Disclaimer: This is all my opinion.
Sometimes it takes one to know one. I used to think that Doug's anxieties and problems were typical of a boy his age. But as an adult, I see so easily now that things run a lot deeper than that. Myself being a victim of manic depression and mild anxiety, I see that Doug suffers from many of the same symptoms but worse. Far worse, actually. I don't let my anxieties run my life. In fact, you wouldn't even know I had manic depression if I hadn't just told you. But Doug, however, almost had a nervous breakdown in each episode, often making a mountain out of a molehill.
I can't help but see the parallels between myself and Doug. Like me, Doug has a crazy imagination. Like me, Doug is a gifted writer. Like me, Doug is musically talented. (He plays the banjo, I play drums). We both have our loyal pets – Doug has his dog Porkchop, while I have a pet turtle. (I always wondered why they named that poor dog after food?!?!?)
Doug is also eager to please others, often looking for their approval and acceptance. I am still this way to a moderate degree, but it was worse when I was little. But even then, I didn't let it control my actions, and I didn't go out of my way for closure. But that's what Doug does each time. He feels that his very existence depends on the acceptance of others.
If Doug gets the vibe that you don't like him or are upset with him, he will get anxious about it and then go out of his way to change your mind about him. People's perceptions of you shouldn't matter that much.
As an adult, is Doug going to feel threatened by everyone who gives him a mean look, or doesn't behave the way he expects them to? And will he not be able to function until he gets closure from them? Because that's exactly how he is right now.
Relationship With Roger
Doug has an unhealthy mind, unhealthy enough to where his bully Roger Klotz is a real, real antagonist. Doug hates Roger to the point where he is the villain in most of his fantasy segments and comic books. Doug is one of Roger's favorite victims, sure. But that is because Roger can see how much his antics bother Doug. After all, bullies like reactions.
But Roger respects Doug as a friend – he trusted Doug to look after his cat Stinky when he left town, he “tattled” to Mr. Bone when Doug was about to get his ass whooped by Percy Femur, and the two had several heart to heart conversations, the most memorable one being in the graduation episode when both were afraid of their uncertain futures. He even threw Doug a surprise party once. Roger does not hate Doug. In fact, occasionally his actions have shown that he actually cares for Doug. I think he just gets a kick out of messing with him for his own amusement.
Remember also that Roger has his OWN personal problems, stemming from being abandoned by his father and living in a trailer with his mom. Roger is an unhappy and lonely individual, and entertains himself by bullying his peers.
Relationship With Patti
Doug, on the other hand, takes Roger's antics personally. Doug is an 11 year-old kid. Roger pulls humiliating pranks, but causes no real harm or threatens Doug's life in any way. Doug can barely handle Roger, which leads me to believe that real life will really kick his ass later.
How will Doug react if a boss fires him from a job? How will he react if a girl he likes rejects him? Will he imagine these people as evil super-villains out to get him? Will he get anxiety around them and have night terrors and horrible daydreams about them? He probably will!! And this will affect him in every possible aspect of his life.
Roger is not the only person taking center stage in Doug's mind. Doug is in love with Mayonnaise. Patti Mayonnaise. Doug goes overboard trying to impress her and this sometimes backfires. What Doug doesn't realize is that Patti likes him just as much. Look at the picture above. Patti has hearts floating around and is giving him true eyes of wonderment. This is not part of Doug's fantasy sequences. This was an actual real life scene, just after Doug psyched out Roger. (Doug To The Rescue, Season 1 episode 7B)
Unfortunately, Doug is not an observant and self-confident individual, so this information misses him completely.
In different episodes, Patti asks Doug out on a date, reveals that she likes him “best of all” out of all of her friends, defends him from Roger, and is his biggest supporter and admirer. Doug unfortunately is too self-observed with getting HER approval, so he's oblivious to Patti's obvious affection. Sighs. If Doug could overcome his self-doubts and anxieties, all he'd have to do is tell Patti how he feels, and Patti would happily be with him and they'd both be happy.
I get the feeling that in a few years when puberty kicks in and Patti drops hints to Doug about exploring their relationship sexually, her hints will go completely over his head and Patti will wind up being with someone else, then Doug will get jealous of that guy. Patti will get fed up with Doug's insecurities, and Doug will doubt himself even more, which will hurt his future romantic relationships. This is a theory and opinion, yes. But I just don't see it going any other way.
