The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye question


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Borderline Personality Disorder?
Leon RE Leon (last edited Jan 12, 2013 05:12AM ) Jan 12, 2013 04:57AM
My theory is that JD Salinger was trying to showcase someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Holden Caulfield is very inconsistent and emotionally unpredictable, even to himself. His emotions towards people alternate drastically and he frantically tries to avoid abandonment and being alone. He also has suicidal thoughts and is rather impulsive with his excessive spending and smoking and his wandering aimlessly around the city. I believe at the end he has some sort of nervous breakdown or something. What do you think?

The symptoms of BPD include:

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation).
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms



i've heard that you can't diagnose borderline personality disorder in teen agers. It's so close to normal behavior for a teen.


Whenever I read discussions like this about Holden, I never see anyone acknowledge that he may have been emotionally neglected. Allie gets cancer, which most likely took some months/years to take him. During that time, Holden perhaps watched as his family grieved and became more focused on the illness and Allie. He would have been at the vulnerable age of 11 or 12. Then, once Allie dies, he reacts by breaking the windows in the garage, and his parents tell him he is crazy (with the message that he needs to be psychoanalyzed). Well, they didn't get him psychoanalyzed then, did they? The boy was upset, then told he was crazy.

His parents are wealthy and have a reputation to protect; he tells us that they are "quite touchy" and that "they'd probably have about two hemorrhages apiece if anyone told anything persona about them". This tells me that they've taught Holden to bottle his feelings.

No adult seems to have been there to help Holden transition between childhood and adulthood. He's had to fend for himself. He desperately wants attention, but he doesn't know how to get the kind he desperately craves. Every time he's asked for it from an adult he can't properly communicate, and therefore he is rejected time and again. The only people who understand him are children--naturally, because he is still a child. He's "falling" into adulthood, rather than transitioning.

In addition, he's shipped off to boarding schools where the focus is academics--no parental love there. He gives hints that he may have experienced sexual abuse there, but with Holden it's difficult to tell if this is truly the case. And, of course, there's the James Castle trauma.

He says over and over that some people he knows are very intelligent, but they don't have brains. Isn't he speaking of compassion and sensitivity when it comes to "brains"? This is why he thinks of the adult world as phony. Nobody offers him the compassion he needs.

I feel for him.


Monty J (last edited Jan 14, 2013 11:25AM ) Jan 12, 2013 01:36PM   0 votes
I was married to a BPD (my diagnosis; she wouldn't go near a psychiatrist.) Holden's nothing close. I made a study of BPD after my divorce. A typical BPD focuses their vicious and unwarranted attacks on those closest to them. Holden's affection for his siblings was unwavering.

A strong case can be made for PTSD, which I have done under another topic here on Goodreads: INTERPRETING CITR. People on other literary sites have similar views. Google Holden Caulfield and PTSD.

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Drake Rose He did mention that he was abused as a child after the Mr Antolini scene. (But he could just be mistaken about that too)
Feb 11, 2013 04:24AM

I think Holden just suffers from depression...but JD Salinger himself may have very well had BPD. If you read Joyce Maynard's biography where she talks about her relationship with him, you see a lot of the symptoms: Either idealizing or hating most people, trying to isolate the one he loves, moodiness. This disorder is often overlooked because it's hard to put a finger on.


Diagnosing any psychological disorder is difficult because all of the symptoms listed here can overlap into other disorders. Without engaging in a pretty lengthy interview with the patient and with the help of the DSM IV (psychological manual used to help in diagnosis) and, without having quite a bit of experience, any diagnosis put on a person would be a stab in the dark.

You also have the interpretation of the symptoms, for example a patient suffering with bi-polar disorder would display many of the same or similar symptoms listed here.

One study (years ago can't think of the specifics from the top of my head) admitted a group of patients to see both a UK and a USA PSychologist. In Britain the patients were diagnosed with manic depression, in America they were more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, who is to say which one is correct?


Yes Monty you are most correct, and as a clinical psychologist in training I strongly agree with Mary's point about the US' fairly new attitude towards teenage angst. Holden is a normal disenfranchised teenager, disconnected spiritually and emotionally to himself.


-The only people who understand him are children--naturally, because he is still a child.

I'm not so sure about this. How exactly is Holden "still a child?" He may lack sophistication but that is not only a reflection on himself. Should not the adults in his life, with all their age and understanding, been able to interpret his shortcomings? Perhaps by extension it's the children who most easily understand Holden because they experience life at its the simplest.

This creates a bleak outlook on life--that adults are "intelligent but brainless" and that it's perhaps impossible to be a successful one otherwise. I think this is a common anxiety. Who has really failed to thrive?

-He's "falling" into adulthood, rather than transitioning.

That's brilliant.


I see signs of depression and narcissism in Holden Caulfield's psyche, personally. Of course, I'm much more inclined to believe that he's just a spoiled brat, rather than any real psychologicl disorder.


Leon wrote: "My theory is that JD Salinger was trying to showcase someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Holden Caulfield is very inconsistent and emotionally unpredictable, even to himself. His emotions..."

Actually have an MSW, but haven't done clinical work in years, and helped my nephew with this question as a high school assignment years ago...

Some of this has already been said by others:

1.You can't diagnosis a personality disorder (which is what borderline personality disorder is) in teenagers although a psychiatrist or therapist might suspect it.

2. Borderline as a diagnosis defined in the DSM did not exist when Salinger was writing.

3. Per previous teenagers are moody and behave in ways that if they were adults would be looked at differently.

4. As someone who worked in crisis services for a few years, I can tell you, you know a borderline when you see one. The main things, no matter what the current DSM says, are the para-suicidal behaviors, which are very frequent and almost always involve making suicidal threats to others. Often the actions aren't very dangerous, but a lot of borderlines wind up dying accidentally by for example jumping from the second floor but sustaining a head injury, or taking an overdose that's more toxic than one would think. The other thing is the instability in relationships, which often, but not always, involves going from love to hate on a dime.

Frankly, even though they are unhappy at the core, a teenage potential borderline would have a much more exciting time than Holden does.


I take issue with the previous post. There are big differences with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. While they might share some symptoms (e.g.depression)they present very differently. And there are plenty of people in the U.S. who are diagnosed bipolar, which is no longer called "manic depression."

In my opinion, Holden Caulfield does not suffer from either affliction. As someone already mentioned, he has affection for his sibling, which is not characteristic of borderline personality disorder.

And he doesn't exhibit much manic behavior. Smoking cigarettes and running around a city does not connote a diagnosis of bipolar. He is a bit of a maladjusted teenager, something that was once commonly accepted, and in today's politically correct society is not. At most he is somewhat depressed, which, again, used to be seen as a relatively normal part of being a teenage r but no longer is.

I agree with the person who said J.D. Salinger might have had severe psychological problems. Anyone who has read his paramour's book would have to agree.

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Monty J Heying "... Holden Caulfield does not suffer from either affliction."

Agreed.

BPD's are incapable of empathy. PTSD is often misdiagnosed as Bipolar because a
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Mar 25, 2015 07:20PM

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