What Can We Learn from Batman about Being a Therapist?

Hi everyone, Brandon here. Come on in, have a seat. I know what you’re thinking… “Hey Jedi Counsel, this is not one of the classic psychological evaluations about one of my favorite, beloved fictional characters that I’ve come to expect every month or so! What gives?” Well, let me tell you what gives, friend. This is my fifth year of graduate school and last semester at North Dakota State University. This summer I will begin the final year of my Ph.D., which will consist of a full time, yearlong clinical position at a non-profit community mental health clinic. I’m entering a time of pretty significant personal change. I started at NDSU during my undergraduate. The university and my status as a student have been a central part of my identity for a very long time. I’ve been reflecting a lot about the transition out of this role and into my new role as a full-time clinician. Because this, I started thinking a lot about my favorite fictional character and the lessons I can take from him to help guide me in my clinical work. To that end, I asked my ever-accommodating co-host/blogger if we could mix it up this month. Please get comfortable as I take you through a journey of the lessons I’ve learned from Batman that I believe could apply to being a good therapist.

Lesson 1: Do what is right, even if it is not always easy.

“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right because it’s right. That’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

When Bruce Wayne was very young, he witnessed the murder of his parents. This was a life-altering event for Bruce that would dramatically change the trajectory of his life. In response to this, he made it his mission to do whatever he could to prevent other people from having the same experience that he had. Now, depending on the nature of the event, available social support, and the overall psychological make-up of an individual, people can respond to trauma in many ways. This is just the way Bruce Wayne responded (though it isn’t clear that he ever emotionally recovered from the loss of his parents, see here for more info). It’s clear this wasn’t easy for him, though. He could have had a perfectly relaxing life, relying on his fortunes to live comfortably and happily for all his days. He has a mansion and cars and even a butler. He had it made in the shade. Instead he chose to do what he felt was right and become Batman. Years of study and training (sound familiar?), self-sacrifice, and a rough road were the rewards Batman got. Nevertheless, he continued to move forward to help make the world a little bit better for the people in his city.

To me, this applies directly to clinical work. We simply have to do what is right. Specifically, we are expected to act in accordance to the ethical standards prescribed to us (click here to see the wiki that I helped to write that outlines the APA Ethics Code!). At times, these situations aren’t always easy. Mandated reporting is an example. You might have a strong therapeutic relationship with a client. You could feel like you’re really making progress. But if you learn about an incident or behavior that you’re required to report, it has to happen (note: the client would be informed of this during the informed consent for treatment). Other examples include avoiding, or if necessary, navigating dual-relationships, maintaining confidentiality, respecting client autonomy, identifying and practicing within your competency areas, maintaining thorough documentation, and sticking to evidenced-based treatments and assessments. These are just a few of the many examples where clinicians might face challenging situations. It’s important that we rely on our ethical codes to do what is right in the same way that Batman relies on his own personal moral code to do what is right in his war on crime.

Lesson 2: Stand up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.

“I’ll be standing where I belong. Between you and the people of Gotham.” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins (2005)

The center of Batman’s mission is doing all he can to prevent anyone from experiencing what he experienced as a child. This theme is consistent throughout the many stories of Batman across the various mediums. For example, in the recent Batman comic series authored by Tom King, Batman takes control of an airplane that is going to crash into Gotham City. He intends to divert the plan and crash with it. Another example is in Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2009), in the end Batman takes the blame for everything Harvey Dent did so that the people still have someone to look up to. In the 2015 video game, Arkham Knight, Batman sacrifices himself to save the city from Scarecrow’s chemical attack. It seems like almost every Batman story has an element of him taking to hit, pain, or blame so that someone else can be spared.

To me this translates to engaging in advocacy work. As a field, Clinical Psychology has not always done a good job advocating for those who may need it. Looking back at the history of how the LGBTQ+ communities were treated within our field is a good example of this (see our Jedi Counsel episode for a primer on this and a list of further resources). I believe that people should advocate for whatever social justice rights that lead to the betterment of others that they are comfortable with. Due to our clinical training, our expertise is in mental health. So one potential area of professional advocacy falls clearly in that realm. One example is challenging the claims that failures in our mental health systems are the cause of violence (see here for a brief fact-sheet outlining the research between mental health and violence). Another example might be disseminating mental health resources so individuals know where to get help (we just gave a talk related to this recently on campus!) Or it might be just doing what you can in your day to day life to reduce mental health stigma which can sometimes take the voice from others and keep them from getting help they might need. Batman makes it a point to stick up for people who might be going through tough times and may not have a voice or way of defending themselves. Through our expertise and clinical work, we have the opportunity to do the same.

