Dennis Reynolds' mental illness is frequently hinted at and discussed over the course of the series.
It's unclear what is wrong with Dennis. Popular fan theories have labeled him a sufferer of antisocial and/or narcissistic personality disorder. On the show, he has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, although this does not rule out potentially comorbid disorders. Regardless of diagnosis, Dennis is not a well man, and this is shown time and time again on the show.
Symptoms of his mental illness include:
- an extremely grandiose view of himself and his accomplishments
- desire to be 100% perfect and faultless
- crippling insecurity and dependence on other people’s opinions on him
- extreme sensitivity to rejection and/or perceived abandonment
- persistent inner emptiness
- frequent bouts of intense rage and other negative emotional outbursts (e.g. crying publicly), that get more frequent and severe as the series progresses.
- complete lack of self awareness or understanding of decency
- preoccupation with sexual and physical violence
- alcohol, tobacco, and crack addiction
- hallucination in response to stress
- impulsive actions that cause harm to himself or others
- a reliance on codependent relationships to meet his emotional needs
- extreme superficiality
- manipulation for personal gain
- the desire to control everyone and everything in his life
Dennis routinely mentions sadistic acts, out of the ordinary emotional experiences, and grandiose claims about himself without any awareness that others might be disturbed by them:
- Dennis vandalized Art Sloan's house, urinated in his bar, and set his yard on fire. ("The Gang Reignites the Rivalry")
- Dennis often identifies himself as god-like, his appearance created by the gods, a "golden god" or as God himself.
- While attempting to recreate a scenario to prove Mac is a serial killer, Dennis disguises himself as a painter to stalk and murder the Coffee Shop Waitress as she leaves work. When preparing to execute his murder, he was reminded by Dee that they really weren't going to kill the woman. Dennis, upon realizing Dee was correct, expressed his disappointment about having to scare her rather than actually kill her.
- He offered to "frame bang" the Lawyer's wife in her sleep, and was surprised when the Lawyer referred to it as rape. He acts if he doesn't know what he's doing and when the lawyer asks him not to rape his wife, Dennis tries to act as if his intentions were pure but then cuts himself off saying "Fine, I won't do it". ("Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens")
- Dennis has absolutely no qualms about manipulating women into sleeping with him by, among other things, calling them in a threatening voice, slashing their tires, and forging prescriptions for his (non-existent) grandmother. Then he "separates entirely" and moves on to his next conquest, not caring one bit about the fear, distress and heartbreak he has caused. ("The D.E.N.N.I.S. System")
- Mac is disturbed when Dennis tells him that a good reason for them to have a boat is so they can get women out in international waters, where they will not refuse their sexual advances "because of the implication." He falsely assures Mac that he's not actually going to rape any women, it's just that the women will feel like they should give them what they want, "because of the implication". ("The Gang Buys a Boat")
- He is disturbed by Mac's weight gain (as seen in Season 7), so he takes it upon himself to give Mac diet pills (which he describes as "Mexican ephedra") while telling him that they are "size pills." Mac's weight loss causes him great personal anguish, but Dennis doesn't care, because he has concluded that Mac must lose weight. ("The Gang Gets Analyzed")
- After getting married to Maureen Ponderosa, he starts "having feelings again, like some kind of 14 year old kid". He is also confused by the idea that Mac has feelings all the time. ("Mac Fights Gay Marriage")
- When visiting Dr. Jinx with Mac and Charlie, Dennis asks if the doctor has any sort of solution to cause him to have feelings again. ("Charlie's Mom Has Cancer")
- At the Gang's high school reunion, Dennis in a fit of rage, claiming those who have crossed him will pay "the ultimate price", goes opens a secret compartment in his car's trunk to gather his "tools," which include zip ties, duct tape, a flashlight, a video camera, and various other instruments to subdue and restrain people. Though he claimed the items were for sexual bondage, the others identify him as a replacement for their unstable friend "Psycho Pete."
- While walking with Charlie in the woods, Dennis refers to himself as a "pretty methodical person". Charlie responds with "Oh yeah, like a serial killer", which Dennis takes as a compliment. ("The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods")
- In season 8, he "gets off" on "the thrill of wearing another man's skin" by pretending to be Brian LeFevre.
- In "The Gang Saves the Day", Dennis's fantasy involves suffocating Jackie Denardo with a pillow.
