Psychological disorders are displayed throughout all genres of the film industry. For audiences, disturbances of psychological functioning and behavior are so commonplace in popular media that a disassociation of a serious problem, or, an exaggeration of facts can occur. In the familiar movie, PSYCHO, the main character, Norman Bates, is a classic example of Hollywood's portrayal of mental illness. He epitomizes the worst in all that we fear about the mentally ill. Norman exhibits traits that positively match all of the criteria, outlined in Essentials of Abnormal Psychology, for determining abnormality; albeit some of his actions could be considered outside of the norm, with regard to several of the said criteria. Explaining these criteria, and how Norman is characterized within the spectrum of this generalization, will describe the positive and negative qualities of the films" portrayal of mental illness.
Psychologists apply several criteria, individually or in combination, to determine if behavior is abnormal. Criteria can include behavior which is: unusual, socially unacceptable or a violation of a social norm, faulty in the perception or interpretation of reality, significantly distressing to the individual, maladaptive or self-defeating, dangerous to the individual or others. Abnormal behavior has multiple definitions and, depending on the case, certain criteria will weigh more heavily than others; but in most cases, abnormality is defined using a combination of these criteria (Nevid & Greene 2001, p. 3-5).
Characterizations within these labeling criteria will help interpret if a behavior is abnormal. Hallucinations and delusions (hearing voices and paranoia), anxiety (sexual repression), and dangerous behavior (murder) are all major factors in Norman's psyche. Norman's somewhat reclusive behavior can also be considered unusual considering he runs a motel. One could assume this meek and timid individual would not be hiding any secrets.