Davis said Nash is an unusual case because he ultimately learned to ignore his hallucinations.
"Although he continued to believe his delusions he would not let them consume him," Davis said.
Voices More Common Than Visions
In the movie, Nash sees nonexistent "people" and carries on conversations with them. It makes for glitzy filmmaking, but it's certainly not what your average schizophrenic experiences, experts say.
"The movie's portrayal of Dr. Nash seeing and conversing with life-like 'people' is not what most individuals who suffer from schizophrenia experience," Lamberti said.
Instead, most schizophrenics are besieged by one or more voices that seem to come out of thin air. Those who do have visual hallucinations tend to see things that are distorted, almost "cartoonish," not lifelike as they were in the film, Johnson said. The movie was on target when it came to delusions, which are typical for schizophrenics, experts say.
Nash believed he was doing top-secret government work that could save the United States and that he was being followed by Russians. Doctors would call the former a grandiose delusion and the latter a paranoid delusion, Lamberti said. Both types are common.
Medicine Can’t Cure All
While in a mental institution, Nash is treated with insulin coma therapy, in which patients are given insulin to induce a comatose state that lasts about 15 to 60 minutes. The results, as shown in the movie, are horrific.
The treatment has been discredited and is no longer used.
"The difficulty in the treatment, and side effects, as well as its inability to sustain remission, led to its disuse," Davis said.
Insulin therapy ended, in part, because of the introduction of anti-psychotic drugs.
In the movie, Nash has hallucinations and delusions even when taking his medications. When he doesn't take them, he loses control.
But the medications aren't able to address some of his negative symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and lack of motivation.
"The movie's message that medications are an important part of treatment, although they aren't a cure-all, is an accurate message," Lamberti said.
Doctors say it is also significant that Nash seems to benefit from the loving support of his wife, played by Jennifer Connelly, and by being in the familiar environs of Princeton University while he is recovering.
"An environment that is structured, predictable and supportive is helpful for most individuals with schizophrenia," Lamberti said. "The movie also showed how important family support is to those who suffer from schizophrenia. The importance of family support has been increasingly recognized in the field of psychiatry over the past 20 years, and new forms of family education and treatment have been developed."