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10 Films/TV Shows About Anxiety Disorders

Posted on January 13th, 2012 by in Offbeat

by Ryan Rivera.

As someone that’s suffered from serious anxiety, I’m not always a fan of films and TV shows that focus on a fictional anxiety-ridden character. Often they sugarcoat what it’s like to really live with anxiety, and act as though it’s a fun little quirk that a character has because they’re weird.

That said, any time a mental health disorder is represented in media it provides an opportunity to create discussion about living with mental illness and surviving it. Even the worst representations of these disorders are still representations, and since there are millions of people suffering from these issues with little knowledge of their impact or the ability to seek professional treatment, any time the media showcases one of these characters, it’s possible that someone with anxiety is motivated to seek help.

So here are ten examples of movies and TV shows that have either an anxiety component or a character that is suffering from one of these diseases.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Joel Barish suffered from fairly serious social anxiety, but while he was stricken with the disorder, he’s a character that people instantly root for as he tries to rekindle a relationship with a forgotten love.

Adrian Monk was a character with severe OCD, although the show tended to refer to the character as “unusual” rather than acknowledging the OCD. Still, while Monk’s OCD was meant to be humorous, rather than educational, Monk was given a good “reason” for his OCD (his wife’s death and strange parents), and the character was likeable.

What About Bob?
A classic comedy voted one of the funniest movies of all time, “What About Bob?” centers around a character with phobias and a host of anxiety disorders. These fears don’t seem to stop Bob from successfully socializing with nearly everyone in the movie, which is pretty disingenuous to the disorder, but since his character is so likeable he puts a positive face on a serious mental health issue.

The Aviator
An excellent film adaptation about the real life story of Howard Hughes. The Aviator’s character progressively deteriorates, something that would have been likely without any successful treatments, and showcases the beginning of what happened to one of the most prominent individuals in America.

The Indiana Jones Series
No, Indiana Jones doesn’t exactly revolve around the anxiety disorder of the main character, but Jones does show what it’s like to have a serious phobia (in his case, snakes). There are millions of people living with phobias that they never address, and while a fear of spiders or a fear of crows is unlikely to have a profound effect on one’s life, some phobias can be far more debilitating, such as the character in the following movie.

The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a great example of how phobias – something that often go largely ignored – can truly affect someone’s life. Truman Burbank was so deathly terrified of the water that he was unable to find freedom elsewhere, and the show itself added a serious of subliminal messages to try to scare him away from ever attempting to find out his true place in the world.

Breakout Kings
While it may not be the most popular show on A&E, Julianne Sims from Breakout Kings is portrayed as having a serious social anxiety disorder and panic attacks which prevented her from working in law enforcement until she was recruited for the team.

The main character in Amélie has a clear social anxiety disorder, but the character herself is still a good person that wants to improve the lives of others and pursue her own romantic interests. Amélie overcomes her shyness through friendship rather than therapy (which is wishful thinking for many social anxiety sufferers), but the character herself does a good job or portraying her shy/nervous character.

Analyze This
One of the few films that addresses the effects of generalized anxiety disorder, Analyze This is a comedy that does a surprisingly good job (albeit with humor) showing how living with anxiety can affect decision making, social interactions, and more.

Holly Hunter exhibits an issue that affects many women after they’ve been attacked by becoming agoraphobic – an issue that isn’t addressed much in today’s society, especially for victims of assault.

As usual with movie portrayals of mental health disorders, most of these movies involve a main character that manages to overcome anxiety on their own, with very little additional treatment – something unlikely for most people that suffer from anxiety related issues. Still, suspending belief is the norm for Hollywood, and the fact that these movies highlight issues with anxiety can only be a net benefit for those that are actually living through it.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera suffered from intense anxiety attacks and phobias, and has become an advocate for anxiety related issues all over the world. He has in depth information available at

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One Response to “10 Films/TV Shows About Anxiety Disorders”

  1. Over Shyness Says:

    Absolutely great post. I’ve spoken to people who said Amélie helped them realize they had social problems of their own and it made a great movie to boot.

    And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a perfect pick. Especially the scene on the train when you hear his internal monologue.

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