Patch Adams a Beautiful Spirit and an Example of Bipolar Disorder


By Abbey Mikha

Dear Readers,

A lot of people left comments that said they enjoyed my analysis of the British actor Peter Sellers who suffered from borderline disorder.  For this reason I have created another analysis of Patch Adams according to the movie by the same name.  Many of you may have seen the movie, but you may not have known that the character suffered from bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is prevalent in many communities including the Assyrian community.  Four percent of Americans have bipolar disorder.  That is a lot of people!  You may know someone with bipolar disorder.

As a Psychology student I was so shocked to hear of all the various mental illnesses that I never even knew existed.  Now as a Psychology graduate I believe it is important to know about illnesses such as bipolar because people we love may suffer from them throughout their life.  I also believe it is important to share this knowledge.  If we have more information about these disorders we can help our friends, family, and anyone else who needs it.

Feel free to let me know about any other kinds of disorders you would like to know about and I will try to create an analysis for them.  For now I would like to introduce you to Patch Adams.  This movie was released in 1998 and starred Robin Williams.


An Example of Bipolar Disorder: Patch Adams

Identifying Information

Mr. Patch Adams is a Caucasian male, 40 years old.  He has had several jobs throughout his life, which he believes did not suit him.  He became depressed and suicidal; therefore he signed himself into a psych ward.  He eventually left the ward without the doctor’s approval and he discovered that he wanted to be a doctor.  He now attends Virginia Medical University and is in his first year of studies. He is currently single and living on campus with a roommate who questions his validity in being at the medical university.

Behavioural Observation

Patch’s behaviour varies.  One constant aspect of his personality is that he appears to be a very sensitive person who genuinely feels the suffering of others.  He is talkative and a jokester.  He dresses vibrantly and has various opinions, which he is confident enough to express, even if the person on the receiving end disagrees with him.  An example of Patch’s sensitivity is when at one point the staff of the hospital, where he was a patient, gives a hysterical patient a shot.  Patch is surprised by this act and also upset because of the way that the patient was treated.  Another example of Patch’s sensitivity is where at one point he plays with his roommate in the psych ward by shooting imaginary squirrels. This was Patch’s way of trying to help his roommate go to the bathroom.  As a result of this Patch feels a connection with his roommate and decides that he therefore wants to help people.

A further example of Patch’s immense sensitivity is when he played with the patients when at the hospital affiliated with his medical school.  He appears to have an elevated level of energy, is anxious, and appears to have some out of the ordinary behaviours.  Patch defied most of the rules. Something interesting about him is that he was a firm believer in the Golden Rule which is, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Patch believed that doctors should get emotionally involved with patients.  The problem was that while he was getting emotionally involved he was also sometimes becoming unrealistic and what is called unprofessional.  One of his older patients had told him about a dream of swimming in a pool of noodles before she died and he made that dream come true for her.  This was very sweet though insensitive individuals who would judge Patch and would most probably say he was mistaken.

Patch received a ninety eight percent on his exam although his friends said that he did not study much.  Not only was he talented in academics, the patients also opened up to him and told him about their lives and dreams.  The doctor at the hospital continuously tried to remind Patch that the patients do not need to be entertained, they rather need a doctor.  Patch said that he was concerned about improving the quality of life of the people in the hospital.  He appeared to have always wanted to be exciting and even risky.  He said that doctors did not help him when he was in the hospital rather the patients helped him.  Sometimes Patch’s dialogue seemed very rapid especially when speaking of his dream of a free hospital.  He said that he wants to open a community where, “Joy is the way of life, and love is the ultimate goal.”  He said that humour is to heal all suffering.

Current Circumstances and History

Patch’s father died when he was 9 years old.  His father was in the army and had told him that in the Korean War he had lost his soul.  When his father died Patch thought it was his fault.  At the hospital, which is affiliated with the medical school, Patch tried to reach people in unique ways.  He said that the patient must be treated as well as the disease.  He asks for the patients name first and in this way was considerate.  He felt sorry for the little cancer patients and tried to cheer them up.  He made elaborate costumes to entertain them. He had an enormous amount of energy and this is evident in every aspect of his life.