Lesson 3: You don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman tells Jim Gordon how he was a hero to him when he was younger and coping with the loss of his parents. We see this role reversed many times throughout several Batman stories. When many people think of Batman, they think of the rough and tough dude in a suit who punches the baddies and saves the day. However, for folks who have had the good fortune to dig deeper into the character through the various comic book series or animated depictions, we see a much softer side of Batman from time to time. A perfect example of this can see seen in the Justice League cartoon. Amanda Waller wants to destroy a young girl who has developed terrible powers. Instead of doing so, Batman goes and sits with the young girl on a swing set and holds her hand while she dies as a result of her powers. In Batman, we have a character who has no super-powers at all but still manages to go toe-to-toe with aliens, Amazons, and gods. Despite that, he never forgets what it means to be a hero for him.

For clinical work, it’s important for each of us to remember the impact that we can have. It is a fairly safe assumption to assume that most people go into mental health because they want to help others. However, between a lot of schooling, navigating licensure, tough hours, large caseloads, challenging clients, difficulties in insurance reimbursement, and the many, many other things involved in clinical work, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of what your initial goal was. It can be helpful from time to time to reframe things and remind oneself what an honor it is that you have the opportunity to step into these peoples’ lives and help them get to a better place. Just by meeting with you, clients can learn new skills, get regular social interaction, learn more about what they are experiencing through psychoeducation, and receive validation through normalization that others are likely struggling with the same disorder or challenges that they are. Any one of those benefits alone can really mean something to someone who is struggling. For young Bruce Wayne, having Jim Gordon hang a coat on his shoulders was everything in the world for him. For your clients, you can serve the same role by simply being collaborative in providing an explanation for what they are experiencing, which alone can help them feel better and more hopeful (see here for a study on how careful diagnostic feedback leads to increases in positive emotions and hope).

Lesson 4: Be humble and know when to ask for help.

“The first truth of Batman… It had to be one I didn’t like to admit. The gunshots left me alone. For years I was alone in the echoing dark of that well. But something else defined the exact moment Batman was born. The First Truth of Batman… The saving grace. I was never alone. I had help.” – Bruce Wayne, The Return of Bruce Wayne

Another major theme of Batman is that despite his independent nature and desire to work alone, he always knows when he needs to ask for help. Whether it is having a side-kick, relying on Alfred, or calling in the Justice League, Batman knows when he needs back-up. Part of this is that he acknowledges his skills. For example; he can’t fly. In the Justice League animated series, there is a scene where he calls in for some air support (see here). Or in the newest Justice League (2017) film, Batman recognizes that something beyond him is coming to Earth. As such, he recruits Wonder Woman and others to join him in preventing an invasion.

For Batman, it all boils down to knowing his skills and knowing when he needs help. In clinical work, it is largely the same. We know that therapist competence is largely predictive of therapy outcomes (see here for a study related specifically to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for depression). As such, it is important to recognize when a client has a problem or requires a treatment that falls outside of your competence area. Additionally, it is important to seek support when you need it. This can be in the form of supervision when you are still developing or perhaps learning a new treatment. Another way of seeking support is through consultation. Consulting with a peer or other professional can help to illuminate problems or ideas you might have missed. Consultation can also help with treatment adherence. In fact, for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, consultation is required to ensure that all therapists are adhering to the treatment manual (see here for more details). The last way of seeking support is related to work-life balance. Take the time to recognize if you are feeling therapist burnout. It can happen. Managing work/life balance and seeking consultation and peer support or advice can help. In the end. Batman recognizes his expertise and when he needs help. In clinical work, we need to be doing the same thing.

Lesson 5: Trust the data.

