Created By: DannyVElAcme on February 23, 2011 Last Edited By: DannyVElAcme on February 14, 2013

Admits He Has a Problem

After avoiding the truth, a character finally realizes he has a problem.

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Trope

Up for Grabs, Needs a Better Title

Alternate title: I Need Help

There's something wrong with Bob. This is not speculation or hearsay, it is objective truth. However, it's not objective truth to him, he doesn't see a problem at all with what he is or what he's doing.

However, something happens that shatters Bob's illusion, and he takes a long, hard stare in the mirror and goes "Holy shit, maybe something IS wrong with me!"

This is a trope about someone with a character flaw, deviant behavior or vice who refuses to believe he has a problem, but certain circumstances force him to come to terms that he's been fooling himself all along, and now needs to look for someone to help him out of it. However, it should be noted that this is basically two tropes in one: a serious version and a comedic version.

In the serious version of this trope, it is a very important moment in a character's development, since it's the one moment he finally starts tackling his issues head on. It can also be cathartic to the audience: the fact he just recognized he needs to change is easily the moment in which a(so far) flawed and unapproachable character finally starts earning the audience's sympathy. It's also human nature to root for someone to overcome adversity, so this realization is never treated negatively or trivially. It is often the result of one of the character's friends or loved ones(or even a villain!) asking him an Armor-Piercing Question, or the character does something that he would have never done otherwise, making him say "My God, What Have I Done??"

Keep in mind this is not about a character being physically sick or with some kind of change happening in his body, this is about behavior or addiction that the character refuses to admit he has, but something finally snaps him out of denial.

Examples: serious:
  • In one issue of the comic based on Batman: The Animated Series, The Riddler, subconsciously, leaves riddles that lead Batman to catching him. Upon realizing that even though he REALLY tried to not leave any evidence behind he did anyway, he resignedly pleads to Batman to take him to Arkham, since apparently he really is insane.
  • In House, M.D., House finally realized that he had an addiction and needed rehab when he hallucinated that Cuddy came to his House, stopped him from taking the last Vicodin he'd hidden away in his house and they got together as a result that night. In reality, none of that happened and he took the Vicodin.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A more dramatic version appears in the season six episode Wrecked when Willow, high on Black Magic, almost gets Dawn killed. After the Monster of the Week dies Willow falls apart, finally admitting that she has been using way too much magic for anyone's good. The next few episodes have Willow quitting magic as a major plot point and set the stage for her change to Dark Willow for maximum dramatic effect.
  • In Madagascar, Alex says this after realizing that he wants to eat his best friend. While the movie is comedic, the moment itself is most definitely not.
  • In all versions of the Black Suit Saga, Spider-Man does something that makes him realize he's addicted to the symbiote and it's taking too much control of him.
  • This happened to Harry Dresden when Michael asked, " Where is your blasting rod?" in Small Favor.
  • GLaDOS says this in Portal2 when she realizes she's developing a conscience of her own, rather than being forced to behave differently via a personality core.
  • In A Beautiful Mind, Nash finally admits he's shizophrenic when he realizes one of his hallucinations doesn't age.

Examples: funny:
  • In the first nostalgic TV commercial special, The Nostalgia Critic notes in horror that he just dedicated a whole show to lampooning TV commercials, which makes him remark that there must be something wrong with him.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    Willow: Personal question?
    Xander: Yeah, shoot.
    Willow: When Buffy was a vampire, you weren't still, like, attracted to her, were you?
    Xander: Willow, how can you--I mean, that's really bent! She was...grotesque!
    Xander: I'm sick. I need help.
    Willow: Don't I know it.
  • In one Big Bang Theory episode, Penny becomes addicted to the MMO Age of Conan. Sheldon starts trying to get her off of the game (because her pestering him for advice is annoying him, not because her obsession is ruining her life). After an episode of failed attempts to do so, it seems nothing can break Penny's addiction. At the end, Howard Wolowitz appears in-game and asks Penny on a virtual date, and Penny accepts. A moment later, Penny realizes what she just did, hides her laptop under a couch cushion and declares "I need help."
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • February 23, 2011
    AFP
    I don't think serious/funny is necessarily two different tropes so much as the fact that a single trope can be Played For Drama or Played For Laughs.

    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer:
      Willow: Personal question?
      Xander: Yeah, shoot.
      Willow: When Buffy was a vampire, you weren't still, like, attracted to her, were you?
      Xander: Willow, how can you--I mean, that's really bent! She was...grotesque!
      Xander: I'm sick. I need help.
      Willow: Don't I know it.
  • February 26, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    • In House MD, House finally realized that he had an addiction and needed rehab when he hallucinated that Cuddy came to his House, stopped him from taking the last Vicodin he'd hidden away in his house and and they got together as a result that night. In reality, none of that happened and he took the Vicodin.
  • February 26, 2011
    PaleHorse87
    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: A more dramatic version appears in the season six episode Wrecked when Willow, high on Black Magic, almost gets Dawn killed. After the Monster Of The Week dies Willow falls apart, finally admitting that she has been using way too much magic for anyone's good. The next few episodes have Willow quitting magic as a major plot point and set the stage for her change to Dark Willow for maximum dramatic effect.
  • February 26, 2011
    TonyG
    In Madagascar, Alex says this after realizing that he wants to eat his best friend.
  • February 26, 2011
    Earnest
    May overlap with experiencing Virus Victim Symptoms.
  • February 26, 2011
    jate88
  • March 15, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    The Batman example is not from an episode of the animated series, but from an issue of the comic book tie-in series based on the animated series.

