Clinically a high-functioning sociopath? A case study on BBC’s Sherlock Holmes

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Character Overview:

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional private detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, and this character is played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC television series Sherlock (Gatiss & Moffat, 2011). As a consulting detective widely reputable for solving crimes, Sherlock is portrayed as smart, attentive to detail, intuitively clever, and consequentially often condescending and arrogant. That said, albeit a great reputation for intelligence and problem-solving, Sherlock tends to be emotionally cold, distant, insensitive, and tremendously unempathetic when it comes to interpersonal relationships or social interactions. In fact, throughout Sherlock, various characters comment that he is “a bloody psychopath”, an “insensitive prat” and “without a heart” (Gatiss & Moffat, 2011-2014). However, given the buzz about Sherlock’s notorious reputation of being “a high functioning sociopath”, does this character really meet diagnostic criteria for such a statement? This case study will closely analyze whether Sherlock clinically meets the criteria for an antisocial personality disorder as compared to an autism spectrum disorder, followed by a detailed analysis of Sherlock’s interpersonal tendencies through an attachment theory lens. Implications for relevance to modern mental health diagnosis and practice will be discussed.  Continue reading →

Behind the Earth’s mightiest hero: a clinical case study on Marvel’s Tony Stark

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Character Overview:

Widely recognized for being one of the most prominent superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man, is the creator of a collection of high-power, engineered suits that provides him with superpowers to protect society. Although Tony Stark is the leading member of the Avengers team, as well as the CEO of Stark Industries, this fictional character suffers from various mental health difficulties, chief struggles being post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe anxiety. As such, specifically evident in the film Iron Man 3, Tony’s presenting problem comprises of recurring panic attacks, insomnia, hypervigilance, and flashbacks, all which have persisted for a year since The Avengers (Feige & Black, 2013). The following material is an adaptation of a clinical assessment assignment in my graduate program. Given that these symptoms suggest debilitating mental distress, this case study will explore detailed biological, psychological, social and cultural factors to analyze this character’s presenting problem, and ensuing goal assessments and treatment suggestions will also be discussed. As this is a conceptualization, this case study will refer to Tony as a prospective client for therapeutic intervention, under the context of a hypothetical clinical assessment.  Continue reading →

Mental Health in Literature: 8 Reading Recommendations

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Literature allows both authors and their readers to explore mental health culture in a variety of different ways. This post highlights a few favorites from my reading list this summer, some which have had a profound impact on my passion for therapy. Additionally, most of these would be great books for anyone to read, not just for those specializing in mental health, so if you’re looking for something, I hope these recommendations help out! These selections are from a range of genres, varying from young adult fiction, educational nonfiction, textbook excerpts, autobiographies, to Broadway musical screenplays. (As a side note, I’m currently looking for more books to read, so if you have anything you think I’d like, please message me).  Continue reading →

The Wise Build Bridges: How Marvel’s Black Panther Connects to Social Work

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Overview:

A common misconception about social work is that it simply entails social justice advocacy, because this field encompasses multiple areas of social service, centering around the core value of helping those in need. Ranging from psychotherapy, foster care, minority advocacy, child welfare, mental health counseling, and more, social workers can be found in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, nonprofit agencies, and government offices, serving a wide range of responsibilities (National Association of Social Workers). Main figures in Marvel’s recent film Black Panther, such as the undercover spy Nakia and the goodhearted king T’Challa, demonstrate core motivations not unlike social workers everywhere (Black Panther, 2018). This featured post will therefore explore careers that follow a social work degree, connect Black Panther to social service ideologies, and feature several interviewed graduate students.  Continue reading →

Captain America: A Case Study in Veteran Mental Health

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Character Overview: 

Analyzing superhero Captain America, who wakes up 70 years past his time after crash-landing on a war mission, Steve Rogers’ mental health struggles to rediscover his place in society can arguably relate in numerous ways to military veterans across the country today, and their potential experiences returning from service.

Steve Rogers is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroic protagonist from Brooklyn during World War II. In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Steve attempts to enlist in the U.S. military multiple times, consistently rejected because of his health problems and frail physique. These attempts catch the attention of an American organization, the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), who work to bring down the Nazi science division named HYDRA. Because of Steve’s morality and inner strength, he is selected for a top-secret Super Soldier program developed by Dr. Abraham Erskine and Howard Stark (The First Avenger, 2011). After gaining superhuman strength through the transformation, Steve becomes a war mascot, an American icon, and a key member in the fight against HYDRA. Known nationally as Captain America, Steve frees captured Allied POW’s and actively fights HYDRA in a variety of attacks (The First Avenger, 2011). Steve ultimately crashes into the Arctic during his final mission with the SSR in 1945, becoming frozen in ice and preserved for 70 years. He subsequently awakens as not only a surviving war veteran, but also as a soldier very much out of his time. This case study will analyze Steve’s recovery process throughout The Avengers (2012) and The Winter Soldier (2014), and speculate on the importance of recognizing similar struggles in military veterans today.  Continue reading →

What can Gollum from The Lord of the Rings teach us about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?

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Character Overview:

Most commonly recognized as Gollum, Smeagol is a Hobbit who becomes corrupted by the One Ring, and slowly loses his self-identity while an ulterior, nefarious second personality develops. Though he is widely known as the creepy character bloodthirstily whispering the words “my precious”, Smeagol’s original character was a relatively ordinary Hobbit living in The Shire with his family. Gollum’s persona is particularly interesting throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, since initially this character does not even seem to be human, but rather a repulsive creature. This case study will explore Smeagol’s slow recovering of his past, his split personality between two opposing identities, and how his behaviors can relate to the prevalence of psychosis today. Continue reading →

Everything, Everything: Challenges in Providing Mental Health Care

Lately, I’ve been encountering some of the most emotionally challenging sessions at work. Everything that I learned about interpersonal relationships, everything about psychology–I’ve found that everything, everything, matters in shaping the therapist that I want to become. I was challenged beyond my own mental capabilities this week, and realized that I still have a long way to go before I can confidently provide the best mental health care possible. Until then, I still have everything to learn. This post is a reflection on thoughts from my current job, and the mental preparation I need while building a career in therapy.  Continue reading →