“Maybe it is time we stopped trying to outsmart the truth, and let it have its day.” – Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The final lesson that we can learn from Batman is to trust the data. At his core, Batman is a detective. Many in the DC universe call him The World’s Greatest Detective. He has degrees in criminal science, forensics, computer science, chemistry, engineering, biology, physics, and advanced chemistry and technology. When he is solving a mystery, he knows to trust in the latest available science and data. Additionally, he follows the clues and data he collects along the way to figure out who is behind whatever heinous crime he is working on at that time. He tries to keep his own personal judgment or emotion out of the equation and trusts in what he can observe, quantify, and measure.

The same ideals should hold true in clinical work. When comparing clinical judgment to statistical judgment, we know that the stats are at least as good, and often times better, than our own clinical judgment (see here for a great reading on this). Looking further, there are many researchers working hard to determine what the most empirically-supported interventions and assessments are. There is a range in the level of evidence available for different treatments. We owe it to our clients to select the treatment with the greatest statistical likelihood of working for each given disorder. If no single treatment stands out statistically, or if an empirically-supported intervention is not working, then we can adopt a hypothesis testing approach to treatment. By selecting a treatment that we have reason to believe will work and testing whether it is through an appropriate outcome measure, we can continue to move forward in a data-driven manner. Just like Batman trusts the data and science before his own judgment or conclusions, we as clinicians ought to as well.

In Closing

            Are you still here? Amazing. Because that post got much longer than I ever expected. At the end of the day, Batman is a character with over 75 years of content in comics, movies, video games, television shows, and novels. He’s a character who can fit the needs we have as readers or viewers. Today, we just wanted to think about some of the ways in which Batman might help guide us in clinical work. There are a lot of amazing fictional and non-fictional individuals who can guide us in any profession or life in general. Who are some that you look up to?

Jedi Counsel Podcast 43 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (revisited) and Bereavement

Hey folks! This week we decided to just come full circle and revisit the topic that started it all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice! We dive in deciding whether or not the film holds up and then talk about Bruce Wayne’s response to the loss of his parents. We talking about responding to grief, different styles of grief, and how the relationship between bereavement and depression recently changed

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 31 – Dissociative Identity Disorder, Part 2

Hey folks! We start this week off with some current events, including the new MBMBAM tv trailer. After that, we continue our discussion of dissociative identity disorder. We start by covering a study by Spanos and with a discussion of the Hillside Strangler. Then we jump into some fictional examples, including Two-Face, of Batman fame, and Tara from The United States of Tara. Thanks for listening in!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 20 – Halloween Scare-tacular! Fear, Anxiety, and Phobias

This week we took a listener suggestion and decided to talk about fear! We start the conversation with Dr. Crane, the Scarecrow and talk a bit about Brandon’s research on fear. Then we move into the clinical realm with a discussion about fear, anxiety, and phobias. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 18 – Superheroes and Coping Styles

In this episode we decided to talk about coping styles! Coping styles are the negative or positive ways in which we handle stress and negative emotions. After that we speak about the ways in which we find inspiration and motivation in superheroes, using them as a coping skill. How do superheroes help to inspire or motivate you?

Jedi Counsel Podcast 11 – Psychology and the Suicide Squad

Today we start by discussing our thoughts on the newest Rogue One trailer, which you can see here! After that, we dive into Suicide Squad! Listen in as we talk about some of our thoughts, as well as some specific psychology related to some of the characters.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 9 – A Simple Case

We start with a quick recap of some related comic book news. After that, we dive into Batman #44, by Scott Snyder, in which he address multiple relevant social issues related to racial disparities. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 8 – The Killing Joke

We start things off with our new current events section. Hear our thoughts about the recent Wonder Woman and Justice League trailers. After that, we discuss both the graphic novel as well as the recent film adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Hear our thoughts about how they portray the character of Batgirl as well as mental health. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 7 – Pokemon GO and Dark Night

We discuss the wildly popular Pokemon Go! game. What are some of the pros and cons that you have noticed? After that we talk about one of our new favorite graphic novels, Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 2 – Harley Quinn and The Joker

We discuss our views about Harley Quinn, The Joker, and their relationship from a psychological perspective.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Nerd Nite Talk Video

We discussed how the scientific process is used in diagnosing and treating mental health problems at a local Nerd Nite event. Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are presented as case examples. It was a lot of fun, and we’re grateful to all of the people who came out to the talk!

