Does Wolverine have PTSD?

Cover of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Singl...

Cover via Amazon

Just a passing thought– I saw the Wolverine movie and noticed that he seems to have flashbacks of his lost love. I haven’t followed the whole Wolverine saga, so will have to get caught up– I’ve always liked Hugh Jackman’s acting. But he is a pretty jumpy kind of guy, definitely has experienced a lot of violence, has nightmares, and so on. But the language in the DSM includes stuff about extreme horror, helplessness, etc. and it’s certainly not the case that he experiences helplessness. And the question is kind of open as to how traumatic getting stabbed, shot, etc. may be if  you know you’re going to  heal more or less instantly. My thought is that at the intellectual level he knows he’s going to heal, but at an instinctive level, the body is going OW bigtime. And even if he’s gotten used to it over th e course of his mutant existence, there had to be some times early on when it was extremely surprising, at least. He’s a pretty resilient guy, for sure, but he has a lot of mental health issues from all that violence, and it seems that new stuff triggers old stuff.

I had some of the same thoughts about Harry Potter as I read that saga and saw the movies. It seemed to me that as things went on he got pretty jumpy, edgy, had a lot of problems with his relationships, arguably had a foreshortened view of the future, intrusive memories, etc. and also had the whole being in Voldemort’s mind problem. I’m actually in favor of these kinds of portrayals. One of the descriptions of post traumatic stress disorder is that it’s “a normal reaction to an abnormal experience.” And one of the realities is that we have many people among us who have PTSD and are living their lives  as best they can. They didn’t all face combat overseas, either. there are a lot of crime victims, accident survivors, witnesses to a wide variety of traumatic events, and they have to go to work, to school, to the store, stand in line at the DMV, or whatever it is while working on their recovery from the trauma. It’s estimated that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD is 6.8% (, so that means a lot of people out there.  There’s one estimate that only about a quarter of the people with the diagnosis are getting treatment ( at a given time. This is in line with other statistics that suggest that most people with a mental health diagnosis don’t get help.


Not everyone who experiences trauma gets PTSD. We are a pretty resilient species. Also, people can have what’s called an acute stress reaction, which happens right after, or shortly after a traumatic event. some people– a lot of people, I hope– get enough support from family, friends, co-workers, comrades that they don’t necessarily come down with PTSD. But it’s a problem that can be dealt with. If you have problems with nightmares, intrusive memories, feeling either too anxious or too numb, and if you have experienced one big traumatic event or a series of traumatic events (like an abusive childhood or an abusive relationship as an adult), you might want to find out more. The list of criteria for a PTSD diagnosis is longer than that, but I would suggest it’s better to check it out and find out that you don’t have PTSD than to try to live with it without treatment.


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, mental health, Recovery, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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