Shameless is a television show about a father and his six kids growing up in the Southside of Chicago. Throughout the show we see the characters living in poverty. Struggling to make ends work; the family must do illegal acts. We see theft, robberies, assault, murder, etc. Frank, the father, suffers from alcoholism. While Ian, is portrayed with bi-polar disorder. Finally, Sheila is shown with agoraphobia.
Frank Gallagher goes through alcoholism and drug addiction. He leaves and misuses his family, loses thousands of dollars, and even almost passes because of a liver failure due to drugs and alcohol. During the show we see the Gallagher children constantly get hurt by Frank endless times. Frank does not care about anyone but himself. In an episode, it shows Frank calling Child Protective Services on his family because his eldest daughter, Fiona, kicked him out for being destructive. These six kids ended up separated in foster homes, and Frank was so intoxicated, he forgot about calling Child Protective Services. Alcohol abuse is a real issue in today’s society. Alcohol abuse can interfere with your daily life, such as school and work. A person will develop a dependence for alcohol, they will feel like they are unable to function without alcohol. For example, Frank was in college and sober, but he got involved with the wrong influences, He soon dropped out and started abusing drugs and alcohol. Alcoholism doesn’t just affect the drinker, but also their loved ones. “Spouses and children of heavy drinkers are more likely to face family violence” (American Psychological Association 2016). Seen on the show, while Frank is intoxicated, he tends to abuse his older sons, especially Ian Gallagher who looks like his ex-wife. Shameless portrays Frank and his issues with alcohol in a brutally honest and unfiltered way. Shameless depicts the real struggles of millions of addicts and their families deal with.
Ian Gallagher is portrayed with bi-polar disorder, or manic depression. Ian didn’t develop the symptoms of bi-polar disorder until his late teens. During an episode we see that Ian has been in bed trying to sleep for multiple days. His sister, Fiona, tries to get him out of bed but he doesn’t budge. Fiona immediately knew what was going on. Their mother suffers from bi-polar disorder. Having high highs and low lows. His siblings were there with him, trying to help him, but he didn’t want any help. He didn’t believe that anything was making him act this way. After a while, Ian was able to get out of bed and his siblings got him to go to a therapist. This involves medications and rest. His mother comes back into his life after time and tries to get him off his medications. Ian soon suffers from more symptoms, such as hallucinating that people are out to get him. Ian fortunately went back on his meds and continues to live a somewhat steady life. Bi-polar disorder causes extreme mood swings that include mania and depression. During emotional highs someone may seem to have a high amount of energy and make impulsive decisions that can be dangerous. In a scene, Ian kidnaps his boyfriend’s baby and starts driving to Mexico with it. People with bi-polar disorder have no control over when they’re going to have an emotional low or an emotional high. It is possible that they can have triggers that induces the behaviors. Ian wouldn’t be where he is without the support of his family and loved ones. Shameless shows that bi-polar disorder is hereditary and those who have bi-polar disorder shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
Shelia Jackson is a mother who has agoraphobia. She also deals with anxiety and OCD. She refused to let visitors in her home if they have shoes on, they must put their shoes in a plastic bag. All her furniture in her house has plastic covers over them. In the show, we can see her constantly cleaning, even if it is not contaminated. She never sets a foot outside her home, as she is afraid. In a scene, Sheila accidentally steps foot outside, and anxiety builds up inside of her. Sheila runs back into her home with tears running down her face. According to Hockenbury, Nolan and Hockenbury (2016), “Agoraphobia involves fear of suffering a panic attack or other embarrassing or incapacitating symptoms in a place from which escape would be difficult or impossible.” Most people with agoraphobia struggle with being in a public space. And if they are in a public space, they suffer from panic attacks. People with agoraphobia tend to need a companion to make them feel safe. In the show, agoraphobia doesn’t just affect Sheila, but also her daughter. Her daughter feels like her mother doesn’t care about her. Her daughter soon acts out and leaves home. Throughout the show, Sheila starts to seek treatment. She went through therapy, medicine, and a lot of effort. She started as someone who alienated everyone to someone who is able to start a conversation with anyone. Once she knew that she can live outside of her house, she decides to buy an RV and travels the states. Shameless shows that someone can get better through the right treatment if they have agoraphobia.
All of these characters portray their mental disorders accurately. They also show some treatment options and the result of them. Shameless is able to depict these mental disorders realistically and without sugar coating it.
American Psychological Association. A Brief Overview of Alcoholism. (2016, July 17). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/a-brief-overview-of-alcoholism/
Hockenbury, S. E., Nolan, S. A., & Hockenbury, D. H. (2016). Discovering Psychology (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.