Breaking Bad

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it.”

A five-season series, Breaking Bad chronicles the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a man whose terminal lung cancer diagnosis puts him in a desperate situation. Horrified that he might leave his family with nothing, Walt starts cooking crystal meth with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

Walter’s Problem
One of the most compelling parts of Breaking Bad is that we are on Walt’s team at the get-go. His situation makes sense; we root for him; he is trying to provide for his family. Somewhere along the way though, things take a turn. Walt’s mean; he’s critical; and he’s incredibly selfish. Though the series features other characters with other diagnoses (Jesse has substance use disorder; Marie has kleptomania; and Hank has panic disorder), Walt is our antihero. Let’s make it all about him, which is probably how he prefers it anyway.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
This is a tricky one. Most people wrongfully associate obsessive-compulsive problems with excessive cleanliness. In fact, many folks use “my OCD” as a way of justifying perfectionist, eccentric behaviors with little regard for how debilitating a real diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder truly is for someone who has it (and yes, I will definitely get to that diagnosis later)!

Instead, this is a personality disorder comprised of perfectionist behaviors that infect relationships. Toxic criticism, staunch regard for rules, and a general uptightness that fosters unpleasantness are characteristics with someone with an obsessive-compulsive personality.

  • Difficult Relationships
    I can’t emphasize enough how hard it is for people with bona fide personality disorders to have consistent, stable relationships. While Walt has every appearance of a loving family, he pulls away from them and lies habitually. He has a hard time giving hugs, making amends with former colleagues, or even accepting a birthday present from Jesse. In fact, Jesse is for a time, Walt’s closest friend, but Walt never takes a real interest in his partner. He never asks Jesse about his girlfriend, asks when Jesse’s birthday is, or bothers in any significant way with Jesse’s feelings for the obvious reason that Jesse’s feelings are trivial to Walter.
  • Rigidity
    Duh. Walt’s so stringent about rules that it’s hard to understand what Skyler (Anna Gunn) ever saw in the guy. Then again, we meet Walter when he’s about to start manufacturing crystal meth. In this sense, Walt again has every appearance of being a rule-follower, but maintains a dual perspective that the rules don’t really apply to him anyway.
  • Righteousness
    The holier-than-thou attitude is a hallmark of certain personality disorders. Walter justifies his behavior until the very last episode as a gesture for his family. He only ever admits the truth to his wife, in the very last episode. Walt forever corrects the behaviors of those around him and has convenient excuses for being such an asshole, but as the song in the finale suggests, Walter eventually gets what he deserves.

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