Psychology of Game of Thrones – Arya

This is the second instalment in the psychology of Game of Thrones series, last week we looked Psychology of Aryaat the polarising character of Joffrey (OK, not polarising at all, let’s face it we were all on the same pole of disliking him intensely..) It is at this time I remind you of the Disclaimer to this post and to this site in general.

This week we are looking at the character of Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams).  Arya is the foil to Joffrey, she is strong willed, but always questioning her intentions and the intentions of those around her. She is self assured and willing to take action directly when needed, unlike the cowering Joffrey. The psychology of Arya is very much an analysis rooted in her family environment and the effects that current events have had on her.

If you want to read more of these analyses check out Diagnosing Westeros – The Psychology of Game of Thrones currently available on the Amazon store as an ebook.


Arya is the child of Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark (deceased) and the Lady Catelyn Tully (deceased), she is the sister of Sansa, Robb (deceased), Bran and the other one… That sure is a lot of deceased family members around her. She is also the half sister of Jon Snow, a child born out of wedlock to Ned Stark, although they have treated one another as full siblings since birth as far as we can tell.

It must be said from the outset that the Stark children are relatively well adapted to life, they are mature and confident and respectful to those around them. From what we have seen, they had the positive influence of those around them, especially their mother and father, but also others such as Maester Luwin who have helped to provide the children with a stable upbringing.

From what we saw, Arya has a relatively good relationship with her siblings especially those older than her. However she falls in an age range where she isn’t quite considered an adult, but doesn’t want to be considered a child, either.

It all seemed to be going pretty well for Arya, until her father took the role of King’s Hand to Robert Baratheon which meant a bit of travel, a bit of intrigue, a bit of backstabbing and a bit of a dead father, at the hands of Robert Baratheon’s heir, Joffrey.


Arya, unfortunately, witnessed the death of her father and was also nearby for the death of her mother and brother when they were killed at the Red Wedding. She was, at one stage, taken hostage and then witnessed the death of one of her friends at the hands of a Lannister Bannerman, Polliver, who callously murdered him. So it is obvious to say that Arya has gone through more trauma than most people her age would go through.

Following this, she has been spending time with The Hound, the former bodyguard of Joffrey. The Hound has ulterior motives in terms of trying to ‘sell’ Arya back to her family members, however it seems that he is starting to warm to her and act as her own protector and bodyguard (Chicken anyone..?).

The obvious choice of diagnosis, (as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), found here at Amazon, although not the lightest of bed time reading) for Arya would be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it involves the experiencing or witnessing of an event where an individual’s life or those of others are at threat and a series of trauma related symptoms as discussed later. PTSD does not require actual personal injury, however, as the trauma can occur vicariously, which has most certainly occurred for Arya.

Arya, exhibits symptoms of PTSD (and played exceptionally well by Williams) the distant look in her eyes at times (possible flashbacks/hallucinations or possible emotional numbing); a tendency towards extreme violence and emotional outbursts (“Something wrong with your leg, boy..?”). These outbursts are behaviours which were not there before the witnessing of the traumas, so therefore, can make up part if the diagnosis itself.

There is also evidence that she wishes to not relive similar feelings and emotions, staying The Hounds hand on occasion from killing others. There is also evidence of increased emotional arousal as noted above and also significant impairment and distress – socially we have to say at the least, however we are unsure about her relations with others due to her constant involvement with The Hound.

The trauma experienced most probably falls into the category of complex trauma, as there have been several traumas witnessed and experienced over a period of time, rather than a single event.

Differential Diagnosis

The differential which could be in place for Arya at this time is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), which has essentially has the same symptoms of PTSD, but for symptoms that have lasted for less than 1 month. It is difficult to say in terms of the Game of Thrones series as to how long has passed since the initial trauma (death of father). Given the events that have occurred, and the distance travelled (by horse), we have to assume that at least a month, but most probably more has passed since the index trauma, meaning that ASD does not fit as a diagnosis.

I am not sure whether the symptoms of PTSD were in the brief for the character of Arya, if not it is inspired acting from Williams to mimic the symptoms given the history of her character.

Final Word

So the final word on Arya is a diagnosis of PTSD due to the complex traumas which she has witnessed over the past months and has caused her to re-experience trauma and act in a manner which she did not before the trauma occurred. Treatment would follow general PTSD principles in terms of exposure therapy and a supportive environment (although who knows where this could be).

Payment – I would request payment for this service, however with The Hound hanging around we might just consider it a pro bono case..

For those who have read this far, yes, yes, I know the other brother’s name, it’s, wait, that’s not right…

Just lastly, a big thank you to Yip Lee for allowing me to use his art for this post, click through on the picture and it will take you to his profile on Deviant Art for more of his work.



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