Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gollum in the DSM

NCBI ROFL usefully points to psychiatric discussion of Gollum's potential mental disorders. While the original article seems to present a solid diagnosis (schizoid personality disorder), at least to a non-psychiatrist, the range of potential disorders listed by discussants in the comments section suggests more art than science. Potential disorders there suggested include:
  • Heavy metal poison from eating raw fish for decades in a cave in a goblin mine
  • Vitamin B12 and iron deficiency from an all-fish diet
  • Exclusion of said deficiencies because Gollum augmented his diet with occasional goblin; exclusion of said deficiencies because of lack of associated peripheral neuropathy
  • Heavy metal / mercury / radiation poisoning from the One Ring
  • Exclusion of heavy metal poisoning because of maintained high mobility and strength
  • Addiction (to the Ring)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (ring related), comorbid with antisocial personality disorder
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis of Kidney Yin deficiency and liver-yang excess
  • It's just symptoms of extreme old age
  • Symbiotic parasite infection from the Ring
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Chronic bacterial/fungal infection
  • Psychopathy (murdered Deagol on sight of the Ring)
Obviously, accurate DSM assignation is difficult when simply presented with a list of fictional symptoms, but it does make me wonder about the arbitrariness of such assignations in real world cases.

Gollum himself weighs in in the comments:
Nasty psychiatrissstss! Hates them, my precious! They locks uss up in padded cell! They makes uss look at inkblotsss! Tricksy, sly inkblotsss! Nasty Elvish pills burnsss our throat!
...
Yesss We Hatesss themsss Evil oness yess my preciousss we hatess themsss

But They Helpsss us!

No they hurtsss usss, hurtsss usss sore!

7 comments:

  1. If you really want to see some aberrant behaviour in fictional characters, check out Winnie the Pooh:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1068391.stm

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  2. You can rule out heavy metal poisoning and B deficiencies with blood tests. An infection might show an abnormal white/t cell count. Parasite may or may not show up on a test. But all these tests are expensive . . . let's just drug Gollum . . . with drugs, that may make him worse, even if to us he's more manageable!

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  3. You can rule out heavy metal poisoning and B deficiencies with blood tests. An infection might show an abnormal white/t cell count. Parasite may or may not show up on a test. But all these tests are expensive . . . let's just drug Gollum . . . with drugs, that may make him worse, even if to us he's more manageable!

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  4. I'm not sure those tests were commonly available in Middle Earth. But I'm reasonably sure that treatment by Aragon using Kingsfoil would have been just the thing.

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  5. @Crampton:

    It is worth bearing in mind that Gollum was previously in Aragorn’s custody, and Aragorn was unable to treat him. He was accordingly remanded to the custody of the Elves, whose medical arts also were unequal to the task. As athelas or kingsfoil was known to both Aragorn and the Elves, we must regretfully assume that it was not an efficacious specific for Gollum’s condition.

    A diagnosis of severe substance addiction, complicated by antisocial personality disorder, I believe is the best way to account for the observed facts. Note that Frodo, who suffered from the same addiction, obtained some relief from withdrawal symptoms after the Ring was destroyed by wearing a jewel on a neck chain as a substitute. This suggests that a good stiff course of methadone might have been a more appropriate treatment for Gollum.

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  6. @Tom: It's clearly time I re-read the series. I'd thought it was Gandalf who'd tracked him in the interval post "The Hobbit", but what you're saying sounds right.

    I do find Ilya's argument on Volokh compelling: it's hard to reject the null that Gollum acted rationally in his self interest the entire time. Extreme life extension at moderate cost; anger that source of life extension was stolen by a burgaler. It's more like if heroin actually did give you superpowers....

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  7. yes Eric you go far here,as you always do, and you are correct especially in your dismissal of the American psychiatrists diagnostic bible.

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