Holden depression (A complete guide)

In this article post, we will be discussing, “ Holden Depression”, the clinical features and symptoms of depression, a brief biography of Holden, causes of depression in Holden and some of the frequently asked questions related to the topic.

Holden was suffering and diagnosed with Depression

  • The death of his brother and one of his classmate
  • Fantasize the idea of death
  • Rumination about death and suicide
  • Emotional instability
  • Expulsion from Pencey Prep
  • Constant battle between having to be innocent and mature
  • Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Unaddressed death feeling aftermath his brother’s death
  • Nuances of depression

William Holden

Holden Caulfield was a teenager from New York, the second child of Mr and Mrs Caulfield. He shares about his parents having a different religion thus his siblings being a sort of atheist. For him, much of his childhood was described as lousy.

He grew up in California where he attended Pasadena College and acted as a local radio player and got involved with Pasadena Playhouse. His talent was discovered by the Paramount Pictures and was given wide recognition and glamorous with the surname “ Holden”. 

Owing to his good looks and a muscular feature, he was assigned the lead role in the boxing melodrama, Golden boy in the year 1939. Since the role was found and perceived as a major challenge for a young actor like him, he took help and assistance from a costar, Barbara Stanwyck. 

Years after his appearance in much of the Hollywood movies and film, he was disillusioned by Hollywood and started to appear in a limited quality film. He spent much of his energy, time and days supporting the conservation effort in Africa. 

Some of his roles that stand out and were widely known as, “ The Wild Bunch”, “Network” and etc. 

The classic novel, “ Catcher in the Rye” was written by J D Salinger and was widely recognized as an influential piece of literature work. It features Holden Caulfield and his days before entering the mental institution and was diagnosed with mental illnesses. It also shares about the days of Salinger where he had a hard time coping with and connecting with others. 

Holden Depression

Episodes from Holden’s own life made him vulnerable to depression and was subsequently depressed. Some major traumatic events from his life made him low, depressed and to deal with certain mental illnesses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorders. His current issues and past traumas had made his journey worse and tough.

Death of his brother and one college friend

In the novel, Holden shares about the two subsequent deaths he had to deal with. This had been really challenging for him to cope up. Initially, his brother passed away from Leukemia which impacted him emotionally. 

This incident had been traumatic for him while the death of his previous school mate after that made the matter worse, He classmate committed suicide. Both the deaths result in heavy emotion and Holden had a bad time coping up with both.

Alie, his younger brother’s death was turbulent for him. Hr was only 13 at that time and his reaction to the loss as an elder brother was severe. After this traumatic event, his parents told him that they wanted him to psychoanalyzed to understand his underlying thought processes but was refused by the end. Because of this refusal and decision against it, Holden was never able to process and understand the deep down negative feeling since his brother’s death.

This also results in Holden to think about his brother very frequently and feel lonely.

Solo ride in New york city

It was in New York, he was severely disturbed by thoughts of loneliness and isolation. Three days of a solo stint in NewYork city made him experience deep isolation, There were times he just shouts and vents out his brother’s name to escape from the extreme feeling of distress and to make him feel less alone. 

This was a clear indication that his discontent and an extreme feeling of loneliness is not attributable simply to the typical experience of a teen rather it is believed to be something more severe and profound: unaddressed grief feeling towards the death of his brother.

Fantasize the idea of death 

The fact that Holden wasn’t able to accept the loss of his brother and move on, the thought of it lingers around him and this inspires more death feeling and thoughts about suicide. The more he thinks about the grief feeling and death, it tends to prime more troubling thoughts resulting in Holden to make more disturbing remarks. 

Unlike the feeling of distress and negativity present in normal and typical teenagers, he tends to fantasize about suicide and death. This was a clear sign that he was fixated on the idea of death and felt that this would be the ultimate solution to all kinds of problems he faced.

