A diagnostic bind: movie mania and John Nash's schizophrenia

The boundary between schizophrenia and affective disorders must remain flexible, depending on whether the goal is research or patient care


John F. Nash Jnr died – together with his wife Alicia – on May 23, 2015, when their taxi lost control in New Jersey. He was 86 years of age. Obituaries in the world’s leading newspapers and journals attest to his genius, his extraordinary scientific contributions – both in impact and in breadth (he made seminal contributions in economics, mathematics, political science, nuclear strategy, evolutionary biology, and game theory) – and the multiple tragedies that marked his life, and not only his psychiatric illness. As captured by the New York Times [2], his life story was ‘one of dazzling achievement, devastating loss and almost miraculous redemption’.

That profile was captured in the 2001 film ‘A Beautiful Mind’, a film that received multiple Oscar nominations and was awarded four. The publicity emphasized how John Nash had triumphed – in receiving the 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics – over schizophrenia. While the film is evocative and poignant and offers hope for those with schizophrenia, it may offer false hope if Nash did not have schizophrenia. We will argue that Nash was more likely to have had a bipolar disorder. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is often missed, risking failure to provide appropriate treatment. Nash’s story is therefore worthy of some diagnostic consideration.



I started reading this + bookmarked it to read later. Early morning + short attention span. It sounds interesting. I have wondered about John Nash’s almost singular accomplishments as a schizophrenic.

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I think all mental disorders are being lumped together now. The diagnosis is not as important as getting the right medications.

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