Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And you thought you had problems....

by Chasya

I do love dissecting a good book, and even more so, it’s characters. Which is why this piece by the Wall Street Journal had me at hello. Turns out I’m not the only person who diagnoses fictional characters using the DSM-IV, the bible of psychiatric diagnosis (I also tend to do this to historical figures, just FYI). Turns out, this is a very good teaching tool for psychiatric residents, too. Various universities are now picking apart the neuroses and ticks of your favorite fictional characters. Turns out Twilight’s broody vamp Edward may have a serious case of arrested development, and your favorite Winnie the Pooh characters suffer from everything from generalized anxiety disorder to dysthymia.

I mean, what was up with that Don Quixote? Hearing voices? Believing he’s a knight? Fighting windmills he thinks are actually giants? Clearly delusional disorder, right? As a reader, I find this added layer in character dissection just an interesting topic for discussion. What about you? Any literary characters you would diagnose?


  1. As a psychologist, I conduct psychological evaluations of clients where it's my job to diagnose using the DSM-IV. An unfortunate side effect of my career is that not only do I automatically diagnose literary characters, but pretty much every single person I have contact with--luckily, my hubby is a psychologist as well!

  2. Let's see...well, Harry Potter is certainly suffering from a severe narcissistic disorder. "The Chosen One" fixation and all that.

  3. I analyze characters all the time- only in my case it's typing them with Keirsey Temperament Theory which has been a passion of mine for more than a decade now. It's facinating to see how each of the types are really represented in every novel including the classics (for example Jane Eyre was an Idealist Counselor, Rochester a Fieldmarshal Rational...I'd lay bets St. John Rivers was a Guardian Supervisor...) but it becomes an obsession beyond literary characters.

    You just haven't lived until you've spent an hour on a road trip typing Muppets by category: Idealists (Kermit and Gonzo) Artisans (Animal and Piggy), Guardians (Sam the Eagle and Scooter ) and Rationals (Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker)...

  4. That was a brilliant article, thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. Prince Myshkin, from The Idiot, who suffered from incurable naivete and delusion. There is nothing as depressing as reading about a thoroughly good human being who takes altruism and honor in others for granted.


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