Mental Health Diagnosis of Walter White

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Mental Health Diagnosis of Walter White

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Walter White is a fictional character and the protagonist on a popular television show called “Breaking Bad.” He is a chemistry graduate of the California Institute of Technology and co-founded the company Gray Matter Technologies. After leaving the company, Walter moved to New Mexico, started a family, and became a high school chemistry teacher and also works part time as a cashier at a carwash. On his 50th birthday, he was diagnosed with inoperable Stage III lung cancer and was given two years to live. Shortly after his diagnosis, he decides to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine to ensure his family’s financial security after his death. As the show progresses, his character is pulled deeper into the drug trade and becomes more violent. This is where we see the transformation in Walter White’s personality, from a non assertive and reserved family man to a manipulative, impulsive, and arrogant drug dealer.

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Walter White’s personality significantly changed after his lung cancer diagnosis. He accepted his mortality and felt that his diagnosis was his chance to experience a more exciting life and change the financial situation of his family. Before his diagnosis he seemed depressed, unsatisfied with his job, and appears to have low self- esteem. His personality progressively shifts to a more devious character. He constantly lies, becomes deceitful, and impulsive. He also became arrogant, has a grandiose sense of importance, and lacked empathy for others. This is portrayed in the show as he makes bolder and dangerous choices when navigating through the dilemmas of his new found occupation. He also continues to use his family as an excuse to justify his life of crime. Walter explains in the beginning of season five, “When we do what we do for good reasons, then we’ve got nothing to worry about. And there’s no better reason than family.” In reality, he does not care about providing for his family. He cares about feeding his ego. In his perspective, he is the one suffering and his family should be thankful for all the sacrifices he has made.

The concerns relating to engagement of his occupations is learning to relate better with others so that his relationships are more intimate, enjoyable, and rewarding (Mayo Clinic, 2019). As well as, to understand the causes of his emotions and what causes him to distrust others (Mayo Clinic, 2019). He feels successful in providing for his family and being a good father to his children. The barriers that he faces that affects his success is his inability to see his wrong doings, his failure to relate or understand the suffering of others, and his lack of consideration for the needs of others (Bridges to Recovery, 2019). However, Walter values hard work and time for his family and he finds satisfaction in his occupation as a chemist.

Before Walter White worked as a high school chemistry teacher, he was a distinguished chemist with a specialty in X-ray crystallography (McClusky, 2018). Walter’s research regarding photon radiography contributed to a project that was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (McClusky, 2018). He has been married to his wife for 18 years and has a teenage son and an infant daughter. He lived in California while he was obtaining his degree in chemistry and moved to New Mexico to work at a chemical lab and ultimately settled down with his family. He is a father, husband, caregiver, teacher, chemist, and businessman. He works full time at J.P. Wynne High School as a chemistry teacher. Financially, this job is not enough to support his family, so he works part time as a cashier at A1A carwash. His work as a methamphetamines manufacturer and distributor is unknown to most of his family members. His routines involves, getting ready for work (dressing and bathing), taking care of his infant daughter (child rearing), goes to work (job performance), relaxes by spending time with family (social participation), eats dinner (feeding), goes to bed (sleep participation). When he is involved in his work as a drug manufacturer and dealer, he becomes selfish, suspicious of others intentions, and becomes preoccupied with fantasies of great achievements and power (Bridges to Recovery, 2019). As a result, his family becomes distant and distrust him, he is unable to perform his job as an educator properly and his sleep patterns become inconsistent.

Prior to his involvement in the drug trade, his home environment is safe. He lived in a suburban neighborhood. His work at the high school is a short commute from his home, which limits time in the car and traffic. His wife stays at home and sells items online to contribute to the family's financial security and gain a source of income. He believes in working hard and providing for his family. He is 50 years old, highly educated, with low to mid socioeconomic status. He can perform all activities of daily living and can follow through with his routine. He believes that his priorities are the welfare of family and to be successful at his job and business.

Narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder is classified as Cluster B personality disorders. It is characterized by intense, dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. This person is erratic, emotional, and self- centered (Module 4 Lecture 2: Personality Disorders). We see the symptoms of narcissism when he develops a sense of entitlement. He wants to have control over everything and he does not want to split money with anybody else. He is arrogant and demands admiration, an example of this is when he says “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.” He believes that he shouldn’t be fooled with and if anyone decides that they can mess with him, he makes sure they understand it won’t happen. In addition to his narcissistic behaviors, we also see symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. It is demonstrated through the crimes and murder he has commited which is an example of repeated unlawful behaviors. He also shows lack remorse, an example of this is when he says, “I watched Jane die. I was there. And I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her. But I didn’t.” This is when Walter witnesses Jane (Jesse’s girlfriend) choking on her own vomit from an overdose. He struggled with whether to help or not, but he decided not to. He believed that she was too much of a distraction for Jesse (partner in crime).

The frame of reference that is used for narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder is Cognitive Behavioral. Through multiple sessions, narcissistic personality disorder sufferers can learn to replace grandiose and distorted thoughts with more positive and realistic ideas and self-assessments (Bridges to Recovery, 2019). This can be applied, so that he becomes aware of inaccurate or negative thinking and he can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. An assessment tool that would best work for a person with narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder is the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). This assessment tool is used to help people with personality disorders and other illness identify activities that are important to them to work on in therapy. It focuses on everyday activities, such as self-care, attending school or work, and participating in leisure or play. The COPM is an individualised measure because it calls for each person to consider their own situation and develop goals that are personally meaningful.

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