Diagnosis of Holden Caulfield Joey Stout


Mental disorders is a sensitive subject, it’s widely misunderstood today and even more so in the past. At one time, no one really dared to talk about mental disorders. People who suffer from mental disorders were ostracized and were not treated. Mental diagnoses like PTSD are relatively new. As a matter of fact, PTSD used to be call “shell Shock” by veterans until the 1980s. In 1980 The American psychiatric association made PTSD an official medical diagnosis. The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks and avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma. In the book, Catcher in the rye by JD Salinger, the main character Holden Caulfield show signs of having PTSD. The guilt from the loss of this brother made Holden extremely sad and guilty. He felt that Allie didn't deserve to die and wished he should be the one who dies. The death of Allie lead to Holden’s suffering from PTSD. After the death of Allie, he began to avoid this parent, intentionally fail out of schools, and start to have trouble with everyone he knows. And on multiple occasions, Holden has referenced his own death throughout the book. All of these things are symptoms of Holden suffering from PTSD.


According to National institute of mental health PTSD is a mental disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Some of symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, feelings of estrangement or detachment, or depressed mood. Holden displays his PTSD by showing his sadness and guilt from the loss of his brother. The death of his brother left a mark on Holden and he has flashbacks about his brother. “I wrote about my brother Allie's baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder's mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he'd have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat. He's dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946.” (Salinger 38 Holden often think about his brother, he only talked about the positive characteristic of Allie. Holden only describes Allie as nice and smart, When Holden talked about others, he described them as bunch of phonies. The sweet memories about Allie inside of Holden’s mind give Holden flashbacks of his brother. The Flashbacks made Holden feeling depressed.


Another sign of PTSD Holden exhibit is he feel a sense estrangement or detachment to others. “One thing about packing depressed me a little. I had to pack these brand-new ice skates my mother had practically just sent me a couple of days before. That depressed me. I could see my mother going in Spaulding's and asking the salesman a million dopy questions--and here I was getting the ax again. It made me feel pretty sad. She bought me the wrong kind of skates--I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey--but it made me sad anyway. Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.” (Salinger 52) Holden reflect on his actions and feels guilty about leaving and trying to drop out of school again. He thinks about his parents being disappointed by him again, which really bothers him. Thinking about the gift his mom bought for him and he won't even try to pass his classes in school. He says he can't receive gifts is a sign of detachment, he is unable to feel love from others.

From my research of PTSD Holden seems to suffer from PTSD. His guilt have changed him to a careless person who was pondering suicide, but thankfully he received help from a mental hospital. The loss of a younger brother could of easily discourage Holden from being motivated in school,at life, and at socializing. A normal person could of got over the traumatic events, but Holden’s guilt seems to never go away and he often reminiscence about Allie, which tells me he has PTSD. The issues Holden had in life lead him to a mental hospital, but when he has got the proper medical care hopefully he will get out as a healthier person.


National Institute of Mental Health. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2016, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml.

Salinger, J. D., et al. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1951.

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