I’m not going to beat around the bush here: whether the writers, directors, and story artists intended to or not, they gave Elsa a lot of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. And to be fair, it absolutely fits. When Elsa was eight she almost accidentally killed her sister, was told that her powers could put her in danger, and spent her childhood and adolescent years shut away and told she HAD to control her powers and couldn’t let anyone know and basically have the message “you are dangerous” drilled into her head. That’s not good for anyone’s mental health, but Elsa took it too hard because when she became queen, she started showing all the classic symptoms of PTSD.
Let’s refer to The Mayo Clinic:
While we don’t go into Elsa’s mind all the time, there is a key moment when Anna approaches Elsa in the Ice Palace and says they can be together, but Elsa vividly remembers the incident, which results in her getting agitated. Check.
Elsa never faces her problems or her fears. She is always avoiding Anna (the main source of her trauma) and running away whenever things get difficult. Check.
NEGATIVE CHANGES IN THINKING AND MOOD
It’s pretty obvious she thinks negatively about herself. She can feel positive emotions but they don’t last long. She tends to feel pretty hopeless about her situation. She almost certainly has difficulty maintaining her relationship with Anna until the end. Check.
CHANGES IN EMOTIONAL REACTIONS
While I don’t think she’s aggressive she is pretty irritable. She is almost always on guard and feels like the worst is going to happen. She has overwhelming guilt and shame over the incident. She doesn’t drink or drive too fast (this is a Disney film) but she doesn’t exactly make the right choices. And oh lord, she is absolutely easily startled and frightened. Check.
So wow. You got a character displaying a lot of PTSD symptoms. That definitely explains her behaviour throughout the film, and why she’s so quick to accept love as the solution in the hopes that it will make everything all better.
Now I’m not saying Elsa is special because she displays PTSD symptoms because she is definitely not the first (Sgt. Calhoun from Wreck-It Ralph is the first blatant example of a character with PTSD, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other Disney characters might have it given all the peril they go through). What makes Elsa stand out to ME is that she’s clearly not getting the help she needs. What’s especially egregious is Frozen Fever: instead of showing Elsa taking things slow, talking to Anna about what happened and how they can work together to overcome it, or even getting a doctor or nurse’s help, Elsa is shown frantically doing everything she can to give Anna a perfect birthday, even when she’s sick, once again avoiding the problem in an attempt to make up for her guilt and try to repress the trauma. It does end on a hopeful note with Anna saying that she’ll take care of Elsa, but I wish there was something that resolved the first movie (ie Elsa apologizing and learning better solutions to when she gets scared).
Since Disney is planning on milking this franchise until its udders turn black, I REALLY hope they address Elsa’s mental health problems and resolve them in a way other than just “oh yeah love will thaw!”. It’s honestly the least Disney can do.