The Harry Potter DSM: Cluster B Personality Disorders

Edit:  I googled “Harry Potter personality disorders” today [June 6th] and realized Apollo, MD had already had the same idea – back in 2008.  So.. yes.  Unintentional, but still: I feel bad. Please check out his post as well. It’s great.
Antisocial PD

“I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to…  I knew I was different,” he whispered to his own quivering fingers. “I knew I was special. Always, I knew there was something.” 

Antisocial Criteria:  To the surprise of approximately no one –  it’s Voldemort.  I mean,  “Lack of remorse”, “reckless disregard for others”, “deceitfulness”…  hell, he goes above and beyond every criteria except “marked irresponsibility”.  (I don’t think you get to go from anonymous orphan to Dark Lord without having some serious time-management skills.)

And god knows Tom Riddle would’ve qualified for Conduct Disorder as a kid, so this seems pretty open and shut.  In fact, his narcissistic traits and shallow, charming mannerisms will make this an even better fit if the proposed revisions to this disorder go through.

Borderline PD

I’m Moaning Myrtle! I wouldn’t expect you to know me! Who would ever talk about ugly, miserable, moping, Moaning Myrtle? AHHHHHHHHHH!”  *dive-bombs into toilet*

Myrtle: “Peeves upset me so much I came in here and tried to kill myself. Then, of course, I remembered that I’m—that I’m—
Ronald Weasley: “Already dead?

Borderline Criteria:  Affective instability?  Inappropriate anger?  Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats? Check, check, and check.  In fact, she’s shown pretty much everything but self-damaging impulsivity.  (Granted, I don’t know how a ghost would show pathological levels of impulsivity – especially a ghost who haunts plumbing.  Perhaps angrily flooding your own bathroom is the ghostly version of casual sex and spending sprees.)

Another Borderline tendency is “splitting“: seeing people as either all-good or all-bad.  And Myrtle splits like nothing else – it’s hard to think of anyone she’s met that she doesn’t have strong feelings about.  She had nothing but disdain for Ron and Hermione from the moment she first saw them, but latched onto Harry… at least, until he disappointed her by not visiting often enough.

After that, he was just as likely to get splashed with toilet water as everyone else.

Histrionic PD

This is a weird situation where none of the book characters qualify (nobody really uses sexuality as a weapon in this series), but the movie version totally has a dead ringer.

“AVADA KEDAVRA!  … Oh, it was just a fox.”

Histrionic Criteria:  Oh yes.  “Rapidly shifting and shallow expressions of emotion”, “shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion”, inappropriately sexual, suggestible – no problems here.

But my favorite criteria for Bellatrix is “Considers personal relationships to be more intimate than they really are”.  I bet Voldemort would have something to say about that.

Narcissistic PD

“Let me introduce you to your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher… me. Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five times winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award.”

Narcissistic Criteria:  What I love about Lockhart is that he doesn’t just embody the pop-culture traits of narcissism (it’s not too hard to find characters who are full of themselves) – but he also shows the lack of empathy necessary to really make the diagnosis.  He casually destroys people’s memories, leaving them to live out the rest of their life without an identity, just so he can claim their victories for his own.

And in true narcissistic fashion, he never doubts for a minute that his actions were justified – even fair.  After all, he’s obviously more special and important than they were.

My second favorite thing about Lockhart is that JK Rowling has repeatedly said that he’s deliberately based on a real person she once knew – and that the world will probably never truly understand that she didn’t exaggerate in the slightest.

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15 thoughts on “The Harry Potter DSM: Cluster B Personality Disorders

  1. So, so true! This was rather amusing to read, having just come back from a 10-week placement in a forensic mental health hospital and meeting real people with these disorders.

  2. I figured that Voldemort would be antisocial PD, but the only problem is that aren’t they supposed to be charming and not obviously evil on the surface? And Voldemort is anything but. I don’t know….

    But still, totally awesome.

    • Yeah, I’m sort of considering Tom Riddle to be the same person as Voldemort (which, I suppose, is something like 1/7th of the truth?)

      Tom Riddle was always described as ridiculously charming, though. I like to think that Voldemort just stopped trying with the ‘charming’ bit when he gained enough power to not need people to do what he wanted anymore.

    • I’d think you’d have to be somewhat charming to gain followers in the beginning to become a Dark Lord.

  3. Excellent!

    A long, long time ago, in a universe far, far away I had a patient who puts Myrtle in the shade, though. And Gilderoy Lockhart? You totally nailed him. (I think he’s a member of my family. I didn’t know JK and I were related.)

  4. It all fits together so perfectly. You make me wonder if Rowling didn’t read through the DSM when she was creating her characters.

    • Isn’t it funny how that works? I think the characters that really stick with us are people who seem completely real in some way – like they’re getting at some essential truth just by existing.

      And personality disorders started being named and characterized because psychologists felt like, even in the ridiculously large window of human personalities, there were still patterns so recognizable that they became archetypes of people themselves.

      I definitely think there’s an uncanny relation in the skills of observations between writers and people who work in mental health.

  5. “I don’t think you get to go from anonymous orphan to Dark Lord without having some serious time-management skills.”

    I cracked up at this. I can totally see Tom Riddle being an obsessive-compulsive planner.

  6. Pingback: HAD TO SHARE- HARRY POTTER!!!!!!!! | Share The Information

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