This article was written by the psychiatrists of Broadcast Thought—Dr. Vasilis K. Pozios and Dr. Praveen R. Kambam. Spoilers for The Hunger Games movies follow.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 opens with a very telling scene. Katniss Everdeen is on the verge of tears and hiding in the bowels of District 13 reciting the most basic facts of her existence: Her name, her age, the fact that she was twice thrown into the Hunger Games arena to fight for her life. It’s a reminder that for all of her resilience and heroism, Katniss is still just a teenage girl who has been in kill-or-be-killed situations far too often.
Psychological trauma is pervasive for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). She is haunted by the sheer brutality and life-threatening nature of the Games. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she grapples with processing the emotional scars of her first Games and returning home to her loved ones. Then, in Mockingjay—Part 1, she struggles with her identity as she endures the psychological trauma of her second time in the arena and the knowledge that her friend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capitol that put them in the Games in the first place.
So, Does Katniss Meet the Criteria to Be Diagnosed with PTSD?
Although it’s become fashionable to use psychiatric terms such as “PTSD” in a colloquial sort of way, post-traumatic stress disorder is actually a strictly defined mental disorder that can be severely debilitating. There are five groups of criteria that must be met in order for the diagnosis of PTSD to be made. So, does Katniss meet those criteria? Is President Coin’s (Juliane Moore) analysis in Mockingjayright— did the Games destroy her? Let’s examine her symptoms.
PTSD Criteria 1: Trauma
To be diagnosed with PTSD, one must of course be exposed to a traumatic event. Even those who flunked Psych 101 know Katniss has been traumatized. But would the specific traumatic things she’s experienced give someone PTSD?
Clinically speaking, traumatic events are defined as those involving the direct experiencing or witnessing of actual death, threatened death, or serious injury. By this definition, Katniss experiences multiple traumatic events—both in the arena and out of it—throughout The Hunger Games films. In fact, by our count, Katniss experiences over two dozentraumatic events throughout The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay—Part 1.