Clinical Depression in the Movie American Beauty

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According to IMDB, there is an abundance of movies out there which deal with some sort of psychological disorder. Often, movies that contain disorders bring in whole new perspectives for people who watch and observe the movie. The movie that I chose to analyze is “American Beauty”. This movie focuses in on clinical depression zeroing in on the character Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey. Throughout the movie, countless scenes of clinical depression are shown. From the very beginning of the movie, we can obviously tell that Lester Burnham has a psychological disorder.

The psychological disorder of clinical depression is essentially a mood disorder causing a constant feeling of sadness and may result to complete loss of interest.

It is believed to be caused by a neurotransmitter imbalance. However, it can also be caused by problems dealing with everyday life, such as traumatic events, and extremely boring lifestyles. While there is currently no cure for this serious disorder, it can be treated by: going to a psychologist, prescription medication, or treatment by a medical professional.

We can see many instances of clinical depression throughout the whole entire movie. He talks in a mopey, low-tone voice throughout the entire movie. In one of the first scenes of the movie he says, “Welcome to my boring non-eventful life.” He works in a cubical all day dealing with customer complaints on the phone. We can also see from the beginning of the film that his wife essentially controls his life and tells him what to do.

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He is so trapped by his marriage that he really can‘t begin to find his own identity. He analyses all this information presenting it to the viewers saying, “In a way, 1 am dead already.” The DSM-IV analyses and helps depict the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder and depressive episodes. In the movie, Lester’s depression can be categorized as depressive episode criteria B. This criterion is different from criteria A of depression because criteria B possesses symptoms such as pessimistic thoughts, disturbed sleep, low self-esteem, extremely low confidence, and a sense of limited self»worth. The DSM-IV website states the following symptoms and says if at least 5 of the 9 them are shown in everyday life, then an individual could be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Depressed mood, decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities, significant weight change, change in sleeping habits, change in habits, random losses of energy, a feeling of worthlessness, lack of concentration, and serious thoughts of suicide are the conditions stated.

In each scene where Lester is shown, he displays at least 6 or 7 of these habits. This proves that his condition can be linked to a major depressive disorder. He displays a depressed mood, a decrease in pleasure, change in habits, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, lack of concentration, and suicide in just the first scene of the movie. He also falls into another functional domain of failing performance in the workplace when he states he has almost quit or lost his job multiple times. Throughout the movie, his obsession for his daughter’s best friend is shown countless times. It’s as if she is the only person who can make him happy and set him back to reality. The first scene where she is depicted is at a cheerleading competition and Lester daydreams about

her stripping for him. He is soon awoken to reality and none of his thoughts are actually true. Throughout the movie, he is caught staring at her and it is obvious to all the characters that he has an obsession with her. Toward the end of the movie he finds her downstairs alone and she wants him to start kissing her. They start to kiss and Lester lays her down on the couch. He slowly removes her shirt and at this moment, we see him actually smile for the first time in the movie. It is not just a fake smile, at this moment, he is incredibly happy with life. As the scene continues, he lays his head on her and resists his urge to have sexual relations with her. He knows that even though his life is at a low and is a complete disaster he does not want to take the innocence of an 18-year-old girl. Shortly after this, Lester commits suicide and I believe it was because he wanted to end his life while he had a seldom glimpse of happiness for once.

In conclusion, it is certainly obvious from the first scene throughout the whole entire film that Lester Burnham possesses the psychological disorder of clinical depression. From the opening scene where he talks about how in a sense he is dead already all the way to the end when he makes the decision to commit suicide. Lester was always in a state where he really had no self-esteem and honestly just did not care anymore. There is only one point in the whole entire movie where we see even a seldom glimpse of happiness from Lester. I believe this movie did a greatjob of accurately depicting a very serious disease that affects an astonishing amount of people every year. Although this is just a movie, this condition should be taken very seriously and a cure needs to be found in the near future.

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Clinical Depression in the Movie American Beauty. (2023, Jan 09). Retrieved from

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