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Antisocial Personality Disorder of the Main Character of J.Sheridan Le Fanu's 'Carmilla'

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When it comes to mental health, a lot more people suffer from different mental illnesses than one would typically assume. It is said that around 1 in 4 people in the world are affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives. In the case of the story, ‘Carmilla’ by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, the main character Carmilla appears to be part of this statistic. Based on her actions and behavior throughout the entire story, Carmilla can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

First and foremost, when comparing the actions between Carmilla and Laura, it is clear that Carmilla is suffering from a personality disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Antisocial personality disorder is a pattern of disregarding or violating the rights of others. A person with antisocial personality disorder may not conform to social norms, and may repeatedly lie or deceive others, or may act impulsively”. A person suffering from antisocial personality disorder tends to disregard or violate the rights of others because they do not understand that what they are doing is wrong. They lack emotional empathy, so to them, their actions can be justified. In ‘Carmilla’, Carmilla does not understand that some of the things she says can be harmful to others. She states, “Besides, how can you tell that your religion and mine are the same; your forms wound me, and I hate funerals. What a fuss! Why you must die-everyone must die; and all are happier when they do”. Due to the fact that Carmilla has antisocial personality disorder, she has a difficult time sympathizing with others. Her comments can be hurtful to others as death is specifically a sensitive topic for some as well as the discussion of religion, especially during this time period. Not only that, her lack of emotional empathy makes it hard for her to understand why funerals are such a big deal. Also, while most will try to avoid these topics altogether, to not anger or fight with others, Carmilla has no problem bringing up the topics because she does not connect with others on an emotional level and to her, her actions for this can be justified. These topics are avoided as it is the societal norm to do this, but a person with antisocial personality disorder typically do not conform or even believe in societal norms.

Additionally, those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder tend to have a charming demeanor about them. As stated on Mayo Clinic’s website, a symptom of someone suffering from antisocial personality disorder is ‘using charm or wit to manipulate others’. Someone who has antisocial personality disorder uses their charm to their advantage as they understand that this works for them and is usually able to get them what they desire. Typically, the core issue of someone with this disorder is manipulation and lying and the reason they are able to do this and get away with it, is because of their charm. In Carmilla, Laura states, “...the sense of attraction immensely prevailed. She interested and won me; she was so beautiful and so indescribably engaging”, and, “I told you that I was charmed with her in most particulars'. Carmilla uses her charm to win over the affection of Laura. She is also able to get away with things, such as not praying or leaving her room until the afternoon, because of her charm. Along with this, Carmilla is able to get close to Laura without ever having to share intimate details about herself. Laura explains, “She would not tell me the name of her family, nor their armorial bearings, nor the name of their estate, nor even that of the country they lived in...Once or twice, indeed, I did attack her more directly. But no matter what my tactics, utter failure was invariably the result”. Even though Laura strived to know the more personal aspects of Carmilla’s life, Carmilla was able to use her charm to get away from all of Laura’s tactics.

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Moreover, when it comes to antisocial personality disorder, many who have it will put others in danger for their own personal gain. According to Kati Morton (licensed therapist), people with antisocial personality disorder will often see relationships with others as a way to gain more and they will put someone else in danger as a way to save themselves. Many who have antisocial personality disorder have no problem putting others in danger, if they gain something from it, because they lack remorse and have a very small, if any, conscience. In ‘Carmilla’, General Spielsdorf states, “My dear child began to lose her looks and health...She was at first visited by appalling dreams; then, as she fancied, by a specter, sometimes resembling Millarca, sometimes in the shape of a beast...At a later time, she felt something like a pair of large needles pierce her, a little below the throat, with a very sharp pain. A few nights after, followed a gradual and convulsive sense of strangulation; then came unconsciousness'. Carmilla has no problem harming Bertha and Laura as she experiences no remorse after doing so. She gets close with them as an attempt to feed off them, and ultimately ends up killing Bertha. After this, with little hesitation, she moves on with Laura which sparks the theory that maybe she has done this to countless others before.

Alternatively, some might argue that Carmilla is not suffering from antisocial personality disorder due to the fact that her relationship with Laura, although not perfect, was a clear example that Carmilla bonded with Laura on an emotional level. Not only that, the author makes it appear that Carmilla really cared for Laura by including, “'I have been in love with no one, and never shall,’ she whispered, ‘unless it should be with you...I live in you; and you would die for me, I love you so'''. While Carmilla appears to be expressing her love for Laura, she is actully saying all of this for her own personal gain. She is using cognitive empathy, the understanding of the emotion someone else is feeling, to manipulate Laura into thinking she loves her. People with antisocial personality disorder will typically experience cognitive empathy which means that they understand the emotions that the other person is feeling but they do not necessarily care about these emotions. As well as that, people who have antisocial personality disorder are in fact able to be in relationships and even value these individuals dearly but this does not seem to be the case for Carmilla. While Carmilla expresses her love for Laura verbally, at the same time, she is feeding off of Laura and making her sick. She does the same thing to Bertha and kills her so it can be inferred that Carmilla was going to do the same to Laura as Laura was suffering the same symptoms Bertha had right before she passed away. The only reason Carmilla becomes close to her victims is for her own personal gain, to feed off of them.

All in all, mental illnesses are something that a lot of people deal with. Some individuals, however, suffer much more severely than others. In the case of the story ‘Carmilla’, Carmilla is of one of these individuals who are suffering more severely in their illness. Based on her actions and behavior throughout the entire story, it is clear that Carmilla can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. She often uses her charm to get what she desires whether that is winning over the affection of Laura or simply staying in her room until the afternoon. Along with this, Carmilla lacks emotional empathy and makes more risky comments because she does not care about the emotional distress she can cause to other individuals. Finally, she puts others in danger, and even kills someone, for her own personal gain. While this is not the case for everyone suffering from antisocial personality disorder, Carmilla is a clear example of someone who has the disorder and is not afraid to use it to her advantage and get what she needs.

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Antisocial Personality Disorder of the Main Character of J.Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Antisocial Personality Disorder of the Main Character of J.Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Antisocial Personality Disorder of the Main Character of J.Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
Antisocial Personality Disorder of the Main Character of J.Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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