Diagnosing TWILIGHT: A Therapist’s Assessment of Bella, Edward, and Jacob4 min read

By Jonathan Decker, Clinical Director, LMFT

Having received a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology and a master's in marriage and family therapy, I received excellent training to spend my days helping persons struggling with mental illness. As you can imagine, the stresses of cognitive and personality disorders often put serious strain on relationships. Although reviewing movies is merely a hobby of mine, sometimes my two worlds bleed together. In other words, I can't help but diagnose as I watch.

It's no secret that the love triangle of Bella, Edward, and Jacob is fraught with dysfunction. What has yet to be considered, as far as I've seen, is the possibility that all of their “drama” might be the result of undiagnosed mental problems. In providing diagnoses for these fictional characters, I mean no disrespect to the real-life persons who struggle with these, and other, mental health issues. They are persons of worth and complexity whose unique personalities cannot be defined by a simple diagnosis. They deserve respect and compassion, not judgment. The “Twilight Trio,” on the other hand, are fair game.

Note: When I mention a “provisional” diagnoses, I mean that there's not enough evidence to support a full-blown diagnosis of the disorder, but enough of the traits are present that the I would want to keep an eye out for the other symptoms. All diagnoses are from the DSM-IV-TR (the clinician's guide to mental disorders).


Primary Diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder

– Frantic attempts to avoid real and imagined abandonment.

– A pattern of intense and unstable interpersonal relationships characterized by alternately idealizing and devaluing attachment figures.

– Recurrent suicidal behavior

– Emotional instability (i.e. intense mood swings)

– Chronic feelings of emptiness

– Impulsivity.
– Stress-related paranoia.

Secondary Diagnosis: Dependent Personality Disorder
Provisional Diagnosis: Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified


Primary Diagnosis: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (not to be confused with OCD).

Preoccupation with mental and interpersonal control.

– Prone to become upset or angry in situations in which they are not able to maintain control of their physical or interpersonal environment. This anger is often expressed passively and indirectly, or by over-reacting to minor inconveniences.

– Especially attentive to their relative status in dominant/submissive relationships.

– Express affection in a highly controlled or stilted fashion.

– Their everyday relationships have a formal and serious quality, and they may be stiff in situations in which others would smile and be happy.

– They carefully hold themselves back until they are sure that whatever they say will be perfect.

– Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)

– Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value (ouch; sorry Bella).

– Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.

Shows significant rigidity and stubbornness.

Secondary Diagnosis: Insomnia.

Provisional Diagnosis: Voyeurism.


Primary Diagnosis: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

– Requires excessive admiration

– Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

– Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
– People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody's life or to anyone they meet.
– Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
– Is preoccupied with fantasies of…ideal love.
– Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
– Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Provisional Diagnoses: Exhibitionism, Pedophilia.

So what are my therapeutic recommendations? Edward and Bella need couples' counseling to overcome her fear of abandonment and his need to control. Jacob needs prison. Plain and simple.

Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality. 

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