Mental Disorders in the “Finding Nemo” Film

In Search of Nemo is a 2003 American computer-animated adventure film. According to the plot, a curious Nemo fish went to look for mysterious coral reefs one day. However, soon he was caught and placed in the aquarium of a Sydney dentist. Determined to find his missing son, his father Marlin embarks on a journey full of dangers and risks together with a kind but very forgetful fish named Dori. Having overcome all obstacles, Marlin eventually reaches his goal and becomes a hero in the eyes of all the ocean inhabitants, including his son. For my analysis, I chose Nemo’s father, Marlin. I believe that he possesses the features of post-traumatic stress disorder that are most suitable for the criteria of a mental disorder according to the DSM-V. Post-traumatic stress disorder includes intense, unpleasant, and dysfunctional reactions that begin after an overwhelmingly traumatic event.

The movie “Finding Nemo” is a fascinating example to consider for the subject of mental disorders of the characters. Almost every one of them has a certain deviation. For example, Dori fish has a long-term profound memory loss, Nemo himself has a sense of guilt for the last words spoken to his father. However, the most striking example is still Marlin, Nemo’s father. He got married and had many young children who needed loving care. Then, he suffered severe psychological trauma when he lost his wife to a shark attack and all his children, except Nemo. In this regard, Marlin develops severe PTSD, as evidenced by how he nurses Nemo and does not want him to grow up. He believes that the presence of a small fin is proof of the need for excessive guardianship of Nemo. His son cannot swim with his small fin, which serves as a visual reminder to Marlin of everything he lost when the shark ate his wife and other children.

Marlin is also afraid of the open ocean and does everything possible to instill this in Nemo, saying it is unsafe to swim there. Nemo then gets stubborn when his father makes him feel stupid in front of his school friends. Marlin told me that Nemo could not swim because of a small fin. Because of this, Nemo challenges and goes on a boat and gets caught in the net by a deep-sea diver. Marlin then completes a mission to find Nemo and bring him back safely. He faces all sorts of traumatic problems that only exacerbate PTSD. First, Dory, the fish that remembers nothing. Then the sharks wanted to have a snack with the main characters. Marlin was very depressed by all the events but reuniting with his living son gave him confidence. Of all the above symptoms, supported by examples from the film – hyper-care, depression, melancholy, it can be argued that Marlin has PTSD.

In addition, Marlin’s condition fits the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder presented in the DSM-V. Among them are the presence of trauma – Marlin has the death of his wife and children, the symptoms of intrusion – unwanted upsetting memories, and negative alterations in cognitions and mood (Morland et al., 2020). Based on the comparison of Marlin’s symptoms and the DSM-V criterion, it is fashionable to say that Hollywood has well conveyed the character’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Indeed, Marlin was not the cartoon’s main character, and the screenwriters did not have a large amount of screen time to pay much attention to his moral state. However, they coped well with the task and accurately showed the primary and key symptoms of PTSD. The diagnosis of Nemo’s father is curable, thanks to modern methods of treating stress disorders.

The treatment methods of Marlin’s disorder are cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance and responsibility therapy, and drug treatment. The first method involves a gradual immersion in a traumatic situation under the control of a psychologist, resulting in emotional addiction and extinction of the pathological reaction to the traumatic trigger (Morland et al., 2020). The second therapy focuses on training mindfulness skills, stress tolerance, and effective interpersonal interaction. In the process of acceptance and responsibility therapy, a person learns not to avoid his emotions and feelings but to accept them, whatever they may be. Drug therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder includes the use of antidepressants (Watkins et al., 2018). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants such as mirtazapine and venlafaxine are most often recommended.

Summing up, as a person considering a client with a mental illness, the cartoon made me feel interested. It was interesting to observe what symptoms are displayed in this or that personage, especially in Marlin, Nemo’s father. However, I do not think the cartoon taught me how to handle such patients. The fact is that the primary purpose of the cartoon was not to consider the correct treatment of PTSD but to show a story about overcoming life difficulties. In fact, Marlin coped with his illness by accepting his son’s growing up and independence. Nevertheless, this cartoon is very instructive and demonstrative in terms of orientation in the symptoms of mental illness.


Morland, L. A., Wells, S. Y., Glassman, L. H., Greene, C. J., Hoffman, J. E., & Rosen, C. S. (2020). Advances in PTSD treatment delivery: Review of findings and clinical considerations for the use of telehealth interventions for PTSD. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, 7(1), 221–241. Web.

Watkins, L. E., Sprang, K. R., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2018). Treating PTSD: A review of evidence-based psychotherapy interventions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 12(258), 1-14.

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1. PsychologyWriting. "Mental Disorders in the "Finding Nemo" Film." September 22, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Mental Disorders in the "Finding Nemo" Film." September 22, 2023.