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 →