Doug's Manic Creativity
Manic Depression means you have cycles of mania, which is when your confidence and creativity soars like an eagle, but you also have cycles when you're super unhappy without reason. Have you noticed that Doug is generally either really creative and energetic OR really frustrated? He's either one or the other. That's how manic depression works. You're either on top of the world, or feel crushed by the world. There's not a real in-between, and the people who suffer from it are generally highly creative when they're feeling manic.
Sweaty, STANKY Anxiety
Doug's insecurity is noticeably higher than most. When Skeeter's two year-old brother Dale calls Doug “big nose,” Doug gets butthurt about it and is severely hurt by the words of a TWO YEAR-OLD. He let an infant's words control how he felt about himself. For the rest of the episode, Doug was sensitive about his nose, all because a baby told him it was big.
Doug often imagines the absolute worst-case scenario in almost every situation. On his way to the Honker-Burger in the first episode, he suddenly imagines not fitting in and the entire city (including the mayor) calling him a loser. Why the hell would he feel this would happen? It doesn't make any sense, but that's how people with anxiety and/or depression typically think.
Doug also assumed that Judy's performance at his school would be horrible and humiliating, but his peers absolutely loved it. Again, predicting the worst.
This can make for a humorous cartoon at times though, like when he broke Mr. Dink's grill and imagined him turning into a nasty werewolf. But unfortunately this is a sign of true anxiety.
Like other people suffering from anxiety, Doug is a "mind reader." He assumes that people people may not like him or something he's done, even if there's no evidence of this.
An example of this is in the episode when Doug was caught drawing a (terrible) portrait of his teacher, Ms. Wingo. Doug assumed she'd despise him for it, but she loved it and added it to her book of pictures drawn by past students.
Unhealthy Escapes From Reality
Doug does not appear depressed, but he often escapes from the real world, which is what depressed people do.
While he feels that he doesn't quite belong in the real world, Doug often imagines that he is a super-hero in his fantasies. In this world, he does nothing but good and comes to everyone's rescue. He is needed and admired. He is special and charismatic. He gets the approval he so desperately craves in real life. And, the horrible villains in his fantasies are the very same people who cause him minor problems in real life.
Everyone needs to escape to get away from your worries and woes. Everyone escapes in their own way, but the way things are so heightened in Doug's fantasies is not normal in my opinion. In reality, Roger Klotz is a lonely teenager who bullies his friends to feel self-worth. He is not out to kill Doug or destroy him. But in Doug's imagination that's what Roger is often portrayed as.
What Doug Does Right
For starters, he keeps a journal. That's something else I have in common with Doug. Journal-writing keeps your writing skills sharp, and helps you to honestly evaluate everything going on around you.
Doug is also vocal about his problems. Instead of bottling things up like a future serial killer, he doesn't mind venting. Generally, he confides in his father, The Dinks, his best friend Skeeter and sometimes Patti. Occasionally, he'll even go to his flamboyant sister Judy for advice. When his journal went missing, he opened up to Ms. Wingo, who understood his plight, but informed him that a lot of great authors had their journals published to give insight into their genius.
Talking out your problems is healthy and helps you to process things. You'll often discover that sometimes things may not be as bad as you think.
Doug is not a bad person and has a moral code, like the time he returned the money that he found. He often finds the courage to do the right thing when he messes up, like returning the stolen comic book he bought, not cheating to sell Mr. Swirley's chocolate, trying to retrieve Patti's "wacky whizzer," and confessing to breaking Mr. Dink's grill. All of these were things he was not forced or required to do, but he has a great conscience and felt a breather after confessing.
He goes out of his way to help others. such as acting as “Hamburger Boy” for Mr. Dink. He even felt bad about knocking out fellow student Larry. Most boys his age would feel great after knocking someone out, but not Doug. He didn't like to fight.
If Doug did not let his anxieties get in the way, he would be Patti's boyfriend. He would be more popular. He would not be targeted by Roger or even faculty bullies like Mr. Bone so much, if at all. Overall, he would get more respect from people.
I look at Doug now and realize that if I gave in to the negative thoughts plaguing my mind, I could have been just as vulnerable and unhappy, and my life would be totally different right now.
For me, it comes down to this.
If I didn't expect people to like me, they wouldn't. The day I met my wife, I approached her confidently and expected her to fall in love with me, and she did. When I write an article, I expect people to enjoy it. And they do. I expect people to read this blog, and sure enough, you're reading it right now.
Doug (and other sufferers of anxiety) always predict the opposite, expecting things to fail. They often speak these failures into existence or avoid taking risks altogether and wind up with regrets. We never got to see Doug grow up, but I can't help but free afraid for his future if he didn't get help.