When his girlfriend at the medical school was murdered, he was very sad and blamed himself for her death.  He was contemplating suicide and was thinking about jumping off the mountain. He suggested that God should have spent the 7th day of creation on compassion instead of taking a rest.  Although Patch appeared to be depressed after his girlfriend’s death, in his record at the school the dean accused Patch of “excessive happiness.”  Patch believed that indifference is a disease.


The pathology I believe Patch to be suffering from is bipolar I disorder most recent episode manic.  For a diagnosis for this disorder a person must have at least one manic episode. Patch has had elevated self-esteem, he is more talkative than usual; he has flights of ideas, a reduced need for sleep, and perhaps he is even easily distracted. The highs have led to difficulties for Patch especially where it concerns authority figures.  Patch has experienced some depression as a result of recent events such as his girlfriend being murdered as a result of visiting a patient of their small free hospital house.

The DSM-IV-TR states that there must be a presence of only one manic episode and no past major depressive episodes for this diagnosis. Also, recurrence is defined as either a change in polarity from depression or an interval of at least 2 months without manic symptoms.  It must also be noted that the manic episode is not better accounted for by schizoaffective disorder and is not superimposed on schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, delusional disorder, or psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

The etiology of bipolar I with recent episode manic is that research has shown a strong genetic component for this disorder, with the environment throughout childhood, adolescents, and adulthood playing a factor in the acceleration of symptoms.  Genetics and environmental influences triggered in Patch this disorder.  He had been spiralling out of control for some time and the disorder has now reached a peak.

Further information that is needed and is to be considered has to do with Patch’s family and past.  What stressful environmental events could have caused him to become ill?  There must be more information about his childhood and his relationship with his father, mother, possible siblings, and friends.  Did Patch have any great disappointments in his life like for example failed love relationship?  How did Patch deal with emotions before and cope with the stress of life?  This is information that is not given to us in the movie.


Axis I: Bipolar I most recent episode manic.

Axis II: Deferred.

Axis III: No physical diseases or current medical problems.

Axis IV: Death of father early years, and after the death of his girlfriend in university.

Axis V:  Functioning of patient is moderate with GAF score of 65.


Patch’s symptoms appear to merit the diagnosis of bipolar I most recent episode manic. The reasoning behind the GAF score of 65 is that Patch shows some mild symptoms, some difficulty in social, occupational, and school functioning, but he is also functioning pretty good generally speaking, doing good in academics, and has some meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Other disorders to be ruled out are schizoaffective disorder, since Patch is not delusional nor does he hallucinate.  Schizoaffective disorder suggests a mixture of symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder.  Schizophrenia has also been ruled out.

Treatment Recommendation

Patch should be treated with a mood stabilizer such as lithium because this medication has been proven to work effectively for patients with bipolar.  Also, Patch should seek therapy because this can be useful in helping him understand the illness he is suffering from.  It will be beneficial for Patch to try to learn when a manic or depressive episode is impending, and to prepare for this.  Learning coping skills is important.

Patch needs support because without it the illness will intensify during manic episodes when he is alone and does not have anyone to turn to for help.  Medication plus psychoanalysis plus education about mental illness is the best treatment for Patch.

It is obvious that Patch is a wonderful human being, but he needs help from mental health care professionals.  Mr. Patch Adams is a beautiful spirit and idealistic person, but he should take the medication prescribed and follow through with the care recommended, so that he can live a productive life, do the good that he wants to do, and be the change he wishes to see in the world.




  1. Rhylee Gonzales says:


    i just read your article about patch adams movie.. i was wondering if you called also other abnormal disorders found in the film like Beanie, Rudy, Larry and many others. i am taking psychology and it catches a lot my attention in understanding people and in dealing them appropriately especially those who have abnormal disorders if such is the right term for them.

    i will patiently wait for your response. thank you..

  2. Abbey Mikha says:

    Dear Rhylee,

    I concentrated on Patch for the character analysis which I wrote a while back, so I cant remember the other characters very well to let you know about any abnormal disorders they may have had.

    Good luck with your studies in psychology. :)



  3. The heart of your writing while appearing reasonable initially, did not sit properly with me after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in logic and one might do nicely to fill in all those gaps. If you actually can accomplish that, I could certainly be impressed.

  4. Abbey Mikha says:

    Hi Roger. Honestly in this post I just wanted to show that some people with bipolar have a sensitive spirit. Maybe I was a bit biased because I know people who suffer from similar illness. I didn’t mean to offend you and maybe yes I tried to impress you with my open minded mentality. Best wishes.

