Mental Disorders in Fanworks

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Mental Disorders
Related: Hurt/Comfort, Disability Fic, PTSD, Suicide in Fanworks
See Also: List of Fan-fiction Kinks, Tropes, and Clichés, Ableism in Fandom
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Giving a character a mental disorder is a popular trope in fanfiction. In other cases, writers may develop a headcanon that a character is suffering with a mental illness due to their canon behaviors or as a consequence of canon events. Works are often focused on how a character deals with their illness and how others help and support them.

Fanfiction that focuses on a disorder are often in the Hurt/Comfort or angst genres. Abuse, Violence, Self Harm and Suicide Attempt often appear in these works which often have trigger warnings for any readers that it might affect.

Some fandoms are more likely to have fics dealing with mental illness. Many fandoms with canonical superheroes such as the MCU have a large number of fics examining characters dealing with PTSD following traumatic events in canon. Some DC works set in Gotham City highlight Arkham Asylum's inability to provide appropriate care for its patients.

Criticisms

While there is an understanding that issues related to mental health should be examined in fiction, some readers take exception at particular portrayals of mental illness, in canon and in fanworks. The most common criticism been that the authors might not have personal experience of the illness they're writing about and rely on stereotypes of mentally ill people.

Some believe that mental disorder headcanons are actually stigmatizing people with an illness, and encourage negative stereotypes about mental illness. For example, when a particular mental illness is used to explain the actions of murderous or villainous characters.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Fanfiction

Zines

  • The Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron, a zine that "features over 80 full-color pages of artwork, creative writing, and prose from thirty different contributors about the unique experience of playing World of Warcraft as a person with mental illness and/or neurodivergence (or MI/ND)."
  • Mind Over Matter, "a digital fan zine that explores the relationship between superheroes and mental health."

Mental Disorder Tags on AO3

Fanwork tags for various disorders on Archive of Our Own:

Canon Examples

  • Drusilla in the Buffyverse - delusional, as a result of prolonged psychological and physical torture by Angelus. Being a psychic novice nun forced to become a vampire probably doesn't help...
  • Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh - is probably well known for his depression.
  • Dexter Morgan in Dexter - initially believes himself to be a sociopath, but the final season of the TV series suggests that this is conditioned behavior, not a true psychological disorder.
  • Julianne Simms of Breakout Kings is often praised for representation of various psychological disorders including social anxiety, panic disorder, and depression.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy suffers depression.
  • Tony Stark in the MCU suffers from PTSD. His comic counterparts in 616 and 1610 both suffer from alcoholism.
  • Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place has a highly nervous nature that likely entails an anxiety disorder.
  • Takashi Shirogane from Voltron: Legendary Defender has PTSD due to a year of captivity and torture by the Galra.
  • Several examples in Fire Emblem: Three Houses are not properly named, but are made very clear through character dialogue and interactions:
    • Marianne von Edmund suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts, the latter of which she reveals to Byleth in their A support. She overcomes this if the player recruits her, allowing her to bond with others and move past her self-hatred. It's a common fan belief that she does not appear at all during the war phase due to having committed suicide, though this is mere speculation.
    • Bernadetta von Varley struggles with severe anxiety, a persecution complex, and avoidant personality disorder due to years of continued abuse by her selfish father. While she can overcome it via her supports, she shows the most marked improvement in Crimson Flower as she does not return to Varley Territory during the timeskip.
    • Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd has psychotic schizophrenia in all but name due to the intense trauma of witnessing the Tragedy of Duscur as a young teenager. He lost his sense of taste, suffers from nightmares, talks to the ghosts of his loved ones, and has completely snapped after the time skip in three of the four routes. He recovers in Azure Moon, however.
    • Jeritza von Hrym has disassociative identity disorder, brought on by his rough upbringing in the cruel House Bartels. His "Death Knight" persona was born from psychotic rage when his father planned to kidnap his older sister Mercedes and do unspeakable things to her. He can begin to recover in Crimson Flower, particularly his ending with Mercedes in which he undergoes years of rehabilitation.

Archives & Links

References