Diagnosing the Dark Knight

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name:  Bruce Wayne, aka Batman
Date of Birth: February 19th
Age: 30 – 32 years of age (in the current Batman comics)
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian
Education: Degrees in Criminal Science, Forensics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology, Physics, Advanced Chemistry, and Technology
Date of Initial Interview: 3/01/2016
Date of Report: 3/24/2016
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, Kathryn Gordon

Presenting Problem
Bruce Wayne (Batman) presented as an approximately 30- to 32-year-old man, who was referred for treatment by his former guardian and current butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred primarily had concerns related to the traumatic loss of Bruce’s parents at a young age and the obsessive and unrelenting way that he wages war on the criminals of Gotham City which has resulted in significant distress, physical harm, and in some cases death to his family, co-workers and the individuals he apprehends.

History
Bruce Wayne was born on February 19th in Gotham City. Bruce was the only child of Thomas and Martha Wayne. In addition to his medical career, Thomas and his wife, Martha, owned Wayne Enterprises and were both dedicated philanthropists. They were both heavily involved in efforts to restore Gotham City which was battling a depression, rising crime rates and corruptions, and overall despair. Overall, Bruce reported mostly positive memories regarding his childhood, during which he lived with his parents and butler at Wayne Manor. Bruce identified two traumatic childhood events that helped to shape him into who he is today. The first occurred when he was very young and playing on the grounds surrounding Wayne Manor. While playing, he fell through a hole in the ground that dropped him into a cave system that ran under Wayne Manor. Unfortunately for young Bruce, the cave system was home to hundreds of bats. He reported that this instilled in him a strong fear of bats. Subsequently, he reported seeing one uniquely large bat from the cave system multiple times following the event.

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The second traumatic event that Bruce reported occurred a while after when he fell into the cave system. Bruce, along with his parents, attended the film The Mask of Zorro. As they were leaving the theater, the Wayne family was confronted by a mugger demanding their valuables. Thomas resisted the mugger which resulted in both he and Martha being shot and killed. Bruce was left alone with the dead bodies of his parents. Bruce identified this as being the most traumatic and defining moment of his life. With the passing of Bruce’s parents, Alfred, the family butler, became his guardian and caretaker. While processing his parents’ murder, Bruce reported experiencing a great deal of distress. At the peak of this transformative process, Bruce recalled finding himself standing in front of the graves of his parents. It was then and there that he vowed to get vengeance for what happened to his parents and to keep that from happening to anyone else ever again. Bruce reported that this was the moment where, in his mind, Bruce Wayne died, and Batman was born.

Holding true to the promise he made at the graves of his parents, Bruce threw himself into his schoolwork. He was very successful and reported performing at the top of his class. After graduating high school, Bruce left the country to travel the world training under a variety of martial arts masters. He sought out the best of each discipline to train under. When he felt prepared, he returned to Gotham City to begin his crusade against the criminal underworld. Bruce started off small by simply patrolling the more dangerous areas of Gotham City on foot. His goal was singular; to learn more about the criminals that ran Gotham City. Unfortunately, one night Bruce was attacked and involved in a street brawl. As a result of the fight, he was seriously injured. Bruce was fortunate enough to make it back to Wayne Manor safely and without being identified. Bloody, broken, and seemingly defeated, Bruce recalled sitting in his father’s study. Contemplating what went wrong, he realized that criminals, although cowardly and superstitious, would never fear a common, unarmed man on the street. At that moment, the large bat he had reported seeing previously made its return. The bat smashed through the window into the study. Though nearing unconsciousness, due to blood loss — the answer was obvious to Bruce. He would become the thing he feared most, a bat.

With the help of Alfred, Bruce worked tirelessly to design a functional, yet frightening suit, weaponry, and base of operations for the Batman. Ultimately, Bruce settled on the cave system under Wayne Manor which he coined “the Batcave.” Bruce reported that he grew quickly as the Batman. As he combined experience to his years of training, he become much more effective and competent. The police force, ripe with corruption, demonized and hunted him. However, there was one officer, James Gordon, who held out against the corruption. After some time, Batman and James Gordon began what would be a long-term professional partnership. As Batman gained more notoriety, the villains he faced evolved from common criminals to supervillains. Bruce reported that some of the more fearsome foes he faced included Edward Nygma, known as The Riddler, Oswald Cobblepot, known as The Penguin, Harvey Dent, known as Two-Face, Pamela Isley, known as Poison Ivy, Dr. Jonathan Crane, known as Scarecrow, and perhaps most fearsome of all, the Joker, whose identity is yet unknown. As the criminals of Gotham City evolved, Batman knew he had to as well.

