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  • 06.19.13

What Happens When a Clinical Psychologist Diagnoses Your Favorite Superheroes

A clinical psychologist consults on some prickly personalities–those of well-known superheroes. The results are nearly as revealing as X-ray vision.

Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he still has difficulty reconciling nature versus nurture—or at least, that’s what his shrink says.

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While the just-released Man of Steel does not feature a scene with the superhero sometimes known as Kal-El seeking professional help, Clark Kent did receive a diagnosis recently. Entertainment website The Credits recently approached clinical psychologist Dr. Natalie Petyk for a survey of superheroes. Although she was unfamiliar with the comic book universe, Dr. Petyk was able to parse through the blind profiles that comprise some popular superhero origin stories and offer diagnoses and some suggestions regarding treatment.

Patient Name: P.P.

The Credits editor Bryan Abrams offered up descriptions of these heroes’ backstories, broadly written in such a way that some casual fans might not even recognize them. Below, for instance, is Clark Kent’s profile:

“Raised by loving parents, discovers in adolescence that he was adopted through a traumatic experience that showcases his ‘otherness.’ Both his biological parents (who are not American) are dead. Feelings of alienation increase as he discovers special abilities he has are related to his biological parents and their birthplace, the latter of which is no longer a viable travel destination. He wants to know who he is—the person he was raised to be, or the person he feels he was born to be. Despite an array of specialized skills, he actually chooses to go into journalism.”

Though Dr. Petyk admitted that she could not pretend to be able to diagnose a patient who has not been in her physical presence for an evaluation, her insights add a clinical layer to what we’ve seen on the screen. Perhaps Superman’s biggest weakness isn’t kryptonite, but himself.

Look through the slides above for the doctor’s assessments.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.

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