- In "Gun Fever Too: Still Hot", Gunther denies Dee and Dennis a gun after finding that Dee was institutionalized for lighting a girl on fire, and that Dennis has a record of sexual misconduct. In reply, Dennis tells Gunther he just made his "list."
- In "The Gang Squashes Their Beefs", Dennis proposes an idea that the people they have wronged sign a peace treaty. When Frank asks why he always wants people to sign "Creepy documents" Dennis responds "Well Frank, once something's in writing that means it's set in stone. Then no one can do anything to stop me." Later in the episode Dennis locks all the gang's guests in the apartment after it has caught fire, by drilling the door shut.
- Dennis is a generally cold hearted and cruel person and he bangs the waitress knowing Charlie is in love with her (and Dennis doesn't even like her) and having no sympathy for Charlie after how hurt and angry he was.
- Dennis lacks remorse and very rarely shows any sort of empathy.
- In "Psycho Pete Returns", Dennis tells Dee he is going to skin her and turn her skin into a lampshade or fashion her into a piece of high end luggage. He then goes on saying he could even add her onto his collection. When Dee asks him if he really has a collection of skin luggage, he replies "Of course not Dee, don't be ridiculous. Think of the smell. YOU HAVEN'T THOUGHT OF THE SMELL YOU BITCH!". He then goes on saying if she says another word, he'll cut her up into pieces and put those pieces into a glass box that he will display on his mantle. He later says he had a "rational conversation with a reasonable man" and is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Dennis is generally very manipulative (The Dennis System) and arrogant.
- In "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis", After finding the family in the house, Dennis talks about a graphic twisted scenario they can do with the family but says they should just leave because it's the easiest.
- In "How Mac got Fat", Mac tells the priest that Dennis always tells him "Don't let words like "no" stop you from getting what you want."
- In "Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo" Dennis is molding his own vision of love in the form of a woman's head in a freezer “This is a woman’s head in a freezer, and it’s supposed to represent the preservation of love forever and ever!”
- In "Charlie Catches a Leprechaun", Dennis orders a pair of girls that they have picked up (well, more like kidnapped) in the "Paddy Wagon" to "smile" for his website, despite the fact that they are terrified and crying. He tells them that it's "not supposed to be scary", even as their terror grows. When they tell him that they do not want to be on his "weird website", he tells them "If you don't comply with me, you're going to end up on the weird one." They let the girls out, but Dennis blames them for "not experiencing our business properly", implying that he thinks that what happened is their fault.
- In "Wolf Cola: A Public Relations Nightmare," during an appearance on a morning news program to defend Wolf Cola, a dog who's in the studio to do another segment gets away from its handler and goes up to Dennis, who is very obviously angered and agitated by the experience. He talks about how much he hates dogs, and suggests that owning them as pets makes no more sense than eating them. The host is horrified by his reaction, and it turns public opinion, which they had swayed in their favour, away from Wolf Cola.
- He frequently shows that he has unreasonable expectations of women and how the "ideal" woman should appear. In "The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty Mcgoo" he becomes disgusted with a model for being "hugely fat" despite her being quite slim by all appearances.
Dennis’ eating disorder has also become more apparent as the series has progressed. First appearing in “The Gang Exploits A Miracle” where he fasts for three days under the impression that his face ‘looks fat’, it has slowly grown to him being on a strict diet as he claims to be ‘allergic’ to dairy, sugar, and gluten [ “The Gang Chokes“ ]. It is also evident that he has begun losing a lot of weight since season 8, and as of season 14 he looks very pale and malnourished, becomes tired easily, and on one occasion requires Mac to carry him home due to feeling ‘wobbly’.
It is not clear what specific eating disorder that Dennis has, as on multiple occasions he is seen stress eating [ in a way that could also be seen as ‘binge eating’ ], usually when under stress. The first example of this was in “The Nightman Cometh” where he claims: “I’m eating because I’m very uncomfortable”. He is also seen eating a large breakfast [ something he claims to no longer do on ‘odd days’ ] during “The Gang Group Dates”, presumably under the stress of reviving such a low rating which clearly affected his self confidence. In “Mac Day” he is seen eating chips after getting high, which he self justifies by saying “Carbs wise this is gonna set me back but... I don’t even give a shit“. The most recent example of his stress eating is in “Dee Day”, where he reveals that he had eaten cheese before his performance as ‘Crazy Paddy’ because he was nervous.
