Abnormal Psychology in the Media

Abnormal Psychology in the Media

Adrian Monk is a character in the fictional TV drama series Monk played by Tony Shalhoub. Monk is a former detective in the homicide department of the San Francisco Police Department who is portrayed to have multiple phobias and a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Monk mentions that he has over three hundred known phobias suggesting that there are other unknown to him. The strongest of his phobias include the fear of germs, dentists, death and dead things, milk, sharp pointed objects, crowds, snakes, heights and small spaces. For instance, he displays these phobias in the sixth episode when he meets with the daredevil character. In addition, he evidences new symptoms to new phobias like the fear of blankets.

Monk’s fear of germs makes him almost antisocial as he refuses to touch common objects like doorknobs and handles with his bare hands, shake hands with people and uses wipes after any form of human contact. Additionally, he does not eat food that has been touched by other people as noted in the seventh season when he takes a woman for dinner in a restaurant but fails to eat the food since it has been touched by the cooks. Monk’s anxiety disorders and fears render him dependent on personal assistants who are necessitated into accompanying him everywhere. The assistants, two in the entire program, deal with his shopping, drive him around, and carry sanitary wipes for his use. The assistants organize his consultancy work and at times perform investigations (Wittkower, 2010).

Monk is addicted to his quest of creating a balance in the world. He is fixated with creating symmetry as seen in the program while rearranging wall hangings and paintings and he goes as far as cutting his pancakes into square shapes. He also prefers strict schedules and familiarity in his routine activities. For instance, he drinks a single a brand of water known as Sierra Springs throughout the first five seasons and the Summit Creek brand in the sixth to the eighth seasons. He is so much fixated to the water brands that when he goes to Mexico in the second season, he does not drink water for several days, since his brands are unavailable. Monk has a big problem socializing; the issue is so serious that he writes down common phrases that initiate small talk on little pieces of paper and cards in an attempt to enhance his relational capabilities.

Monk also bears an excessive obsession to minute details. This feature cripples his social scene but acts as a gift in his detective and profiling side due to his photographic memory. Monk has the ability to reconstruct crime scenes from little details that may seem meaningless to his colleagues. He always wanders around a crime scene with his arms raised and his hands shaping what appears to be a photograph frame. This is in a bid to split the crime scene into little bits and pieces and for microscopic views. A notable limitation however is that the obsessive-compulsive disorder curtails his ability to function in critical situations. For instance, in an episode within the fifth season where the garbage collectors union boss Jimmy Cusack is murdered, the smell of garbage inhibits the effective working of Mr. Monk. In another episode where he enters a chaotic murder scene, Monk first starts straightening the lamps that seem unkempt to him and this may have well impeded on the evidence. It is only later that the detective is able to let go of his obsession and starts to collect evidence from the scene of the crime (Wittkower, 2010).

Adrian Monk is a proper candidate for a psychological analysis as he depicts several symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as variant phobias. His condition is believed to have commenced after the death of his wife, Trudy, however he also indicates signs of the disorder in his childhood flashbacks. Therefore, it is determined that he has had obsessive-compulsive disorder since childhood that worsened after his wife’s demise. Monk has personal psychiatrists, two in the entire program, whom he visits almost every day. In the course of the program, Monk tries to overcome most of his fears and aspects of the given disorder. However, he does not receive any cure and tries to ignore the obsessions while in the course of any case. In the end of the program as captured in the eighth season, Monk receives a reinstatement back to the police department. This gesture is affected by Stottlemeyer, and the detective is awarded the rank of a first class investigator. Although he is overly excited about his reinstatement, Monk later realizes that he works better as a private consultant. Therefore, he returns the awarded badge upon realizing that he also has a stepdaughter, which makes him change his behavior.

The diagnosis on Monk is appropriate since he has several behaviors and actions that prove his condition of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder as being true. His behaviors are characterized by obsessive thoughts like the fear of germs and dirt. Monk wipes his hands after shaking a person’s hand and does not eat food that has been touched by someone else. He has a fear of causing harm to himself or others and this coerces him to walk on complete steps only in any given pavement and avoid steps in between a division of two pavement blocks. Monk also experiences wild and explicit thoughts, which make him very afraid of even socializing since he thinks something might happen to him (Abramowitz, Taylor, & McKay, 2009).

In addition, he is afraid of losing his job as a consultant and losing his assistants owing to the fact that he thought he was not going to be able to survive after they left. Monk is also obsessed with enforcing order and symmetry in every aspect of his life. For instance, he rearranges wall hangings and paintings wherever he goes, he cuts his pancakes into square pieces and arranges his slices of bread in a specific sequence. His compulsive behaviors include double-checking actions like for instance, turning off the stove before exiting the house or checking if the iron is on. Monks house is spotlessly clean and has a specific order of how and where everything should be kept; he spends a lot of time arranging things to fit a certain order that he desires.

