Mar 6, 2019 in Informative

Social Anxiety Disorder in The King’s Speech

A large number of films portray people who suffer from social anxiety disorder, however, 2010 British drama film, The King’s Speech, does it especially. The film tells a story of Prince Albert and his path of becoming King George VI. The Duke overcomes his stuttering with the help of a speech therapist who focuses mainly on psychological background of Albert’s problem. The King’s Speech truly shows the process of treatment of social phobia by the individual and the methods of its treatment. 

The second son of King George V, Prince Albert has problems with delivering speeches and has low self-esteem; however, everything changes when he meets Lionel Logue. He has given up hope of stopping stammering, however, his wife insists on the necessity of visiting a speech therapist Logue by the Duke. His first visit to the therapist goes with some complications as the Prince considers Logue’s methods to be too extraordinary and unsuitable for him. However, the pressure on the Duke increases as his father tells him that broadcasting, and therefore, the ability to speak clearly is highly important to a monarch and modern monarchy in general. Prince Albert decides to return to the therapist, however, insists on focusing of physical training. Logue continues to focus on psychological aspects of stuttering, however, more gently while teaching the Duke how to relax his muscles and control his breathing. 

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As the Duke’s brother, David, creates a constitutional crisis with his love affair, the pressure on Prince Albert increases. He understands that he could become the next king, however, does not believe in himself and dismisses Logue who tries to assure that he would become a great king. After King Edward VII leaves the throne, Albert becomes a new king and asks Logue to apologize him. The therapist continues to use his methods such as provocation in order to make the King get rid of his fear. During preparations to Albert’s coronation, Logue sits in the King’s chair not to show his disrespect, but to make his patient shout. Albert surprises himself by talking without stuttering. Finally, the therapist guides the King George VI during his highly important speech in September 1939; however, Albert speaks freely by the end of the broadcast that suggests that Logue has cured him. 

Albert’s stuttering is situational as he has difficulties within different social contexts. The Duke is afraid of talking not only to strangers, however, to some members of his family as well. The man relatively easily speaks to his wife and children, however, has difficulties while talking to the other members of royal family including his father and brother. Albert stutters more in the situations in which he feels uncomfortable, unsafe or feels the lack of self-confidence. The situational character of his stammering points on that it has psychological roots.

An emotional trauma Albert suffered from in his childhood has served as a psychological background for his fear of talking to other people, especially, to public speaking. He was punished for writing with his left hand and retaught to write with his right one, however, it was not the worst thing about his childhood. The Prince also mentions hurtful treatment with metal splints to make his legs straight; oppression from his nanny who pinched Bertie to make him cry and thus, not to see his parents; carelessness of his mother and father who did not notice that their second son was not fed adequately for three years. The death of Albert’s younger brother also was painful to him. Disregarded by his parents and brother, the Duke has lost faith in himself and his strengths and became unable to open to somebody else. Therefore, he tries to escape and avoid talking to other people, especially, the closest ones. Thus, Bertie’s social phobia began at a specific point in his life and developed over time as he struggled to recover. 

In fact, Albert shows the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, and his problem of stuttering is a side effect of it. Years earlier, psychologists primarily diagnosed this disorder if an individual experienced discomfort or dread when performing in front of the other people. With DSM-5, however, the psychologists diagnose social anxiety due to the responses of an individual in different social situations. As it was mentioned before, Albert’s reactions vary in different social contexts. In addition, he shows many other symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Albert tries to avoid eye contact in order to hide his fear. The man experiences fear over how he is presented to others and cannot hide it. As a result of the phobia, Albert is unable to follow logical advice, and this is the reason for the Duke’s numerous rejections of Logue’s treatment. The duke feels overly self-conscious, pays high attention to himself after any action, and has high standards of performance for himself, especially, under the pressure of responsibility required by his title. As many others who suffer from social anxiety disorder, Bertie tries to create a good impression upon other people, however, believes he is not capable to do so. After any event, he is sure that he has performed unsatisfactorily. Psychological effects of social anxiety disorder include tears, palpitations, sweating, vomiting, heavy breathing, and shivering, and Bertie suffers from them in critical situations.

The King’s Speech accurately portrays social anxiety disorder and its treatment. The film portrays verbal behaviors of stuttering such as repeating, prolongations as well as blocks and non-verbal ones such as twitching of eyes, jerking by a head and facial contortions among others. In every scene of the film, the audience feels not only the physical, however, emotional difficulty of living as a stutterer of the main character. The film points out the true nature of stuttering and social anxiety disorder that is viewed rather as a disability by both the sufferer and people around him or her. At the same time, The King’s Speech portrays stuttering with sympathy and shows that it can be cured if working on both psychological and physical aspects of the problem.

Thus, Prince Albert is a victim of social anxiety disorder as Bertie has suffered from psychological trauma in his childhood and shows such symptoms as problematic public speaking, situational stuttering, high expectations and standards of performance for himself among others according to DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The Duke can barely talk to his wife and children without stuttering. Consequently, public speaking was almost impossible for him before he met Logue. His title requires him to be perfect, attractive and clearly talking; however, Albert’s standards for himself are even more strict. Unable to meet his own hyperbolical expectations, the Prince is not satisfied with himself. Logue’s method of focusing on psychological aspect of Albert’s problem reduced the symptoms of the Duke’s social anxiety disorder, managed stuttering and helped him to learn how to communicate effectively. However, the therapist taught the Prince to respect, appreciate and express himself without the fear of being constantly judged by the others. By accurately showing social anxiety disorder, the film communicates the idea of that it should and can be cured. The King’s Speech did much not only for social anxiety disorder awareness; however, it planted a sympathetic view of stutterers in the public consciousness.


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