Despite his stress eating, in “Frank’s Pretty Woman” it’s shown that he is very malnourished, as his blood work states that he has ‘severe dehydration, multiple vitamin deficiencies, anemia, and low blood pressure’, all of which are side affects of restrictive eating disorders.
His abusive and possibly rapist behaviour [ although NOT excusable ] are possibly caused by something called the ’Cycle of Abuse’. This means that one who has BEEN abused, is more likely to become an abuser themselves, as it can cause the victim to learn a warped version of consent and how it’s appropriate to treat others. As we already know, Dennis was raped at fourteen years old by his high school librarian ‘Ms Klinsky’, essentially making him a victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse. [ This was also at the same age that he claims to have last experienced ‘feelings’ and begun growing a shell around himself ] The cycle of abuse in this case means that his treatment of women is his way of ‘feeling in control’ and not vulnerable. The way that he will have been groomed is also very similar to how ’the D.E.N.N.I.S system‘ works, in which he grooms the women into falling in love with him. This may also be why he goes after much younger women than himself, claiming cougars [ older women going after younger men ] to scare him. ‘The Implication’ works in a very similar way, in which the child being groomed is taken somewhere alone, so they cannot possibly refuse. [ You know, he looks around, and what does he see? Nothing but rows of books. "Ah, there's nowhere for me to run. What am I gonna do, say no?" ]. It is very common in the real world for victims of abuse to become abusers themselves.
Suicidal ideation Edit
In the episode Paddy's Has a Jumper Dennis leads a debate on what they should do about ‘Brian O’Bryan’ (The jumper on the roof). During which - thanks to an investigation of the man’s social media, they deduct many things about the man, which are scarily similar to Dennis in his actions and issues.
- “Or is he [ eating food ]? Is that what he wants you to believe? - “All right, I don’t eat lunch anymore, for instance. Yeah, and on odd day’s, I don’t eat breakfast” Frank's Pretty Woman
- “Now, clock the amount of baseball caps, a bit juvenile look for a man his age...” - Seen wearing a baseball cap in The Gang Gets New Wheels + PTSDee
- “He’s still hanging on to his youth-” - “No, I am going to look 20 forever“ Frank's Pretty Woman
- “-That suggests to me that maybe he’s got some daddy issues-” - “Because I don’t want my kid to grow up like I did. With some asshole dad who was never even around” Dennis' Double Life
- ”Abandonment [ issues ]-“ - Exhibits going to uncharacteristically extreme lengths to keep someone near Mac and Dennis Break Up + The Gang Broke Dee
- “Abuse [ issues ]” - ”You can’t rape... I was... I was willing.” Dee Made a Smut Film
- “Looks like he just got back from a cruise, alone,” - “Anyway, I’m back,” The Gang Makes Paddy's Great Again
- “the girlfriend, she probably broke up with him because of all his father issues, and cause he’s an alcoholic” - “Yeah, you can’t just go become a dad, Dennis” Dennis' Double Life + “I’m certainly not gonna stop drinking“ The Gang Gets Quarantined + “Let’s just get drunk. Let’s not talk about trauma. Yeah, come on.” PTSDee
Dennis also says that he believes that everybody would benefit with Brian killing himself, as the bar would become a ‘suicide bar’. He may also be under the impression that killing himself would be nothing but beneficial, as everybody [ besides from Mac ] has not shown to ever care about him [ “Sis. I love you“ “Whatever.” The Gang Goes to Hell: Part Two, Frank forgets who he is [ “Demarcus?” Charlie's Mom Has Cancer ]. Mac is the only person in his life to show genuine compassion towards him, no matter how often he uses it to his advantage. [ Mac was also the only one in the gang to dislike the algorithm and science, believing that Brian should not kill himself because it’s a sin ] All of this, plus knowing what the gang did upon realising Dee was possibly suicidal [ The Gang Broke Dee ] he may feel very strongly in that they would not try to stop him, nor would they falter without his presence in the group, as is evident in The Gang Makes Paddy's Great Again where they were able to easily and happily replace him, and were actually doing better. The only one that struggled was Mac, although he showed no outward distress.