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To ramp up his war on crime, Batman decided to take a sidekick. Dick Grayson, known at the time as Robin, joined Batman. For quite some time, the two worked well together in what was a major change in the way Batman, who was used to operating alone, battled crime. However, as the criminals became more dangerous, Bruce decided he did not want to place Robin in more danger than was necessary. As such, Batman started to keep Robin on the sidelines. Eventually, the two split, with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of Nightwing and leaving to operate independently of Batman. Sometime later, Batman took his second Robin, Jason Todd. Todd was a young man whose parents were killed by Two-Face. Bruce reported empathizing with Todd’s experience and wanting to help guide the young man down a path where he could channel his emotional responses for good. Despite this, Todd was much more rebellious and angry in his approach to crime fighting than Dick Grayson was before him. One night, while working solo, Jason Todd was taken, tortured, and killed by the Joker.

Bruce reported that the loss of Jason Todd hit him hard. He returned to fighting crime alone as a much darker force than he ever had been before. This new, darker, less refined Batman was noticed by a young boy named Tim Drake. Tim, an extremely bright young man, was able to work out the identity of Batman and the original Robin, Dick Grayson. He urged Dick Grayson to return to his role as Robin, as he felt that Batman needed someone to stabilize and support him again. Dick Grayson refused to return as Batman’s sidekick. However, through this pursuit, Tim Drake himself ended up becoming the third Robin. Bruce reported refusing to make the same mistake again and insisted that Tim train with the individuals from whom Bruce learned. As a result, Tim was a Robin who was much closer in ability to Batman himself.

Bruce then reported what he identified as the most challenging moment of his career, a time where he was not able to wear the cape and cowl. This period of time was the result of Batman battling and ultimately being defeated by the criminal known as Bane. Bane was able to defeat Batman, physically overpowering him and breaking his spine. While Bruce recovered, one-time villain, Azrael, took the mantel of the Bat. Azrael proved a poor Batman though, becoming so unstable that he was eventually close to executing criminals. Bruce was able to recover and defeat Azrael to reclaim the cowl.

Tim Drake moved onto a new, more independent role as Red Robin. Meanwhile, Bruce’s son, which he didn’t know he had, Damian Wayne, stepped into the role as the next Robin. Damian’s mother was Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins. As such, Damian received training from the league and was exceptionally skilled. Bruce, however, clashed with his son’s assassin training and reported trying his best to instill in him the values he had gotten from his parents. However, in an event outside of his control, Damian was killed battling an adult clone of himself known as The Heretic. Bruce reported that this event would have ended him without the support of the Bat-family and Alfred.

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Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
All diagnostic assessment information was obtained through this interview and behavioral observation (i.e., Batman comics, television shows, and movies). Based on the client’s history and presenting problems, diagnoses related to posttraumatic stress disorder, cluster B personality disorders, and cluster C personality disorders were considered. Bruce does exhibit some symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder. Specifically, he met the following criteria: 1) exposure to actual of threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence (the murder of his parents), 2) presence of intrusion symptoms associated with the traumatic event, beginning after the traumatic event(s) occurred (Bruce experiences repeated distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks, and distress at symbols of the death of his parents), and 3) marked alterations in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event, beginning or worsening after the traumatic event occurred (the war Bruce wages on Gotham could be defined as reckless or self-destructive behavior with elements of hypervigilance). Ultimately, a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder was ruled out because Bruce does not meet all of the required criteria, specifically avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event, as evidenced by his being the Batman.

A diagnosis related to cluster B personality disorders, specifically borderline personality disorder, was also considered. Bruce only meets the requirements for two of the five or more symptoms required to make the diagnosis. Bruce does experience some identity disturbance (e.g., he sometimes seems unsure of whether he is Bruce Wayne or Batman, many times moving between the two). Bruce also experiences inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger at times when dealing with criminals. Taken together though, these two symptoms do not constitute borderline personality disorder.

