6 Beloved Characters That Had Undiagnosed Mental Illnesses

It's unlikely that the writers who created these characters consciously decided they would give them an undiagnosed mental disorder as one of their traits. Maybe they were just borrowing behaviors of a "quirky" friend, or maybe the writers suffered from the disorder and wrote the characters to mimic their own life.

But one way or another, these characters show all the symptoms ...

#6. Sherlock Holmes -- Asperger's Syndrome

It's tough to pin down the exact personality traits of Sherlock Holmes, since his story has been recycled in so many incarnations. He's the most-portrayed fictional character in the world, running the gamut from Basil Rathbone playing a jolly English gentleman who fights Nazis to Robert Downey Jr.'s Victorian Rain Man/MMA fighter. But there are some key characteristics in the original Arthur Conan Doyle version that tend to crop up again and again, and they all indicate a severe case of Asperger's.

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"Solving crimes is all well and good, Watson, but I have a Yu-Gi-Oh! forum to moderate!"

The Red Flags

Before you skip down to the comments to submit your passionate defense of Holmes' mental state, we're not the only ones who think he shows up on the autism spectrum. Holmes' hyper-keen observational skills, social mannerisms and overall personality have fueled Asperger's rumors everywhere from Holmes fan forums to Asperger's support forums.

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"Holmes, stop looking through my stuff for clues. This is the reason no one else will lodge with you."

The first thing to keep in mind is that the character isn't just portrayed as being really smart -- he is obsessed with certain subjects and totally excludes all others. In one of the Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet, he doesn't know that the Earth revolves around the sun (because, he says, the information doesn't have any effect on his everyday life). These uneven obsessions with random topics -- in Holmes' case, things like tobacco ashes and regional soil consistency -- are not signs of an enthusiast; they are symptoms of a disorder. Or, as the Yale Child Study Center puts it, Asperger's sufferers show "...a narrow range of capacities for memorizing lists or trivial information, calendar calculation, visual-spatial skills such as drawing, or musical skills involving a perfect pitch or playing a piece of music after hearing it only once."


"Care for a 70th rendition of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep,' my dear Watson?"

And most telling is that Holmes' talents are coupled with an inability to interact socially with anyone but Watson. He embarks on long-winded monologues about very specific topics, oblivious to the listener's lack of interest. If you know someone with Asperger's, you're well familiar with this habit.

It's true that the disorder wouldn't be recognized until 70 years after Doyle invented the character. But obviously the disorder existed long before there was a name for it, and Doyle didn't have to know what the disorder was called in order to have known somebody with those quirks, and written them into his fictional detective. Perhaps 70 years from now, experts will have a name for the ability to slow down time and punch people in slow motion.


"Flashperger's"?

#5. Ariel from The Little Mermaid -- Disposophobia (Hoarding)

The Little Mermaid is the heartwarming tale of a mermaid who cuts a deal with a cephalopod witch doctor to transform her into a mute nudist so she can seduce a man from another species. And you know what, we're going to give the main character, Ariel, a pass on all that. She's just a teenager, after all, and her quirky desire to be human drives the entire plot of the movie.


"Well, this is totally better than anorexia!"

But Ariel has another glaring, deep-seated issue that should be addressed. Whether it's because she keeps it so well hidden from the other merpeople or because some problems are just too big for a crab and a fish to tackle, no one in the film ever addresses the fact that Ariel is a pathological hoarder.


The whole situation is pretty forked.

The Red Flags

The opening scene in the film depicts Ariel raiding a sunken boat for useless bullshit. She collects everything she can find, despite having no idea what any of it does.


"I don't know what this is, but my teenage rebellion sense is tingling!"

OK, she's just a kid. Kids obsess over weird things: that's not unusual. So it's not until we see her full empire of secret garbage that we know she has a serious problem. She's clearly not throwing anything away:

This teenager has already collected a landfill worth of human trash in her few short years and socked it all away where no one else can get at it. And what do you know, according to the researchers behind the book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, the difference between just collecting and hoarding is that, "When people collect things, they typically want to display them to other people .... Hoarders want to keep things hidden because of the shame they have."


"This box is where I keep my toenail clippings and hairballs."

It's a compulsion. Ariel has 20 corkscrews and she doesn't even know what they do. She creates an emotional attachment to every object she finds, and this is another common problem among hoarders: they find sentimentality in random, worthless items.


"That's the only reason you're not a side dish right now."

And Ariel's compulsion does interfere with her normal life -- she lets down her father by hunting for trash instead of going to a concert she promised to attend. And, sure enough, one of the main side effects of disposophobia is obsessing over the collection at the expense of daily obligations.

Ariel, there is a certain reality show we want to put you in touch with ....

#4. Belle from Beauty and the Beast -- Schizoid Personality Disorder

We're going to avoid the obvious fact that Belle's relationship with the Beast who is imprisoning her shows all the signs of Stockholm syndrome (and in fact we've already detailed that here). We're guessing not even Disney would dispute that one.


"So now that we've established a relationship based on mutual trust, can I go now? No? OK, cool."

But Belle didn't need to be kidnapped to develop a mental disorder; she comes firing out of the gates with one already fully developed: schizoid personality disorder.

The Red Flags

Don't confuse this with schizophrenia -- we're not claiming the talking monster and sentient candlesticks are figments of her imagination. Schizoid personality disorder "... is characterized by a long-standing pattern of detachment from social relationships," and a sufferer "... often has difficulty ... [expressing] emotions and does so typically in very restricted range, especially when communicating with others."


It's hard to be normal when the town constantly follows you down the road, singing.

So, in Disney's reimagining of the fairy tale, Belle is a beautiful, independent and headstrong bookworm who is unfairly ostracized by the other inhabitants of her little French village simply for being "odd." She ends up befriending and falling in love with a beast before she knows he's secretly a human prince under a spell. This is supposed to show that her heart is so pure that she's able to look past appearances and love someone for who he is on the inside. In reality, Belle would have probably preferred he stay a beast and all his servants stay candlesticks and clocks, though she'd never admit it.


Wait, are these thing humans as well? Is she going to eat them?

Schizoid personality disorder's trademark symptom is self-imposed social isolation. Above all, someone suffering from the disorder will avoid human relationships, especially any that might result in sexual encounters. Belle is pursued throughout the film by Gaston, who wants to marry her, and while her staunch refusal to entertain any of his advances only because he is handsome seems admirable, she is more likely exemplifying the quintessential behavior of someone who has no interest in sex at all. In fact, someone with the disorder is more likely to find stronger intimacy with animals than people, so it's little surprise that Belle develops a relationship with a beast instead of a man.


"In a few hundred years there's going to be an entire subculture based around this."

In addition, her friendships with anthropomorphized teacups and footstools are stronger than any she's ever had with a human (outside of her father). The seclusion of the castle along with the nonhuman inhabitants and a relationship with a beast who isn't a sexual threat is like a dream for anyone with schizoid personality disorder. So it seems ironic that she was responsible for breaking the spell, turning them all back into humans. It certainly changes the tone of the happy ending.


"I think I'm going to be sick."

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