    The idea was also used rather differently in an early 1960s Riddler story in the comics, but this was a long time before Arkham was introduced, though, interestingly, a line of dialogue did call the Riddler's problem a "psychotic compulsion." In the 60s comic story, the Riddler ended up acting out the clues in some kind of fugue state without remembering it after tried hypnotizing himself to avoid doing so consciously. He ended up in prison, naturally.
  • May 4, 2011
    TooBah
    Sometimes the result of an Armor Piercing Question. This happened to Harry Dresden when Michael asked, " Where is your blasting rod?" in Small Favor.
  • May 4, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    @TooBah: EXCELLENT observation, I will add that right now :)
  • May 16, 2011
    TBeholder
    The whole point of Gaslighting.
  • May 16, 2011
    Fearmonger
    G La DOS says this in Portal2 when she realizes she's developing a conscience of her own, rather than being forced to behave differently via a personality core.
  • May 17, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^What? The point of Gas Lighting is to drive someone crazy, not to make them realize they have an addiction...

    Maybe needs a better title? This one just isn't doing it for me and it's not that indicative, even though it's something of a stock phrase for the situation.

    Rock Bottom Realization?
  • May 17, 2011
    Koncur
    Comical example:
    • In one Big Bang Theory episode, Penny becomes addicted to the MMO Age Of Conan. Sheldon starts trying to get her off of the game (because her pestering him for advice is annoying him, not because her obsession is ruining her life). After an episode of failed attempts to do so, it seems nothing can break Penny's addiction. At the end, Howard Wolowitz appears in-game and asks Penny on a virtual date, and Penny accepts. A moment later, Penny realizes what she just did, hides her laptop under a couch cushion and declares "I need help."
  • August 25, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    Final bump *phew!*
  • August 25, 2011
    octopedingenue
  • August 26, 2011
    emeriin
    With The Nostalgia Critic, that should probably be in drama. It was a Despair Event Horizon and he was going to give up completely before he got his confidence with a song.
  • February 18, 2012
    Catbert
    This has strong potential but needs work. Anyone want it?
  • February 18, 2012
    TomWalpertac2
    • Babylon5 does this to Dr. Franklin and his problem with 'Stims'. ( Serious example )
  • February 18, 2012
    Bibliophile
    serious: In Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce, Keth realises he needs help learning to control his lightning/glass magic after accidentally creating Chime. This leads to Tris becomming his teacher and his becomming a main character in the plot.
  • February 18, 2012
    reub2000
    • Intervention: Many of the shows subjects won't admit they have a problem till they've been at rehab for a while.
  • February 19, 2012
    Alvin
    I think there was an episode of Cheers like this in regard to Sam being like a sex addict.
  • February 19, 2012
    billybobfred
    House also subverted this, when the title character was pressed into admitting he had an addiction, but insisted that it was not a problem.
  • February 19, 2012
    Terrane
    Funny example:
    • In The Simpsons episode "I Am Furious (Yellow)", Homer realizes he has an anger problem after the family points out he's punching the cat at the same time he's denying he has an anger problem.
  • February 19, 2012
    Amaryllis
    Referenced in "How to Save a Life" by The Fray:
    He will do one of two things
    He will admit to everything
    Or he'll say he's just not the same
    and you'll begin to wonder why you came.
  • May 1, 2012
    DannyVElAcme
    Bump.
  • May 1, 2012
    reub2000
    I'd say just launch it. It seems ready.
  • May 1, 2012
    DannyVElAcme
    @reub2000: I'd like to get a few more hats and examples before launching, but it's encouraging you think it's trope worthy :)
  • February 11, 2013
    DannyVElAcme
    Bumping. Sorry for not paying much attention to my own YKTT Ws, I'm nearing army deployment, so things have been kinda hectic lately :/
  • February 11, 2013
    Generality
    In A Beautiful Mind, Nash finally admits he's shizophrenic when he realises one of his hallucinations doesn't age.
  • February 11, 2013
    Chabal2
    Preacher: after hearing some of the best American talk radio has to offer, Jesse goes on a rant about how these people should just stop getting so damn self-righteous and preachy about gay rights or feminists, concluding with "I need to get laid".
  • February 12, 2013
    Frank75
    Strange, I could swear we have this... on some trope page there's a Simpsons example, with that pretentious guy Artie (or Archie?); Marge points out he's full of himself, and then he sees she's right.
  • February 12, 2013
    Antigone3
    Several contestants on Canada's Worst Driver start out insisting they're safe and skilled drivers, and then look at the mess they made of one of the challenge courses and decide maybe they need to learn.
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