect for authority and hierarchical systems), 3) is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his way of doing thinks (do we need to explain this one?? If you’ve watched the show, you’ve seen this!), 4) shows rigidity and stubbornness (Dwight trying to impress a manager for a promotion despite experiencing acute appendicitis and consistently refuses any flexibility in his actions despite extremely reasonable requests from his coworkers).

 Treatment Recommendations
Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials (the gold-standard for testing what treatments work best!) It is worth noting that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a disorder that does have clear evidence-based treatment for it. Approaches that have been used effectively include cognitive therapy, which focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts related to the disorder. It’s possible that Dwight developed his personality characteristics as a consequence of being raised according the Schrute Family Rules (as Dwight reports, “Schrute boys must learn 40 rules before the age of five. They are told that if they don’t learn their rules, they will be eaten in their sleep.”) Dwight would likely benefit from therapy focused on flexibility and balance to decrease his rigidity with this rule-set.

Status at Termination (last episode)
Sometime later, Dwight returned to our office for a booster session, although this writer wonders whether the session was necessary. It seemed, perhaps, that Dwight more so wanted to share with us his new station in life. He reported having finally achieved the position of Regional Manager at the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office. Dwight reported that he is currently happily married to Angela. The two of them, and their son, Philip, live at Schrute Farms. In addition, Dwight reported that his relationships with this subordinates (yes, he did use that term) had improved dramatically. He said he now considered them all friends (despite firing Kevin Malone). All in all, it seemed that Dwight had experienced significant symptom reduction and was operating and feeling much happier in life.

The Office - Season 9

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Full disclosure: some of Dwight’s behaviors are exaggerated. And we’re thankful for it. He is easily one of our favorite fictional characters for this very reason. Despite this exaggeration, some of the behaviors that Dwight exhibits are not entirely out of the question. Oftentimes individuals who grow up in strict, rigid homes develop these characteristics themselves. This does not always lead to the formation of a mental health disorder, but in Dwight’s more extreme case, it certainly seemed to.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Overall, we do find the portrayal of Dwight to be a compassionate one. Yes, sometimes he is a nuisance to his coworkers. One could even argue that, at times, he is a danger to them! But overall, as the series progresses we see Dwight develop and evolve into a really caring individual and a capable leader. This is the kind of progression that we hope to see with clients in therapy, so seeing it in one of our favorite fictional characters just seems right.

Overall rating:
Overall, from a rating scale from Toby (yuck) to Dwight (oh, yeah!), we would rate the portrayal of Dwight as Dwight K. Schrute, Manager! The Office is one of our favorite shows and Dwight is a main reason for that. He starts off as a rough-around-the-edges kind of person. Throughout the nine seasons, we see him experience a lot and grow into a really lovable character. By the end, Dwight gets along well with his coworkers, has a family, and finally leads the branch!

Diagnosing Dunder Mifflin’s Finest

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Michael Gary Scott
Date of Birth: March 15, 1964
Ethnicity/Race: Part English, Irish, German, and Scottish, 2/15 Native American Indian
Education: High school diploma
Employment: Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin Scranton (past), CEO, Michael Scott Paper Company (past), Director of Paper Distribution, Department of Natural Resources (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 09/23/2010
Date of Report: 05/16/2013
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, B.S.

Presenting Problem
Michael Scott presented as a 46-year-old man who was referred, interestingly, by all of his employees and supervisors at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Michael was referred primarily due to problems related to a consistent pattern of interpersonal conflicts. The behavioral symptoms Michael was exhibiting have resulted in financial, vocational, and social impairment.

History of Presenting Problem
Behavioral observations were gathered to determine the extent and severity of Michael’s presenting problem. We selected a few of the more diagnostic moments to outline in further detail. An exhaustive outline can be gleaned through watching The Office.

Some of the specific examples that we observed included:

