Diagnosing Holden By Gabi G.


The book Catcher in the Rye is about a young boy named Holden Caulfield,16, who ventures throughout New York trying to figure out where he belongs in life. This story was written by J.D. Salinger published in July 1951. Holden feels as if no body around him is real and has a good personality, calling his peers phonies. He is kicked out of yet another school and feels he is starting to hit rock bottom in life. He wanders around New York seeing a lot of unusual things and catches up with a lot of people who used to mean to a lot to him in life. When Holden was 11 years old he lost his brother Allie to Leukemia. Holden shows signs of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress disorder throughout the book. PTSD is a disease that occurs after a traumatic experience or a shocking event occurs. In Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye, Holden shows signs of coping issues and negative thoughts which are signs that he may be suffering from PTSD.

Negative Thoughts on the world

According to the National Institute of Mental Health "negative thoughts of oneself or the world" is a mood symptom of PTSD. Holden shows his opinion of people throughout the story, calling most if not all people a phony. Holden shows us he has negative thoughts of people and the world when he says "One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies" (Salinger 13). Holden has negative thoughts on his school peers and also random people he meets on the streets and tends to call them "phonies". A phony is a person who seems fake or two faced. Holden doesn't believe that many people are trust worthy and don't hold the qualities to be considered to have real personality qualities. It is natrual to have this view on some people, but Holden puts everyone down. This could be because he saw his brother as such a good person and never saw him with flaws so he is learning to cope with him gone.

AVOIDING thoughts and feelings about traumatic EXPERIENCES

According to the NIMH, avoiding thoughts and feelings about traumatic experiences is a sign of PTSD. Holden tends to not do things his brother and him did like walking on the side of the street and he always tries to forget things done or said with his brother. PTSD is often recognized when one notices that another often doesn't attend to "Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms" (NIMH). When Holden goes home to visit Phoebe he brings up that he likes his brother when Phoebe reminds him in a brutal way that he is dead. Holden held all of his trust in his brother and now that he is gone he is afraid to get close or let anyone in without them dying or leaving him.


PTSD can be the reason for Holden's unusual behavior. In Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye, Holden shows signs of coping issues and negative thoughts which are signs that he may be suffering from PTSD. Through the book we see Holden show signs of coping issues, such as not trusting others, and negative thoughts on oneself or others like calling them phonies. Holden needs help and his PTSD can and most likely will lead to a deeper depression if he does not seek the help he needs. It is normal for everyday teenagers to go through life with some negative thoughts. Due to deep thought and studies, it is obvious that he is mentally ill and needs help coping with his brothers loss.


Salinger, J. D. Catcher in the Rye. This Little, Brown and Company, July 1951,

NIMH. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. National Institute of Mental Health, Feb. 2016, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml, Accessed January 29 2017


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