Psychology Extra Credit
"As Good As It Gets"
(A Breakdown Of OCD)
Melvin Udall is a successful novelist who suffers from a moderate level of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He steps around cracks. He repeatedly checks door locks and light switches. He wears gloves and tries not to touch people. He washes his hands frequently and will never use the same bar of soap twice. When he eats out he has to have his own specific table, specific waitress, and he always brings his own plastic utensils.
Melvin has an abrasive personality. He freely speaks his mind and often with shockingly offensive sarcasm. It's not clear if his outspokenness is related to his OCD. Nonetheless, the things he says reflect a common fear among OCD people; a fear of compulsively expressing those random offensive thoughts that naturally cross peoples' minds. OCD or not, most people don't actually voice such thoughts, but Melvin does.
Consequently, his social life consists of only a few acquaintances. His small social circle consists of the tolerant waitress Carol Connelly, his frustrated neighbors and his publisher. Otherwise he spends most of his time alone in his apartment writing his next novel.
The comforting routine of Melvin's life is gradually upset by several events. When his neighbor Simon is beaten in a robbery, Simon's friend Frank insists that Melvin care for the dog, which can lead to a huge change of routine. Later his regular waitress Carol is absent from work and Melvin's outspokenness finally gets him kicked out of the restaurant. Desperate to get routine going again, he is driven to unexpected acts of kindness that slowly change his perspectives.
The circumstances and comments in the film suggest that acceptance and motivation are the keys to Melvin's recovery. Towards the end of the film, his...