Monk’s history has a lot to do with his diagnosis, as it is one filled with pain. He underwent a separation with his father when he was only eight years old; he remembers that his father just left to get Chinese food and never came back. When they finally meet in the fifth season, Monk notes that his fortune cookie on that day read that he should stand by his man. This to him meant that he should follow his own path. This caused a great deal of pain for little Monk as they had a close relationship with his father. His mother later died in 1994 as the detective reveals. Though he had a happy life with his mother, Monk did not have any father figure to look up to while growing up and therefore was alone most of the time since his mother had to work. As an adult, losing his wife was a very traumatizing experience for Monk; he loved Trudy very much and losing her created a huge void in his life. The way the Trudy faced her demise also had a great impact on Monk because she died in a car bomb that the detective thought was meant for him. These events in his history are believed to be the cause and reason for his worsening phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Stein, 2002).

Monk’s problem would be further explained by the psychological paradigm of psychodynamics. In this paradigm, the basic focus is embedded in the investigation of what unconscious and unresolved conflicts are rooted in a person’s childhood. In Monk’s life, we would analyze, using the criteria offered in the paradigm whether he has any repressed, unconscious psychological conflicts from his past and if these conflicts affect his present day life. Monks childhood experiences contributed much to his current condition according to the paradigm. The paradigm suggests that a childhood evidencing a person being suddenly withdrawn from a loved one, especially one that they looked up to, leads to a quietness and silence that leads to loneliness. This loneliness later leads to antisocial behavior. The condition may also lead to a person acquiring an obsessive approach in frequent activities. For instance, if a person spends most of their time at home doing regular chores, they could get addicted to the activities.

Most probably, Monk spent most of his childhood days alone, since his mother was always at work, and due to this most of household cleanliness chores were delegated to him. This is the reason why his adult life is spent obsessing about cleanliness, hygiene and symmetry. In addition, because the activities were left for him to perform single handedly, Monk acquired a level of independence that still plagues him to the present. Monk’s childhood was also characterized by a lot of loneliness; he did not have much of a social life as the puzzle of why his father left was always on his mind. The psychodynamics paradigm suggests that the strength of a person’s being and brain is always determined by the childhood and development phases.

Due to Monk’s shaky childhood life, the experiences and lack of proper manly and fatherly advice, many things in his adult life appear as new challenges that he must face. However, the paradigm has a weakness in expressing Monk’s case as it suggests that a person’s moral stability would not be sound if they had an unhealthy childhood like Monk’s. The paradigm however cannot be entirely ignored since Monk’s case is one and the verdict may have offered a majority trend. The paradigm, in all other aspects, for instance the description of the problem and the determination of how one’s childhood relates to his adult life in terms of the disorders and the phobias, is successful and therefore quite strong (NBCUniversal, Inc., 2011).

The paradigm suggests that therapy is the best treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, medications like antidepressants should also be used along with the therapy. The treatment involves constant exposure to sources of ones obsession while offering solutions that help one in preventing compulsive behavior. For instance, a person obsessed with germs is exposed to a public place, or is made to shake hands with several people and then prevent themselves from washing their hands or using wipes. This treatment is effectual since the urge to perform a compulsive behavior slowly fades away. In this, the person learns that they do not need to wash their hands every time they shake someone’s hand. The affected also learns that they can gain control over their compulsive behaviors and activate them whenever they feel like, as a normal person does. The second action performed should be the analysis of exaggerated thoughts and the sense of being responsible for every problem. The therapy trains a person in controlling their urges and obsessive thoughts towards overcoming compulsive behaviors (Barlow, 1985).

The paradigm also suggests a four-step method of controlling and possibly conquering symptoms attached to obsessive-compulsive behavior. The first step in this method is to re-label one’s self. In other words, one should define him/herself as a new brand. A person should be encouraged to recognize an obsessive-compulsive disorder present within one’s life. In addition, one should also learn techniques of overcoming the same. For instance, one should train him/herself to convince their mind that they do not feel they have dirty hands of not confessing that they are obsessed by dirty hands. The second step in this treatment plan is to realize that the intense urge one feels because of the obsessive-compulsive disorder could be due to a chemical disproportion in the brain.

The next step in the plan is to focus ones attention on something else apart from the urges infused by the disorder brings. This should be done whenever the urge develops. The last step in the treatment plan is not to take hold the disorder as a trivial situation. The affected individual should not lay any emphasis on the condition and should ward it at all instances. One should remember that the condition has no meaning and it is just their brain playing tricks on them. This should aid with ignoring of the symptoms lading to healthy handling (Osborn, 2008).




















Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S., & McKay, D. (2009). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Lancet, 374, 491-499.

Barlow, D. H. (1985). Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

NBCUniversal, Inc. (2011). Monk: What is OCD? Retrieved from http://www.usanetwork.com/series/monk/community/ocd/index.html

Osborn, I. (2008). Can Christianity cure obsessive-compulsive disorder?: a psychiatrist explores the role of faith in treatment. New York, NY: Brazos Press.

Stein, D. J. (2002). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673602096204

Vythilingum, B., & Stein, D. J. (2005). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and Dermatologic Disease. Dermatologic Clinics,23, 675-680.

Wittkower, D. E. (2010). Mr. Monk and Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.georgereisch.com/popularcultureandphilosophy/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Monksamplechapter.pdf

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