Mental Disorders Through the Camera Lens-The Aviator

Mental Disorders

In a world where mental illnesses are stigmatized and mental health is neglected, it is difficult, if not rare, to find a movie that does not portray any mental disorder in a bad light.
What comes to mind when I say the name Leonardo Dicaprio?
Charming and talented, right? The famous Hollywood star is known for his marvelous performance in several movies. Out of all his performances, he outdid himself in the movie The Aviator.’

What is so special about it? 

Well, it is based on the real-life story of Howard Hughes was a talented and eccentric billionaire personality back in the 1920s and 1940s. He was a businessman, philanthropist, and filmmaker with a notorious past. Besides his infamous biography, one thing that was well-known about him was his obsessive-compulsive Compulsive Disorder. Hughes suffered from the symptoms of schizophrenia in his life, which were well portrayed in the movie Aviator.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness or a mental disorder that affects our thought processes. It causes a person to have recurring and obsessive thoughts about something, followed by compulsion or resistance to another thing. For example, the classic case of severe ocd can be an obsessive thought about being unclean, which causes the person to frequently wash their hands to clean themselves. This handwashing is termed compulsion or compulsive habits.

Everyone has certain habits that they must do regularly; if not, they feel uneasy. However, in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these obsessive habits are so severe and frequent that they hamper the normal functioning of a person.

ocd is accompanied by common cases of contamination and germ-related fears that might be mild to severe and might require hospitalization if conditions worsen. ocd is a serious condition where an individual, both personal and professional, is greatly hampered by the symptoms of ocd.

What are the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD symptoms include episodes of obsessions—repetitive thoughts that won’t go away—and compulsive habits—the urge to do something repeatedly in reaction to the obsession or obsessive thoughts.

  • A person has a huge fear of getting contaminated or infected by germs.
  • A fear of forgetting something important.
  • Aggressive thoughts and irritability.
  • fear about losing control over themselves.
  • There is an obsession with having everything symmetrical and equal as an even set of numbers.
  • Involving in risky and reckless behavior such as not caring about getting hurt and the consequences of being harsh.
  • Interest or urge to engage in taboo, prohibited acts, and desires.
  • Unnecessary and excessive cleaning habits, such as hand washing and bathing for long hours.
  • There is a severe urge to keep things arranged and strictly in order.
  • Counting repeatedly
  • Repeating or praying continuously by chanting
  • Hoarding: collecting random things in huge amounts, such as garbage, clothes, personal items, or other belongings.

Sometimes people with ocd develop tic disorder, a disorder characterized by making random sounds, movements, jerking, etc.

What is the cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD can occur at any stage of life but usually shows its onset during childhood and adolescence.

Below are the possible causes and risk factors for ocd.

Biological factors

Biology indicates that certain areas of the brain that play a role in controlling our emotions are affected in people with ocd.

Genetics and family history

OCD can be inherited from parents to children. People whose family members are affected by the disorder are more likely to suffer from ocd in the future.


Trauma or negative experiences in childhood can lead to the development of ocd.

ocd in the Aviator

What Aviator showed to the audience?

Back to the discussion about The Aviator, the movie covered almost every aspect of ocd and Howard Hughes’s real-life constitution accurately. These include;

  • He developed a fear of disease because his mother warned him about an epidemic—a common symptom in ocd where fear and anxiety trigger a complex condition.
  • Vigorously hand wash when touching a public restroom door knob.
  • Wrapping the tire of an airplane to protect it from germs.
  • Drinking only from unopened bottles of milk.
  • When faced with stress, his condition worsened further.
  • Blabbering about something, repeating a number.
  • Complete isolation in severe episodes of ocd.
  • Spending money recklessly on filming, partying, clubbing, and relationships.
  • Performing ritualistic tasks and continuing routines that must be followed. becoming highly irritable and agitated.
  • Eating a fixed number of peas: He only ate an arranged and fixed number of peas on a plate.

All these actions performed by Huges in the movie indicate the classic case of ocd, where a person’s condition gets worse over time, which causes further anxiety and fear, leading to isolation.

What is the treatment for OCD?

OCD is a severe case of psychotic disorder that causes a person to lose track of reality and time. In severe cases of ocd, it needs immediate hospitalization and supervision from experts.


Medicines are prescribed as antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines to deal with the fear response and symptoms of ocd.


Psychotherapy in combination with medication shows highly effective results for people with ocd. Psychological counseling helps break the chain of irrational thoughts that cause the person with ocd.. It helps reflect on their thought process, their obsessions and compulsions, and how to manage them effectively.

If traditional medication and therapeutic approaches don’t work in ocd then brain stimulation devices such as ECT and rT can be used to mildly stimulate the brain with electricity.

Bottomline: Indeed, mental health is poorly understood and represented in society; however, The Aviator has done a tremendous job of showcasing the struggles of people with mental illness and how, in severity, it can disrupt their lives. The movie wants to go ahead and bag several awards, including the Academy Award nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Nevertheless, the impact it has on people and about ocd has led more people to acknowledge the battles of mental illness.

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