Another Analysis of Danny? Yeah, I Guess So.
Not too long ago, I stated that I headcanon the entire Fenton family as neurodivergent. This led to quite a bit of discussion, and eventually I said that I specifically think Danny has clinical depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
I didn’t really go into more detail, because while those are all things I myself suffer from, I want to tread carefully when talking about things like this. The last thing I’d want to do is accidentally say something hurtful.
However, multiple followers expressed interest in me going into more detail about why I have these headcanons. Since these are all things I actually struggle with, they reasoned that my personal experience would help me address this with tact.
So, alright. I’m giving in.
As a disclaimer, I’m not a psychologist and I don’t have a ton of knowledge about psychology. I’m just a dude who likes seeing himself in characters he relates to. This is going to be more based on my own personal experience than anything else.
Now that you know all that, let’s finally get into it.
To keep things organized, I’ll just go through each one individually. A lot of symptoms of these mental illnesses can overlap, so this will keep things from getting messy.
Since the depression was the first one I picked up on, let’s start with that.
My Brother’s Keeper is a good one to address this. Granted, Spectra’s MO is making people feel miserable, but she does that by picking at struggles the kids are already dealing with, not by necessarily causing those struggles (though she’s willing to do that, too).
I’ve heard depression described by others who have it as “the emotional equivalent of watching paint dry,” and I don’t think there’s a better description for it in the world.
Depression is way more than just being sad all the time. More often than not, I find it’s just a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. When I’m in a bad depressive episode, I just stop feeling like things matter. Everything sucks and it’s not getting better, so what’s the point in trying?
Danny shows a lot of the symptoms that come with this feeling of hopelessness. He doesn’t eat or sleep very well. His energy levels are usually very low. He doesn’t have as much motivation to do things that he enjoys. He fixates on his failures and past mistakes and blames himself for most things that go wrong in his life. He has a harder time focusing on things, particularly in class. He can be forgetful and not notice details that might seem obvious.
A lot of these things are caused by his ghost hunting, but since Danny has made it clear that he doesn’t enjoy it, and every time he tries to take some time to himself it backfires, it makes perfect sense for him to feel trapped and hopeless.
Ghost fighting is one of the causes for his depression, not a replacement for it.
I’ve also mentioned that Danny is a really angry child, and anger can be a symptom of depression. When you’re feeling down all the time, you can become more irritable. Things bother you more. You lash out more. Even small things can get to you.
My Brother’s Keeper is, again, a good example of this. Danny’s lashing out at Jazz a lot, and even his friends notice that he’s taking things more seriously than usual. This is far from being exclusive to this episode, though. The Fright Before Christmas and Life Lessons both show Danny being irritable and frustrated, even though he usually still means well enough.
Danny even lashes out at Dash sometimes, someone that he’s afraid of, because he’s just too tired to deal with his crap.
Danny’s irritability was actually one of the biggest clues for me that he has depression, coupled with his tendency to degrade or blame himself.
As someone who deals with this, let me tell you, depression is exhausting. Even though I’m usually not doing much, the empty feeling alone zaps me of my energy. A lot of the time, I just want to sleep through my days and not bother with anything. I’m not allowed to, though, so I can get irritable.
Even if you don’t have depression, you’re probably familiar with this feeling. When you’re kept up late at night or you’ve had a rough day at work, you’ll feel exhausted, and that results in you getting annoyed more easily. Small things like people leaving the toilet seat up or the kids being noisy or people repeatedly knocking on the door will drive you crazy, when they’re usually not that big of a deal. You’re tired, and you don’t want to deal with even these small annoyances. You just want to be left alone.
It’s worth noting that Tucker, Sam, and Jazz don’t have these struggles, despite also being moody teens with a lot of pressure on them. They have bad days, but they’re usually more chipper than Danny (yes, even Sam.)
To me, Danny is a textbook example of a depressed teen. It’s not even a question. This kid needs to talk to someone. Unfortunately, he’s not looking to do that any time soon.
There are a huge number of anxiety disorders, and I’m still not the best at differentiating between them. I don’t often feel the need to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the anxiety. For me, it’s just when certain things happen (or don’t), the warning bells start ringing in my head and I struggle to focus on anything else. In a lot of ways, it’s like hearing that music in a horror movie right before something scary happens, except nothing ever happens. The music just keeps playing, making you feel more and more worried about what’s coming next.
