Hot Topics Psychology

What’s Wrong in Westeros? Diagnosing Game of Thrones

Written by Catherine Hales for Doctify

Please, come in. Maester Qyburn will see you now. We warn you, spoilers lie ahead so read on at your own peril.

A theme of the series, as any fans will know, is beloved and (not so beloved) characters meeting an untimely end. We can’t provide medical help or advice for those whose skulls have been crushed by giants or for people just being polite and trying to ‘Hold the door’ (too soon?). But we do have a few ideas on how to treat a few of their many illnesses.

So, in honour of the first episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones airing Monday 17 July, we have decided to diagnose a some of our favourite characters.

Ser Jorah Mormont

game of thrones
Photograph: HBO

Ser Jorah Mormont. Whether you think he’s scarily obsessed with Daenerys or you think he’s a good guy just trying to do what’s right, most of us felt a pang when we saw he had contracted greyscale. Greyscale is transferred by touch and produces a scaly rash that eventually proves fatal. The condition is, of course, fictional but it shares a few properties with two common skin conditions that affect real people.

  • Impetigo: much like greyscale, this skin infection is highly contagious. But don’t panic, if you have impetigo it generally clears up in a week with treatment and a few weeks without. It is most common in children but can be contracted at all ages and is usually caused when the skin becomes infected with bacteria. This either happens when healthy skin is broken from a cut or some other abrasion or when skin is already broken from a previous condition like eczema. It can be treated with antibiotics in tablet or cream form.
  • Psoriasis: this condition is most similar to greyscale in its appearance. It presents with flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales but is not contagious. Psoriasis can appear on any part of the body and affects 2% of the population. It is chronic and its severity fluctuates depending on a variety of factors including stress and exposure to the sun. The scaly nature of psoriasis comes from the skin over-producing cells and is thought to be linked to the immune system. There is no cure but topical treatments such as vitamin D analogues or topical corticosteroids can help in some cases, as can UV light therapy.

Daenerys Targaryen

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Photograph: HBO

As has been demonstrated in pretty much every season of GoT, the Mother of Dragons is fireproof. After all, one of her (many) names is The Unburnt. Everyone else on the other hand… Although we don’t have dragons in our world, the risk of getting burnt is still a real one. So, we’ve decided to go through what to do when you suffer from a burn – it is barbecue season, after all.

Burn Protocol

  • There is a difference between burning and scalding. Burns come from dry heat like a flame whereas something like hot water would scald you.
  • What to do when you get burnt or scalded:
    1. Get the person away from the source of the burn, i.e. the bonfire or the dragon.
    2. Cool it down. Use cool or lukewarm water to soothe the burn BUT do not use ice or cold water.
    3. Remove items of clothing or jewellery surrounding the burn. Don’t try to take off anything stuck to it.
    4. Keep the person warm. You can do this with a blanket. Avoid touching the burn.
    5. Make sure the burn is covered using cling film.
    6. Painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can ease the pain.
    7. When the burn is on the face or the eyes, keep upright. This will reduce swelling.
  • You should go to hospital if:
    • the burns are very deep or cover a large area
    • the burns or electrical or chemical
    • if blisters appear immediately
    • the skin is white or charred

Cersei Lannister

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Photograph: HBO

Cersei Lannister has been through a lot. When she was a young girl, a witch warned her that she would lose all her children and, at the end of Season 6, this prophecy came true when her son Tommen died. However, despite her many trials, Cersei’s calculating, scheming and, sometimes, downright evil, actions have continued to shock viewers. This final loss seems to have driven her over the edge, destroying the last of her humanity and empathy. But would she be diagnosed as a bona fide psychopath?

How to spot a psychopath

  • Psychopathy, also known as severe antisocial personality disorder, is defined by the NHS as: ‘characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour.’
  • Symptoms:
    • exploiting, manipulating or violating other people
    • behaving irresponsibly and showing disregard for ‘normal’ social behaviour
    • not being good at keeping up long-term relationships
    • not showing concern, regret or remorse when other people are upset
    • lacking guilt
    • uncontrollable anger
    • breaking the law over and over
    • not taking responsibility for their actions
  • It is a mental health issue and should not be treated lightly or dismissed
  • More men than women suffer from anitsocial personality disorder
  • It can be triggered by childhood trauma or result from genetics
  • Criminality and addiction are often common character traits (Cersei does like her wine)
  • It is a difficult condition to treat and family and friends play a key role.

Judging by the criteria above, Cersei seems to qualify due to the trauma she has suffered and her past actions. And with a distinct lack of loved ones around to support her, Season 7 looks set to be no better for the current occupant of the Iron Throne…

Jon Snow

game of thrones
Photo: HBO

He may know nothing but he’s come back from the dead at least once so something’s clearly working. Jon Snow has spent the majority of GoT either pacing the Wall or travelling north of its confines. This means we have almost exclusively seen him with a light dusting of snow covering his shoulders and long, lustrous hair. Although he didn’t seem to suffer as much as a sniffle throughout all his adventures, the risks of spending time in such a cold climate are serious and can result in a severe case of hypothermia. So, below is a brief summary of the condition for the benefit of the whole of Westeros – after all, winter is coming.


  • Causes:
    • not wearing enough layers in cold weather
    • falling into cold water and getting cold in wet clothes
    • living in a cold house
    • getting very tired and cold
  • Symptoms:
    • shivering
    • cold and pale skin
    • slurred speech
    • fast breathing
    • tiredness
    • confusion
  • This is mild hypothermia, the kind that could have happened on the Wall. Body temp is usually  between 32C and 35C.
  • If body temperature drops to 32C or lower, as it could North of the Wall, sufferers stop shivering and can pass out.
  • How to treat hypothermia:
    • Move the person indoors
    • Take off any wet clothing and get them dry.
    • Use blankets to wrap them up.
    • Give them a warm drink if they can swallow.
    • Food containing sugar like chocolate is helpful but, again, only if they can swallow.
    • If they can’t be moved, put a blanket under them to protect from the cold ground
    • If you know how to administer CPR and the person stops breathing, you should administer it. You must keep going until an ambulance or medical professional arrives.
  • DO NOT:
    • Put them in a hot bath
    • Give them any form of massage
    • Put them under a heating lamp
    • Let them drink alcohol

Season 7 of Game of Thrones airs Monday 17 July on HBO