  5. Thanks for sharing your view I found it very interesting.

  6. Abbey Mikha says:

    Thank you. :)

  7. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your weblog? My website is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thank you!

  8. Abbey Mikha says:

    Hi Charise. Yes its alright. Thank you. :)

  9. With every little thing that seems to be developing within this area, many of your perspectives are actually quite exciting. Having said that, I am sorry, because I do not give credence to your whole plan, all be it exciting none the less. It appears to everybody that your commentary are not entirely rationalized and in fact you are generally yourself not really completely certain of your assertion. In any case I did take pleasure in looking at it.

  10. Abbey Mikha says:

    Hi Linwood. The thing you must realize is I wrote this essay a long time ago, probably 2011. I also published it on this E-Magazine much later. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend. I guess this was my perspective at that time when I was in university and still when I read the assignment I don’t find anything really wrong with my view. Mostly when doing these assignments I was trying to be really compassionate with the sick individual, in this case Patch, and maybe that is what sidetracked me a bit. I wasn’t comparing Patch to anyone else, honestly. I treated him as a unique individual and I wanted to give him a chance because so many times people with mental illness are not given a chance in this life.

  11. Danial Prahl says:

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  13. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  14. Abbey Mikha says:

    I don’t mind Tyler. Just tell them Abbey wrote it. :)

  15. Excellent post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Kudos!

  16. Abbey Mikha says:

    I remember this essay. I guess my point is that I wish that all healthcare all over the world would be free for anyone anywhere like Patch was purposing. It makes me sad to think that some people cannot afford their hospital stay or operation etc. And people with bipolar and other disorders can still be wonderful people. I believe “Patch” to be one of a kind. He wanted to help everyone from his heart and that means a lot.

  17. In this awesome pattern of things you get a B+ for effort. Exactly where you misplaced me was first on all the details. You know, it is said, details make or break the argument.. And that couldn’t be more accurate at this point. Having said that, allow me tell you what exactly did deliver the results. The writing is definitely highly persuasive and this is most likely why I am taking an effort in order to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, whilst I can see the jumps in reasoning you make, I am not really convinced of just how you seem to unite your ideas that produce the conclusion. For the moment I will, no doubt yield to your point but wish in the future you link your facts much better.

  18. Abbey Mikha says:

    Thank you Alan for your thoughtful comment. :) I know what you mean. I have a habit of doing that. I hope as I continue to write I will get better. Thanks again..

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  22. Miranda Childe says:

    I discovered your blog while researching Peter Sellers and mental illness. I am bipolar myself and am always interested in stories about talented people, especially in the arts, who have struggled like me with mental disorders.

    I was very impressed with your analysis of Peter Sellers and was pleased to see that you had another entry about Patch Adams. While I feel that the Patch Adams piece was not as strong as the Sellars piece, I still enjoyed it and agreed with many of your ideas.

    I have recently been reading about the comedians Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams, as well as Antony Newley, one of my favorite singers. Another of my recent expeditions into understanding talent and mental disorders concerned
    Dick Cavett, a well known TV personality in the US. I mention these people on the chance that you might be interested in finding other famous people to analyze in the future.

    I will continue to follow your blog and may write you again. Thank you for the time you take informin the public about such an important topic.

  23. Abbey Mikha says:

    Thank you Miranda. I’m glad you liked the analysis of Peter Sellers. I think its stronger than the Patch Adams one as well, but the essay about Patch was really from the heart too. I received a 93% in a two hundred level Psychology class in university for the Peter Sellers essay. I enjoyed doing the work for both of the pieces. I wish you all the best in your life. I know how difficult it can be to have bipolar, but life can always be beautiful for anyone who tries every day.. My major was Psychology in university but I haven’t done many of these analysis. I also suffer from a similar disorder that’s why I can always sympathize with anyone with mental illness…

  24. How to start a blog. Kindly suggest books on the subject?

  25. Leo Pollo says:

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  26. Abbey Mikha says:

    Thank you…

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  28. Abbey Mikha says:

    I don’t email anyone anymore….

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  30. Abbey Mikha says:

    Thanks… I’m taking a break to get back to optimal health… :) Best wishes!

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