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  • Himani Choudhary

Howard Hughes: the real and reel life OCD!

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Howard Hughes is a man who led a remarkable life. This was in spite of his almost crippling OCD. The 2004 drama The Aviator tracks the journey of this extraordinary man. The movie shows us his rise to fame, his personal relations and his serious illness. Leonardo DiCaprio's depiction of a person suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is almost spot on and one of the best on-screen depictions we have of the illness. The DSM-5 criteria Obsessive Compulsive Disorder requires the patient to have a combination of obsessions and compulsions. In the movie, even when not explicitly talking about the disorder the audience is reminded by his disorder constantly. The undertones of the film that involve slight quirks and certain expressions comes off as very natural and hence makes the experience all the more believable. The obsessions Howard Hughes's germophobia and obsessive need to be clean are shown to us throughout the film. His furrowed brows in the movie show us that the thoughts of cleanliness is something that actively bothers him. He even openly declares multiple times that he is being paranoid but still cannot help but be ridden with these thoughts. These thoughtfully woven in details help us realise that these thoughts he has are intrusive. The compulsions Howard also has certain actions and activities that he does as a routine. This can be his arrangement of food on his plane, his vigorous hand washing, his way of spelling words. He is constantly plagued by thoughts of getting in contact with germs and this point everything he does has become a ritual. The extent of the illness In order for the disorder to classify as OCD the obsessions and/or compulsions need to consume a significant amount of the person's life. This is specified as an hour or more in the guide.

The OCD is there throughout the movie and frustrates him at multiple junctures. He is unable to converse with the media, his personal relations are affected, his work is affected. These constant delays and lapses in his work show that a significant part of his life was being taken over by the disorder. Appreciation for the movie The movie showed an extremely real portrayal of the seriousness of the disorder. The character here never breaks and he is given a lot of depth. There are aspects of his life shown that are independent of his illness but are still affected by it. The film and the life of this extraordinary man show how parasitic a mental illness can be. It shows that it is important to address it. This movie focused on the negative and the frightening effects OCD can have on a person's life. Though it didn't show us any healthy mechanism that could be used to deal with the illness, it was still a very accurate depiction of the extent of it which is great work considering the time in which it was made "Don't tell me i can't do it. Don't tell me it can't be done."- Howard Hughes

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