Dissatisfaction with his own life

Despite the fact that Holden belongs to a wealthy family with a loving sister, he confessed that he was upset about his life. There isn’t a shortage of opportunities for him however, he shared that he was disappointed with his own life.

Persistent rumination and thoughts about death

The novel also shares how often Holden thinks about death and suicide. As the novel, progress his confession about dissatisfaction with life and the depth of discontent he had with his life was more apparent. 

He had a persistent rumination over death and suicide that shows how was dealing with deep negative thoughts and was having severe dissatisfaction with himself and his life. 

He was a cynical teenager

Since his teen days, he was skeptical and a little cynical. He has a bitter outlook towards life and tells people no matter how wealthy and fortunate life you are gifted with, one tends to suffer from severe mental illnesses. 

He shares unhappiness comes from a complicated network of complexity and nuances.

Even in the novel, he made it evident for the readers that he was a cynical teenager with the first phrase that goes, “ if you really want to hear about it”, it shows its sarcastic attitude. 

Inability to avoid his emotions

His novel deals with the mental breakdown and his failure to deal with the deep emotions of sadness and loneliness. His novel deals with the array of emotions and events that made him feel worse and depressed. 

He also shares how hard it had been for him to cope up with the feelings of isolation, struggles of building new friends and relationships. Holden had a severely bad and difficult time to cope with the untreated grief as well as depression.

Holden had to cope up with his impulsive acts, erratic and upsetting thoughts and irrationality. 

Expulsion from Pencey Prep

Holden Caulfield was kicked out from Pencey Prep and he felt that his decision wasn’t guided by any of his known adults. Since he was scared and reluctant to share his decision with his parents, he avoids going home thus, spends much of his time loitering around bars, pending spree tie with women and lavishly spends his money, 

He was reckless with the freedom and privilege he was offered with. 

Post-traumatic stress 

Although Holden has no direct experience with war, he had experience with war from the past which is indicative enough of Post Traumatic Stress that he is dealing with. 

He shared the early draft of The Catcher in the Rye when serving as a soldier during the World War period. 

The constant battle between innocence and having to prove innocence

Holden was having a hard time to prove that was innocent to the public as well as to prove others that he often acts like an adult. The struggle was challenging for him since he failed in having to prove either of them. The depressive symptoms in him started exhibiting when he failed and started to set in.

Because of these reasons, Holden had a hard time battling with depression. The interplay of both past traumatic events of his childhood and the issues at the present resulted in depression. Holden had a battle with depression, anxiety and PTSD.

FAQs: Holden depression

Does Holden have depression?

Yes, Holden was also diagnosed with PTSD and he exhibited symptoms of it with an excessive amount of guilt. He struggled with remembering information and details of his event all his life. His emotion was often imbalanced.

Why was Holden depressed?

Both his past traumatic events as well as the current issues led him to depression. He often shares about the two consecutive losses that he had to deal with. The first was his brother’s death from Leukaemia and the second was the suicide attempt of one of his classmate. Both these traumatic events impacted him emotionally and took a toll on his psychological as well as mental health. 

What mental disorder does Holden have?

Holden had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. This was all a result of some severe traumatic events from his life and failing to deal with these.

How many times does Holden say he’s depressed?

In the catcher in the Rye, he mentioned that he was depressed or depressing 41 times.

Why did Holden not attend Allie’s funeral?

Holden missed the funeral of Allie because he was in the hospital for psychiatric evaluation.


In this article post, we have discussed, “ Holden Depression”, the clinical features and symptoms of depression, a brief biography of Holden, causes of depression in Holden and some of the frequently asked questions related to the topic.

PTSD and Disconnection in Canon Literature: Catcher in the Rye’s Antihero Holden Caulfield



Jaffee, R. D. (2010). Holden Caulfield: Depressed, Psychotic and All. huffpost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/holden-caulfield-depresse_b_522499

Salinger, J. D. (n.d.). The catcher in the Rye. Lit Chart. https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-catcher-in-the-rye/themes/madness-depression-suicide

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