All of this is very similar to something described as a ‘subtle cry for help’. A method of reaching out for mental support without explicitly stating one needs help, due to stigma or an unsafe environment. The way in which he phrases the algorithm “Could he, Would he, Should we?” is a similar way in which people decide whether to stage an intervention “Could he commit suicide, Would he commit suicide, Should we intervene?”. But the way he says that the gang should “Take emotion out of it” is another thing similar in the mind of mentally ill people. They understand that friends would be initially upset about a suicide, but when taking emotion out, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. This is what Dennis could be trying to say, he knows that they [ mostly Mac ] would be upset initially, but he thinks they would be okay and would even benefit; he thinks that they should think scientifically and mathematically about the fact that everything would be better with him gone permanently.
Of course we could say that the similarities between Dennis and Brian O’Bryan are a mere strange coincidence, but it’s known that Dennis is a very mentally ill man, and has been slowly deteriorating throughout the show:
- As of season 10, he begins losing a lot of weight. If you look at him shirtless in The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6 and The Gang Solves Global Warming he has very clearly changed dramatically, almost worryingly. Throughout season 14 he also looks very sickly and pale, has increased his restrictive eating [ not allowing sugar, gluten, or carbs. possibly in conjunction with skipping lunch and on odd days skipping breakfast ], and has become more dazed / confused / unsteady. Dee Day shows the scary extent of this, in which he looks dangerously ill without his makeup, he is also very subdued without it and later claims he only looked the way he did due to lacking sleep, showing it’s a strong insecurity of his.
- His behaviour towards women get’s significantly more extreme, as shown in multiple episodes where he is shown to be more violent [ both psychologically and physically ], his methods of obtaining women become further morally unacceptable, his libido strengthens further The Gang Escapes
- Expanding on the previous point, in season 14 his desire for women becomes almost non existent. In The Gang Gets Romantic he tires of the plan easily, only makes a single attempt to bang the woman, and eventually shifts the focus to Mac instead. He also is not mentioned to have seduced or slept with a woman at all, not even when surrounded by a large crowd of near naked young women The Gang Solves Global Warming. The single time he expresses any sexual interest of any type is in The Gang Gets Romantic and A Woman's Right to Chop when he claims he finds the tears of the two women to be ‘arousing’.
- His bouts of anger seem to be less frequent. Although this could be due to taking the ‘borderline personality disorder’ medication he was prescribed in Psycho Pete Returns. It could also be a sign of a lowering mood / depression / emotional numbness.
In conjunction with the meta in Paddy's Has a Jumper, the episode originally intended to be afterwards Waiting for Big Mo is very similar in below surface level meanings. Although it’s clear that it’s the writers talking about how they wish to do the show for fun without expecting awards etc. Upon closer inspection it’s also very clearly the thought process between ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ of life. Larry Takashi [ the owner of Lazer Tag Fun Zone ] had been a rich and successful man, but was very unhappy and eventually took his life. Dennis discusses this in the episode, eventually coming to the conclusion that life is about happiness, and is not worth it if one isn’t happy. The description of the episode says “Dennis begins to ponder the reasons they play laser tag and if their pursuit of a victory is worth their effort“ and at one point said that Dennis was having a crisis in terms of this issue.
It’s painfully obvious that Dennis is actually talking about the meaning of life, and whether life is worth living if one isn’t happy. He / Larry has material things [ home, money, friends etc ] but they’re still unhappy. Dennis is clearly continuing to subtly voice his suicidal thoughts, coming to the conclusion that if he isn’t happy, then he should end his life.
|—||“I'm not going to take no for an answer because I just refuse to do that, because I'm a winner and winners... we don't listen to words like 'no' or 'don't' or 'stop!' Those words are just not in our vocabulary.”|
|“Oh, uh, OK. You had me going there for the first part. The second half kind of threw me.”||—|
|“OK. That seems really dark.”||—|
|—||“Nah, it's not dark. You're misunderstanding, bro.”|
|“I think I am.”||—|
|—||“Yeah, you are. Because if the girl said no, the answer, obviously, is no. But the thing is she's not gonna say no. She would never say no. Because of the implication.”|
|—||“I could be a man with a fistful of hammers, a trunk full of duct tape and zip ties.”|
|“This is ridiculous. What are we doing here?”||—|
|“We're turning to the big man upstairs. He's gonna make this right.”||—|
|“I can't believe you think this is a real solution to our problem. Dennis, what do you think of all this?”||—|
|—||“Sh. Amen. I'm just trying to embrace this. I want to see if I can knock some emotion loose.”|
|“I don't know.”||—|
|—||“I want you guys to get off with me.”|