How are psychological disorders portrayed in the media?

How are psychological disorders portrayed in the media?

Abnormal psychology or psychopathology is a division of psychology that deals with emotional and mental disorders. It specializes in diagnosing and offering therapy to people exhibiting abnormal behavior. The disorders include dreams, neurosis, hypnosis, mental deficiency, and psychosis. Sexual deviation, obsessive compulsion, and depression are significant areas of concern in this field of psychology. Some psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors use several approaches when treating psychological disorders, but some prefer to focus on a single approach[1].

The media exhibits and highlights abnormal psychology through films and television shows, for example, in the television series The Sopranos. This American show premiered on the television network and premium cable Home Box Office (HBO) between January 10, 1999, and June 10, 2007. The show illustrated Major Depressive Disorder, a common mental disorder, through a lead character named Anthony Soprano, Jr., otherwise known as A.J. He was the son of Carmela and Anthony Soprano and was born on July 15, 1986. His Italian family lived in New Jersey, and his father belonged to a mafia, which he later joined.

A.J’s problem was inherited, as it was depicted in the show since there was a history of psychiatric disorders in his family tree. For instance, A.J‘s father paid several trips to the psychiatrist since he was diagnosed with depression and, later, panic and antisociantisociallity disorders. His behavior was also unacceptable since he belonged to a mafia and participated in organized crime. In addition, his marriage became rocky, and the marital problems developed into separation, adversely affecting him. His father pressured him to take up responsibilities in life so that he may not become a failure. A.J’s father did this by organizing a job for him at a construction site to be more productive now that he was grown up. While working at the site, he flourished at his construction job and was lucky to meet a Puerto Rican girl named Blanca. The two developed a close relationship and started dating, and as time went by, he proposed to her. However, Blanca had different thoughts on the proposal and decided to break up with A.J. This was the beginning of his depression, and he could not even stand the sight of Blanca talking to other men. It was so frustrating for him that he quit his job at the site. A.J. tried to nurse his frustrations by associating with his childhood friends, which proved therapeutic. He also enrolled in therapeutic sessions where a therapist helped him improve.


The story line elaborates that A.J suffers from an antisociality disorder, which is depicted by his behavior. For instance, A.J is involved in the murder by strangling somebody and behaves as if nothing happened as he drives to pick up his daughter from school just on time. In addition, he developed some unusual behavior after his break up with Blanca. He started sleeping a lot, locking himself up in his room, experiencing energy loss, and his appetite decreased. In a separate incident, he incites the destruction of his friend’s restaurant and denies knowing about the arson. A.J. even cheated on his wife and proclaimed that he loved her despite his infidelity. These acts are evidence of antisociantisocialr that is against society’s social norms. The anti-socAntisociallity disorder is also evident in A.J. since he became deceitful and cold-hearted for the personal privilege. Worse still, A.J became suicidal and attempted to suffocate and drown himself to death were it not for his father, who found him in the act and rescued him. All of A.J’s behavior points to an abnormal psychological disorder.

There are various perspectives on human psychology: beliefs and perceptions of human behavior. They include psychodynamic, cognitive, humanistic, behavioral, and biological approaches. The behavioral approach focuses on observable behavior and not maladaptive disorders. Its focus is the influence of environmental factors on human behavior. This theory holds that people become who they are and behave in a particular manner by applying what they learn from their surroundings. The biological approach focuses on the underlying causes of abnormal psychology by analyzing gene influence on human behavior. The theory holds that inherited DNA dramatically affects how one behaves. In addition, other factors in the body, such as the brain, chromosomes, and hormones, also impact behavior. It believes that human behavior is inherited and maladaptive[2].

The cognitive perspective deals with the contribution of perceptions, reasoning, and individual thoughts to abnormal psychology. It also believes that human memory processes information in three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding stage receives and attends to information; the storage stage retains the received information, while the retrieval stage recalls the stored information. The psychodynamic perspective believes that childhood events and the unconscious mind significantly impact human behavior. A psychoanalyst called Freud proposed this theory, and he believes that human beings have minimal choices to make in their adulthood. This is because most of what happens in adulthood are influenced by childhood experiences. In addition, he believes that observable behavior has little contribution to behavior since the unconscious mind significantly impacts behavior. The humanistic theory or humanism focuses on the holistic being of human behavior. The theory believes that somebody’s behavior is closely associated with self-image and inner feelings. Therefore, everybody is unique and autonomous and has the free will to determine their destiny in life. The theory believes that only an individual can determine their well-being and happiness by pursuing the desire to achieve self-actualization[3].

In A.J.’s case inThe Sopranos, therapists could use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to treat the character since he has a psychological disorder. This therapy combines feelings, thoughts, and actions which affect one’s behavior. For example, A.J. developed negative thoughts of suicide, lack of remorse, and deception, especially after he broke up with Blanca. This therapy could remedy his psychological distress and help him interpret situations and events positively. The therapy aids people with psychological distress to develop positive thoughts and behavior that are therapeutic to the distress. This eliminates skewed judgment that has a negative contribution to behavior.

The perspective I feel is the best is the cognitive approach because it focuses on the mental issues that affect behavior. The brain, thoughts, and perceptions influence human behavior most since the information the mind processes will affect them either positively or negatively. Therefore, I would recommend that A.J. be prescribed cognitive behavior therapy since his behavior depicts his disorder as cognitive.




























Baucum, Donald. Psychology. Hauppauge: Barron’s Educational Series, 2006.

Cave, Steven. Classification and diagnosis of psychological abnormality. New York: Routledge Chapman & Hall, 2002.

Kearney, Christopher and Trull Timothy. Abnormal psychology and life. Independence: Cengage Learning, 2010.



[1] Steven Cave, Classification and diagnosis of psychological abnormality. (New York: Routledge Chapman & Hall, 2002), 245.

[2] Donald Baucum. Psychology (Hauppauge: Barron’s Educational Series, 2006), 56.

[3] Christopher Kearney and Trull Timothy. Abnormal psychology and life (Independence: Cengage Learning, 2010), 104.

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