Diagnosing Holden Caulfield Analytical Essay

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The famous novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger tells the story of a peculiar teenager Holden Caulfield and his adventure through New York. His multiple encounters with people along the way often ended poorly as Holden’s behavior and thoughts have prevented him from having normal interactions. The book captures Holden’s ups and downs as he struggles to socialize as well as his emotional issues.After analyzing and researching various disorders, his actions fall under the category of Borderline Personality Disorder most accurately in comparison to other similar disorders.

Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is defined as a mental health disorder that impacts the way people view themselves as well as others, this impacts the ability to function from day to day. Some symptoms include fear of abandonment, extreme mood swings and behavior, impulsiveness, chronic loneliness and depression. The disorder is extremely common as there are over three million cases each year and affects mainly adolescents and teenagers. The cause may be genetic as well as brain abnormalities (Borderline Personality Disorder).

One of the risk factors of BPD is having a stressful family life which can include loss of an important family member. This applies to Holden as he experienced the loss of his little brother Allie. Holden describes how hard it was for him and his family to cope with his death. Because of this Holden is a subject for this disorder.

Throughout the novel, Holden demonstrates extreme behavior and mood swings numerous times. One instance taking place early in the novel when Holden is angry towards Stradlater. When Stradlater returns from his date with Sally, Holden is annoyed and interrogates him to tell him what happened and becomes increasingly angry towards him when Stradlater ignores him. Holden lets his pent up anger take over him as he attacks Stradlater. Holden takes his actions into an extreme as he performs his actions out of aggression. What differentiates this situation from a typical teenage fist fight was the abnormally intense feelings of hatred Holden has towards Stradlater: “I told him to watch his own moron face- which was a pretty childish thing to say, but I was mad as hell,” (Salinger 59). With inappropriate, intense anger and rage also being a symptom of BPD, Holden clearly denotes utmost behavior and rage in this part of the novel.

Another scene from the book in which Holden ha as well as letting his behavior get out of hand was during his date with Sally. He is overwhelmed after seeing her walking up the stairs and says that he could almost marry her despite admitting that he did not like her, but felt as though he was in love with her. This small part shows his unstable emotions. He then comes up with the idea to run away with Sally and harasses her into going with him: “ ‘You can’t just do something like that,’ old Sally said… ‘Why the hell not? Why the hell not?’,” (Salinger 170). This quote was one of the multiple examples of things Holden said to get Sally to run away with him. This part of the book demonstrates great extreme behavior as he seems to lose control over what he was saying and forcefully attempts to get Sally to come with him despite not liking her as a person. His mood changes instantly as he becomes depressed again in the turn of a second: “I was beginning to hate her, in a way,” (Salinger 172). Holden shows how quickly his feelings change as he goes from wanting to run away with Sally to hating her and eventually making her cry.

Another sign of BPD that Holden possesses is impulsive behavior. One specific example of impulsive behavior Holden expresses is lying. When Holden is on the train to New York, he starts a conversation with a lady who has a son at Pencey. Although Holden enjoys talking to her, he can not help but lie to her about her son: “ I started reading this timetale I had in my pocket. Just to stop lying. Once I get started, I can go on for hours if I feel like it,” (Salinger 76). Holden was aware that he was lying, but found it entertaining and could not stop despite saying that he felt bad about it. This was one of the times when Holden was aware of his behavior but impulsively kept repeating it.

Holden also demonstrated impulsive behavior when he was talking to Carl Luce at the bar. Holden was so delighted to be having a drink with someone that he could not control what he was saying. He kept asking Carl about his sex life and who he was with. Carl shut him down multiple times, but Holden did not stop. Although Carl showed his annoyance, Holden did not seem to care and kept asking him repeatedly: “I was getting a little too personal. I realize that,” (Salinger 191). This quote proves that Holden was completely aware of his inappropriate behavior but did not stop as he continued the unwanted conversation right after. This scene in the story shows how Holden can not control his behavior although he is aware that it is inappropriate.

The last significant characteristic of BPD that Holden obtains is strong feelings of loneliness,boredom and depression. Out of all the signs and symptoms of this disorder, Holden shows this specific sign the most abundantly throughout the whole novel. Most of his interactions happen out of Holden’s boredom and loneliness as well as Holden becoming depressed. Little things from broadway to going to the museum trigger his depression. One of the most significant part of the whole novel was after Holden’s time with Carl Luce. Holden hit an all time low demonstrating both loneliness and depression: “… I was crying and all, I don’t know why, but I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome,” (Salinger 198). This shows Holden’s intense feelings of sadness. Holden then proceeds to lay down on a bench in the freezing cold. He then has serious thoughts about his own death and what his funeral would be like. His loneliness in this part of the book is one of Holden’s lowest points.

Treatments for this disorder vary from therapy from a primary doctor and psychiatrists to various medications. One form of treatment Holden should consider is psychotherapy. He could become more familiar with his moods, behaviors and thoughts as well as learning how to cope with his issues. He could also consider taking antidepressants to help him cope with his loneliness since he feels alone and depressed a majority of the time (Borderline Personality Disorder). It is also important for Holden to be patient when working through treatment: “Since BPD can be a complex condition, and treatment usually requires long-term talk therapy, it will be important to find a mental health professional who has expertise in treating this condition,” according to Dr. DIna Cagliostro (Cagliostro). With these treatments in mind Holden can hopefully get his life back on track and find a happier lifestyle.


Cite this paper

Diagnosing Holden Caulfield Analytical Essay. (2021, Aug 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/diagnosing-holden-caulfield/



Does Holden Caulfield have a mental breakdown?
No, Holden Caulfield does not have a mental breakdown.
What are Holden Caulfield physical symptoms?
Holden Caulfield experiences a range of physical symptoms throughout the novel, including headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea.
What mental illness does Holden have in The Catcher in the Rye?
Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, has many symptoms that could point to a mental illness, but no definitive diagnosis has been made. Some experts believe that he may suffer from schizophrenia, while others believe he is simply going through a difficult period in his life.
What's wrong with Holden Caulfield?
Holden Caulfield suffers from post traumatic stress disorder . The fictional cause is the death of his beloved little brother, Allie. The reason that The Catcher in the Rye is so powerful is that it is a true book (I don't say that it is a true story).
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