  • Experiencing emotions that are unstable, intense, and/or out of proportion with the given circumstances
    1. When Michael asks Carol (his realtor and, at the time, short-term significant other) to marry him spontaneously at a Diwali celebration
    2. When Michael photoshops himself into a picture of Carol and her children by putting his face over the face of her ex-husband and uses it as a Christmas card
    3. When Michael locks all of his co-workers in the office after they joke that jail seemed better than the office
    4. When a pizza delivery boy does not accept Michael’s coupons and he won’t let him leave the building
    5. Demanding one of his gift baskets back when potential customers won’t give Dunder Mifflin their business
  • Attention-seeking in ways that antagonize others
    1. Getting an iPod for the office Secret Santa exchange instead of sticking to the $20 limit
    2. Buying himself a World’s Best Boss mug
    3. Taking over the corporate-mandated diversity training and making his own “diversity training”
    4. Calling meetings others have to attend, often times for personal reasons
    5. Insisting on being in Phyllis’ wedding party and giving an uninvited toast
  • Behaving irresponsibly, impulsively, and engaging in dangerous risk taking
    1. Quitting his job to start his own paper company on a whim
    2. Reconciling with his ex-girlfriend Jan because she gets breast implants
    3. Promising economically disadvantaged children that he will pay for their college tuition if they graduate from high school when he does not have the resources
    4. Playing with the baler in the warehouse despite how unsafe it is and being explicitly told not to
    5. Planning to jump off a building onto a bounce house

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Family History
Michael was born in Scranton, PA. He reportedly came from a single-parent home (though his mother eventually did remarry) and described his childhood as lonely. Michael stated that he has an older brother as well as a half-sister with whom he had a tumultuous relationship. However, the two did eventually reconcile leading to Michael hiring his nephew Luke as an intern. Michael does not talk much about his childhood but does offer a few memories that seem to stand out to him. For example, Michael was once featured on an episode of the television show Fundle Bundle. On the episode, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up, Michael replies,“I wanna be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends. And no one can say no to being my friend.” Another childhood memory Michael has is attending a baseball game with Jeff, who he identifies as his “mother’s boyfriend, who she married.” Michael went on to say that during the game he “… felt really bad, because the pitcher wasn’t able to play with his friends anymore. But Jeff said that the manager was making a really good move, by taking the pitcher out. He really respected the manager.”

Educational/Employment History
Michael graduated high school on time in Scranton, PA. He was not able to attend college though, as he lost his tuition money in a pyramid scheme. Michael seemed to hold a variety of jobs during/after high school, including a position as a greeter at Men’s Warehouse. He reported receiving his position at Dunder Mifflin after following an attractive women to the office park, where the Scranton office is located. Michael started with the company as a salesman, a position in which he excelled. After becoming the best salesman in the company, evidenced by his winning consecutive awards for best salesman, Michael was promoted to a regional manager position. Unfortunately, it seemed that the qualities that made Michael great at sales did not translate to the managerial position.

Psychiatric/Medical History
After Michael physically reprimanded his nephew, Luke, for being insubordinate, the corporate office mandated that he attend six hours of counseling with Toby Flenderson from the Human Resources department of the Scranton branch. Due to Michael’s strong dislike of Toby, he refused to engage in the counseling process. Michael began the session by refusing to speak and then reporting fictional stories as his own life. Over time though, Michael began to inadvertently share details from his life with Toby. Once he realized this, Michael got angry and refused to participate. Toby eventually gave up on the entire process and allowed Michael to fill out the counseling report himself. The records indicated that Michael was severely depressed and homicidal. We have chosen not to include these results further in this assessment as we question their validity.

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Diagnostic Impressions
As mentioned above, information about the presenting problem was obtained through behavioral observations (i.e., viewing The Office repeatedly) and by filling out a self-report personality questionnaire as we imagined Michael Scott would (this is not a valid method and should not be used in real life).

Because Michael exhibited a persistent pattern of interpersonal problems, it was hypothesized that he might meet criteria for a personality disorder. While Michael had substantial distress and impairment from issues associated with his personality characteristics, he did not meet diagnostic criteria for any of the ten personality disorders that are specified in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Rather, his symptoms were best captured by a category that is used when there are significant personality issues that do not fit within the other categories: other specified personality disorder.

A diagnosis of other specified personality disorder does not provide nuanced details about Michael’s specific presentation, so we utilized the alternative model for personality disorders in the appendix of DSM-5 to further explore his presentation. This model moves away from the traditional categorical models of personality disorder (i.e., you either have a personality disorder or do not, with no in-between) through its focus on dimensional measures of 1) personality functioning impairment in four domains and 2) five research-derived pathological personality traits.

