Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 3

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse.

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in-depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

So, last time, we talked about exposure to the trauma and the first three patterns of intrusive thought patterns. Let’s pick up where we left off last time with the last symptoms of intrusive thoughts.

B. Presence of one (or more) of intrusive thought patterns related to the trauma starting after the event:

4. Intense or prolonged mental distress at anything that resembles part of the traumatic event

5. Noticeable physiological reactions to something resembling part of the trauma

Honestly, I’m kind of glad I stopped where I did last time for this. Looking at these two symptoms together, we can see them manifest in Yang together in one very noticeable way that pervades mostly through Volume 5, but also in Volume 6.

The subtle hand shaking.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang in her V5-6 attire off to the right and taking up most of that part. She’s gripping her shaking left hand with her right, looking upset. A water bottle sits off to the left more in the foreground.]

[Image source]

[Image description: V5 C4 “Lighting the Fire”: Yang’s fighting the Branwen bandits when her hands shake, reminding her of the night that Adam took her arm. She’s holding her left arm with her right, eyes closed.]

[Image source]

Image description: Scene from V6 C11 “The Lady in the Shoe”: Adam taunting and trying to purposely trigger her. She stands off to the right of the frame, a back shot with her left hand and the fully extended Ember Celica. Adam stands in the background, just slightly left of the center in the background. He has his hands on Wilt and Blush, ready to draw them.]

Obviously, these aren’t all of the examples of her handshaking, but it gives enough of a good picture to draw on. The reason she’s shaking is that, even though she’s somewhat better, PTSD isn’t something that just goes away. She still has issues to sort through, ones that cause her severe emotional distress due to how she’s reminded of the night of the Fall.

I am going to make a bit of a digression here, but there are a few more things I’d like to analyze especially in regards to triggers.

The scene with Adam is horrible and speaks to his character. This isn’t an in-depth analysis of it, but this scene does speak to how quickly he can think on his feet at times even if it’s obvious. He did say he’d destroy everything Blake loved and so he goes straight for the jugular with her. It’s a devious move to gain any advantage he can get. He can tell she’s mentally weakened by what happened, and so he goes to purposely trigger her to elicit the reaction he wants.

The following scene also does bring up a good point about PTSD and mental illness in general.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang and Blake in the frame, Yang to the left, Blake to the right. It’s focused on just their hands. Blake has hers over Yang’s which is a balled fist. The Ember Celica is fully extended.]

Sometimes just being there for somebody is one of the best things you can do for somebody with a mental illness. Yang is obviously triggered by what Adam is saying, so Blake steps in to support her and help disrupt those thought patterns which are being intrusive.

If you know a person well enough or they ask you, if they’re triggered, sometimes helping redirect the intrusive thought patterns can be a very welcome thing. I know when my depressive episodes get triggered by whatever, I definitely appreciate it when my friends help distract me. This is a highly individual thing, though. Each person is unique in their reactions and perceptions. It’s something that needs to be discussed with the person beforehand or permission given at the moment to do so.  

Getting back to the actual symptom listing, there is something I’d like to touch on specific to B4 as shown in the DC comics from Issue 3, “Rebuilding.”

[Image descriptions: Three panels from the DC Comics.

The first one has a back shot of Yang holding “The Man With Two Souls.” However, only the text “The Man” on the first line and “Two Soul” on the second line is visible.

The second one shows Blake handing Yang the Book. Blake’s fingers don’t cover the text “With” on the first line and “l s” on the second line.

The third shows Yang throwing the book with a “FLING” sound effect. The bottom of her right arm is still covered in bandages. Text box says “Just sad.”]

This is another pretty good example of a trigger in action, but in a different way.

In this case, the trigger isn’t about her arm or the Fall of Beacon, but the much more subtle abandonment issues Yang has. Blake leaving exacerbated the issues that had popped up long ago from learning about Raven. Here, seeing the book, a physical manifestation of Blake, causes those issues to surface.

I’m not sure if this ties in with the PTSD or not, but the little detail of Yang only seeing the part of the title where Blake’s hand was is a nice one. It might be a metaphor for how she can only see a small part of the situation rather than the whole thing.

I dunno.

It’s just a neat little detail regardless.

The glass incident “Of Runaways and Stowaways” can also count under both of these. It can count as another very good example of both B4 and B5.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang in the kitchen, leaning up against the counter. She’s off-center to the left and in a small perspective. She has a panicked look and is gripping the counter. A shattered glass sits on the floor slightly off-center and more in the foreground.]

For these two, the sound triggers the sound of Adam drawing his sword as is seen in the momentary flash immediately following the scene. Fairly simple and straightforward, but still a very good example of these particular symptoms.

[Image descriptions:

Top image: The bottom part of Adam’s symbol from the back of his shirt glows red against a black background. A white slash is at the bottom.

Bottom image: Adam stands in the center of the frame in the ruined Beacon cafeteria. He has Wilt’s crimson blade drawn, ready to attack. Blake lays on the ground behind him, barely visible and looking toward the camera.]

Next time, we’ll head into Set C which covers the topic of avoidance and possibly Set D which deal with alterations in mood and perception of the world.


Ciccarelli, S. K., & Noland, J. (2014). Psychology : DSM 5. Pearson.

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