Tips with creating characters with mental disorders

Hey everyone! I want to ask you fellow writers some tips regarding my novel. (This isn’t a CoG or Hosted Game WIP btw) So in my novel the two protagonists were taken at a young age (probably 10-12 years old) by a criminal organization and was trained to become a ruthless hitman. Now when they turned 17 they were released from the criminal organization and trying to live a normal life by attending college. What would be the suitable mental illness for them, individuals who were raised to become a merciless killer. Is it possible for them to integrate into society quickly? Or they would have a hard time blending in with the campus due to their past.


Possible to integrate quickly? Probably not, it would be a lengthy process, depending on what their experiences were. It would likely also require some type of treatment like counselling. Most people would notice something off about them if they interacted as well. Though if they engaged with the world enough during their time as a killer they may have practice hiding that side of themselves.

As far as specific mental disorders, it again depends. PTSD is a relatively common disorder used in fiction since it can manifest in different ways. Various sleep, and emotional disorders are good options as well. Such as insomnia and depersonalisation. There would likely be some behavioural component such as increased aggression.

Hyperawareness, and/or paranoia might be appropriate depending on the events in the story. Substance abuse and addiction if you want to go down that road.


PTSD is also an option. As Jay stated, it’ll definitely be a longer integration process. The majority of their developmental years were spent in a secret government agency where they learned to kill. Their social skills will be severely underdeveloped and they’ll struggle immensely to integrate into regular society.

This isn’t really about the mental health side of things, but here’s some plot-building questions to think about:

  1. Why would the criminal organisation freely release them? If these kids were working as hitmen they probably know some pretty incriminating information. If for some reason the criminals think they’re no use any more, why not just kill them to eliminate the possibility of exposure?

  2. College application requires educational records as well as information about family and finances. What kind of education, if any, did they get? Do they have a completely falsified background or are they using their real identities?


I’m not sure they’d necessarily have mental “illnesses”. That might well depend more on the brutality of their “training” (PTSD) and how they now view what was once “normal” (“guilt”).

However, after 6 or 7 of their formative years spent in such an environment they would find it very difficult to adjust to a life outside of that environment. Especially so if their training-life was regimented/institutionalized.

It might also be the case that the “campus” finds it more challenging to accept them than the other way around (again, depending on the exact nature of their training and resulting personalities).

Maybe try researching the experiences of long term prisoners who have been released. Many of them experience issues with reintegration.

You might also find some very applicable stuff on the experiences of child-soldiers … If you can stomach researching it.

Well from what you’ve said the children would have developed atypically and likely wouldn’t have socially bonded with others. That coupled with being desensitized to violence and trained to engage in violence then it’s likely that these children would display some anti-social traits. Their ability to feel affective empathy would be compromised.

As to what illnesses they’d have well that’d depend on a tonne of other factors, their genetic make-up for example.

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Those who work as hitmen for the Mafia were still able to function normally in social situations, some of then even have loving families. I doubt that my characters wouldn’t find fitting in very difficult.

  1. It’s like a deal they made, kinda like what happened with John Wick which enabled him to pursue a normal life.

  2. Thank you for specifying fake identities, I’ll certainly include it in my story. As for educational background they were like homeschooled so they wouldnt have trouble fitting in a classroom setting.

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Working for the mafia as an adult versus being “kidnapped” by the government and forced to become killing machines as a pre-teen are two drastically different scenarios. Anyone who doesn’t spend their formative years with the normal social development that teenagers go through is going to behave way differently in social situations than we’d normally expect. Besides, while the mafia is known for having a huge focus on family, their behavior is far from idyllic. Just because they have loving families on the surface doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious relationship/family issues.