We rated personality functioning impairment on the DSM-5 scale from 0 (little or no impairment) to 4 (extreme impairment) based on the match between our behavioral observations and one or more of the descriptions at each level. The results are presented and described below:

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  • Identity (moderate impairment): “Has vulnerable self-esteem controlled by exaggerated concern about external evaluation, with a wish for approval” and “Emotional regulation depends on positive external appraisal. Threats to self-esteem may engender strong emotions such as rage or shame”
  • Self-Direction (some impairment): “May have an unrealistic or socially inappropriate set of personal standards, limiting some aspects of fulfillment”
  • Empathy (severe impairment): “Ability to consider and understand the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of other people is significantly limited” and “is confused about or unaware of impact of own actions on others”
  • Intimacy (severe impairment): “Relationships are based on a strong belief in the absolute need for intimate others”

Pathological personality trait scores were derived from the self-report questionnaire that we filled out as we thought Michael would (again, you should not do this in real life ever). Scores ranged from a minimum of 0 (reflecting low levels of a trait) and a maximum of 3 (reflecting high levels of a trait) and were believed to underlie the functional impairment described above. The results are presented and facets that fit Michael are listed:

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  • Negative Affect: “instability of emotional experiences and mood; emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion to events and circumstances”
  • Detachment: This refers to a tendency to generally avoid interpersonal experiences and does not apply to Michael.
  • Antagonism: “engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration”
  • Disinhibition: irresponsibility, impulsivity, distractibility, dangerous risk-taking
  • Psychoticism: This reflects odd or bizarre thought processes and behavior and does not apply to Michael.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, the most appropriate categorical diagnosis for Michael Scott was other specified personality disorder. His significant distress and impairment appeared to be most related to his persistent pattern of speaking and behaving impulsively (reflecting his high levels of disinhibition), paired with an intense need to be liked. When he believed that someone disapproved of him or his behavior (often because he had offended them with his impulsive behavior due to impaired perspective-taking), he tended to spiral into a dysregulated, negative emotional state (consistent with his elevated level of negative affect). He then coped with this painful emotional state by engaging in attention-seeking (reflected in his elevated level of antagonism), and sometimes vengeful, behavior which usually exacerbated the problem.

While there is not a specific scientifically-tested and supported treatment for other specified personality disorder, there are therapeutic strategies designed to specifically strengthen impulse control, increase interpersonal skills, and build adaptive emotional coping. Michael would likely experience improvement in his symptoms if he worked with a therapist in these areas, while capitalizing on his strengths: being a fun-loving person who cares a lot about his relationships with others.

Status at Termination (last episode)
At follow-up, Michael exhibited substantial improvement in his personality functioning. While he retained his unique (and sometimes inappropriate) sense of humor and life perspective, he appeared to become more skilled at navigating interpersonal relationships and formed meaningful relationships with his co-workers. Their affection for Michael was evident as they said good-bye to him when he moved to Colorado to be with his wife, Holly, and their excitement at seeing him a few years later at Dwight & Angela’s wedding. He reported that he and Holly had a fun and mutually supportive marriage and that he enjoyed being a father very much.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST
Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Michael Scott was created as a comedic character who repeatedly offends people by speaking and acting in incredibly inappropriate ways. While the creators of the show were likely aiming to make a character who would make people laugh because of his unusual personality, it is highly doubtful that they had a personality disorder in mind. Thus, by design, Michael Scott is not a realistic representation of someone suffering from a mental disorder. That being said, some of the aspects of his personality that lead to problems (excessive and intense need for others’ approval, disinhibited behavior, marked emotional fluctuation) do represent realistic components of some mental disorders. However, these pathological personality traits do not typically present in the extreme and silly manner that is portrayed in The Office. In conclusion, no, it is not an accurate portrayal of mental illness, but Michael Scott is an incredibly entertaining character.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
In the earlier episodes of The Office, Michael is not presented as a sympathetic character. He ridicules numerous people based on personal qualities (e.g., appearance, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, gender) and acts in an irrational manner. However, as the seasons progress, the audience sees more of Michael’s sweet, caring, fun side, and this results in more compassion for his struggles and more sympathy about his lack of insight into his role in his own struggles.

Overall rating:
When considered overall, we award The Office with a Dundie for the “Best Television Show Ever!” Although the portrayal of mental illness is not entirely accurate, the writers did not set out with this goal in mind. We can’t fault them for missing a goal that they never had. Beyond that, the show does not seem to add to the stigmatization of mental disorders. In fact, in the episode Here Comes Treble (Season 9, Episode 5) Nellie helps to dispel some of the misconceptions that Dwight holds about individuals suffering from anxiety. And in the episode Stairmageddon (Season 9, Episode 19), Jim approaches Toby to ask what he and Pam can expect from couples counseling. Both episodes normalize experiences related to receiving mental health services.