When fully considered, the symptoms that Bruce Wayne is presenting with are best represented by obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. He experiences 1) an excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (he often disregards relaxation and social activities to pursue his mission of justice), 2) is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (Bruce refuses to deviate from his moral compass under any circumstances), 3) is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his way of doing things (this is demonstrated both in the way he mentors his sidekicks but also in the way he serves as a tactician for the Justice League), 4) shows rigidity and stubbornness (once again, Bruce does not deviate from his moral compass and refuses to abandon his war on crime even if it means he dies in the line of duty).

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, the most fitting diagnosis for Bruce Wayne (Batman) is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials. It is worth noting that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a disorder that does have clear evidence-based treatment for it. Approaches that have been used effectively with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include cognitive therapy, which focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts related to the disorder. Following his experience of trauma due to an act of evil (i.e., witnessing the murder of his parents as a young boy), Bruce developed a strong moral code focused on helping others through his pursuit of justice and committed firmly to upholding it. While this has been of great benefit to the people of Gotham City and beyond, at times, it has come at the cost of his personal health and happiness. A therapeutic approach that prioritizes flexibility and healthy balance as goals may help Bruce to improve his mental health and experience less symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Status at Termination
Six months later, Bruce returned to our office. He reported that a lot had happened since our first appointment. During this time, Batman faced off against Joker in what Bruce reported was the hardest battle of his life. The Joker was set to release the Endgame Virus in Gotham City. During the conflict, it appeared that both Batman and the Joker had died. Ultimately, Bruce ended up surviving, but lost all of his memories. The loss of his parents, his training, and his time as Batman, everything that made Bruce the Batman, was gone. Bruce reported that he started living a normal life, getting more involved in Wayne Enterprises, and even meeting someone to whom he got engaged. Bruce was seemingly happy and healthy. However, after some time, it all fell apart. Even without conscious access to his memory, Bruce knew he was supposed to be doing and giving more. His engagement ended and he withdrew from his more active role in Wayne Enterprises. He demanded to a heartbroken Alfred to be taken to his cave, of which he had no memory of. Even though he did not necessarily want to, he decided to be the Batman again.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

The symptoms that Bruce Wayne experiences related to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder appear to be accurately depicted. Beyond that, Batman serves as an example of someone who takes what is an extremely traumatic event and uses it to find meaning and purpose in life. He uses the death of his parents as a drive to make positive changes in the world around him as both Bruce Wayne (e.g., pursuing philanthropic efforts such as an orphanage funded by the Wayne Foundation) and Batman (e.g., by keeping criminals off the street to prevent other children from experiencing what he did.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

We find the portrayal of mental illness most broadly seen across mediums portraying Batman to be compassionate. Although authors do not typically set out to depict Batman as experiencing mental illness, it is clear that he has experienced severe trauma that influences him throughout his life. Beyond that, many of Batman’s greatest villains experience mental illness more explicitly. Particularly, in the seminal Batman: The Animated Series, these individuals are portrayed very compassionately, with Batman often empathizing with their experiences and seeking to rehabilitate them.

Overall rating: From a rating from Superman (e.g., the worst ever) to Batman (e.g., the best ever) we rate the overall depiction of Batman as… Batman (sorry Superman fans!). For the reasons above, we believe that Batman’s universe serves as an accurate and compassionate depiction of mental illness. Even as a fictional character, Batman has served as a real-life inspiration for others who are also pressed to overcome insurmountable challenges and odds (e.g., such as depicted in the documentary Legends of the Knight) or want to make a difference for those in need (e.g., organizations such as the real life Wayne Foundation).

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**Disclaimer**

Bruce Wayne, the Batman, made his debut in Detective Comics #27 on May 19, 1939. Over the last 75-plus years, Batman has been portrayed in comics, novelizations, video games, television shows, and movies by a variety of different actors, authors and directors across multiple timelines in the DC Comics Multiverse. As such, this evaluation focused on the most well-known canonical story as presented by Bruce Wayne during the timeline in the current Batman series by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo (which we recommend!)