The anxiety disorders I’m the most familiar with (meaning the ones I struggle with the most) are social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. I don’t feel like I need to cover the first one much, though, because despite being shy and self-conscious, Danny doesn’t really panic when he has to be in social situations. He can be awkward, but he can brush off embarrassment easily enough and he doesn’t have an issue with badmouthing people he dislikes to their faces. These are all things I’d die before doing.
The fact that he can stomach social situations alright doesn’t prevent him from worrying about every other thing that could possibly go wrong, though.
While not as common as Angry Danny, Panic Mode Danny shows up with some regularity.
Public Enemies (and TFM, though I don’t wanna rely on that example) is a good episode to demonstrate this.
The town’s on high alert and ghosts are everywhere, but just about everyone is handling the situation better than Danny. His paranoia is warranted, but he can’t bring himself to focus on anything except for what could go wrong. He overthinks all the details and worries excessively about all of them.
Danny’s parents are at his school. Ghosts keep showing up at the worst times. Danny doesn’t even know that Walker’s behind everything or what he’s up to, but he’s not in the right state of mind to think about that. This isn’t Detective Danny Time, this is Worry Time. And it prevents him from being as productive as he could be.
One of A Kind is another good example, where Danny’s so worried about Skulker that he can’t even eat, though Sam and Tucker are trying to encourage him to. It’s not like the eating itself is dangerous (as far as he knows), but he’s too busy worrying to even think about eating.
He’ll also worry about things that wouldn’t actually turn out as bad as he thinks. He fears his parents dissecting him if they find out his secret, or Valerie not liking him if she finds out, or Vlad being behind every bad thing that happens, even when he’s actually not.
It’s not as pronounced as his depression, but when Danny worries, he worries hard and can even get extremely paranoid. It even starts getting so bad that Danny himself starts questioning if he’s hallucinating in The Fenton Menace, because his constant worrying and paranoia fit that explanation. (And that’s the last time I’m referencing that episode in here. Bleh.)
There’s another disorder that’s classified as a type of anxiety, though, and I don’t think there’s any point in arguing that Danny has that.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This one’s far less about Danny showing symptoms (though there’s that, too), and more about the fact that no child who goes through the stuff he does would not have PTSD.
The symptoms of PTSD overlap a lot with depression and other anxiety disorders. Things like guilt, negative thoughts, feeling on edge, constantly looking out for danger, and struggling to feel happy or even to trust others are a few symptoms that can overlap with depression and anxiety. The difference is that, with PTSD, these things are triggered by a specific, traumatic event. And that’s where most of my focus is.
Danny’s been shot at by his own parents, hunted, tortured, brainwashed, threatened with experiments and even actually been experimented on (counting the cloning experiments), almost died several times, listened to his parents talk about wanting to dissect him, watched loved ones die (even if they ended up being alright), and that’s not even mentioning some of the other stuff Vlad puts him through or the fact that he was ruthlessly bullied long before any of this happened.
For me, it’s less a matter of if Danny was negatively impacted by all of this and more a matter of how in the world could he not be?
As previously mentioned, a lot of his anxiety and depression is the result of his ghost fighting. He’s paranoid about danger showing up at any time. He’s always trying to stay alert. He barely sleeps or eats. He blames himself when things go wrong. He doesn’t even trust his parents anymore, eventually believing that, if they found out he was half ghost, they’d dissect him without hesitation.
Heck, even the accident that gave him his ghost powers seems to have had
a huge effect on him. He’s questioning his own humanity, he’s
understandably afraid around a lot of his parents’ technology, he’s
paranoid about being found out and not being accepted.
Personally, though, I feel the show should’ve shown more effects. There’s no way he doesn’t have a fear of mental health specialists after what happened with Spectra. Is there anyone who thinks he wouldn’t have nightmares about things that happened in The Ultimate Enemy, Kindred Spirits, and D-Stabilized? How much does he remember from Control Freaks, and how often does he think about it? How much more does he let himself get hurt because he’s terrified of turning into Dan?
In a better show, this stuff would’ve been explored more thoroughly, but as it is, I don’t think there’s any denying that this kid’s been traumatized. Hopefully Jazz can get her psychology degree quickly, because she’s probably the only psychologist Danny would trust, and he needs to talk to one.
And I think that covers things well enough. I did also mention that I think the Fentons all show symptoms of ADHD, but that’s another can of worms entirely. Besides, this post is long enough as it is. I’m pretty sure I’ve been working on this for over two hours straight. I’ll just leave things here for now, and maybe I’ll touch on the ADHD in the future (if people are interested).
Thank you for your patience, everyone! And now I can move on to other things that people may or may not have been waiting for since this blog began.