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mental illness and horror movies

Is mental illness and horror movies padding Hollywood’s wallet?

Movies made by Hollywood use mental illnesses to jack up the sensationalism and rack-up movie ticket sales. Horror movies such as, Psycho, Shutter Island, Silence of the Lambs, The Roommate and we must not forget “Freddie” and Nightmare on Elm Street have used mental illnesses as the main character.  All we know  about this “psycho” is that they carry around a chainsaw, levitate a bunch and stare all weird.  And of course slathered in blood, gore and organs from dismembered bodies and plenty of Wilhelm Screams.

mental illness and horror movies
mental illness and horror movies


The objective is to pull the wool off your eyes to see the real truth about mental illness and point out Hollywood’s lack of taste toward same.

The old dance of mental illness and horror movies in Hollywood is  yesterday’s news

When I was a child, I watched my fair share of movies with famous lines such as: “Carrie Ann”; “Agent Clarice Starling”; “They’re back!”; and “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”  These movies scared the heck out of me!  With my own paranoid delusions, I just knew Hannibal Lechter was in my closet waiting to eat my liver.  Jaws lived in the right section of our pool.  I knew I risked my life each time I stepped my big toe  in the water.  My heart pounded inside of my chest.

So, I ask myself, would I want to be portrayed like Carrie Ann, Hannibal Lechter or Quint to my family or friends?  NO!  I have a cousin who lives out West who knows nothing of my illness.  He will get his information from Hollywood, a horror movie.  I am nothing like these characters.

I wish Hollywood would create movies that portray the mentally ill in a positive light.  People with a mental illness can be nice, intelligent, caring, loving and creative individuals who contribute to society in a proper way.  They can dwell in society without anyone knowing any different.  They can be a judge, lawyer, doctor, teacher, therapist, baker, nurse or any other career they are interested in.  Just because that person has a mental illness, does not mean they are doomed to a life of  poverty, living back home with mom and dad, unemployed and disabled or even homeless.

Mental illness and Hollywood, a disappointment

It is really a disappointment that so many movies downgrade the mentally ill  to a bunch of crazies, criminals, murderers and people who like to carry an ax around.  I believe none of those Hollywood characteristics of an individual with a mental illness are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Sixth Revised EditionThis Manual is the bible of psychiatry and psychology.  Psychiatrists and psychologists go to the DSM-VI in order to make an accurate diagnosis.

mental illness and horror movies
mental illness and horror movies

Using a mental illness as the reason someone murdered another, is damaging to our mentally ill brothers and sisters who are more than conquerors just getting out of bed.  I believe if a movie like Split, is going to talk about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder, Hollywood should be accurate in the definition.  Consequently, the movie should be a documentary or a biographical sketch on people who live with this mental disorder every day for the rest of their life.

mental illness and horror movies
mental illness and horror movies

Stigma directed from Hollywood is not just against the people with a mental illness but also the facilities.  Out-of-your-mind treatment towards the patients. Don’t forget the ice picks in the eyes. Yes, thousands experienced traumatic butchering of the eye as well as other body parts in the name of (deplorable) treatment.  However, that occurred in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Treatment of the patients as well as to the patients made a huge turnaround.  Actually, since the drastic change took place, people were receiving better treatment.  I in fact have a friend who is bipolar 1.  She has been to several inpatient and outpatient mental hospitals.  While some were terrible, there are the ones that aren’t too bad.


If you walked a day in their shoes, you would throw up the white flag and run for safety shortly after.  It is hard to live with a mental illness.  Not everybody can do it as we already know.  But we can learn to tolerate it as well.


Horror Movies and the Exploitation of Mental Illness

Is mental illness and horror movies padding Hollywood’s wallet?

Amy Pierce Romine

I am a published content and freelance writer, award-winning blogger, public speaker, copy editor and social media consultant. From adolescence through the decade of my 20’s, I went without knowing anything was wrong with me. A mental illness was the farthest possibility from my mind (LOL! No pun intended). After my first diagnosis of just “bipolar”, I waited another seven years to discover my most current diagnosis. I have bipolar 1 with psychotic features, mixed episodes and ultra-rapid cycling. An extension of my diagnosis includes the bipolar type of AD/HD, OCD, GAD and social anxiety. At the end of the day, it all comes down to my faith in God and of course my friends and family who encourage and support me every step of the way. You can find me at my other blog, Life Conquering Blog for Mental Health.

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APA Reference
Pierce Romine, A. (2018). Is mental illness and horror movies padding Hollywood’s wallet?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2018
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