I mentioned I was a student of psychology in another thread and someone asked me to try and determine what exactly Sarah's disability was, so I did, because it's kinda cringe-worthy for me for people to assume Sarah was acting "stupid" because "she wanted to" and hate her because of it. Just take this post as some sort of trivia or interesting tidbit to know about her, or something.
Forgive me in advance for my English, since I am not a native.
She seems to have spectrums of anxiety disorder, in particular panic disorder and separation anxiety disorder.
She possesses a number of symptons:
- How she freezes up at the sight of danger, has difficulty breathing, speaking and moving is consistent with panic disorder.
- Her freezing up due to an intense fear of the consequences of "messing up" when she has to do a simple task such as picking berries by herself.
- Her "flight or freeze" response to a traumatic events, to which she will either freeze up or develop an intense irrational desire to flee the place which the event has ocurred and get as far away from it as possible. This explains why she instantly fled from the scene and was "running through the woods like a maniac" as Luke put it after her dad died, and later on why she froze up when surrounded by walkers at the trailer park.
- How she clings to Carlos, and seems to have a small fit every time she is separated from him.
- How she's contantly paranoid about his safety and that he might not come back when he's away from her
- How she feels ill when he's not around and keeps repeating "I'm not okay" or "I don't feel well"
- How she will call for him whenever she feels scared or sad "I want my dad!"
- How she sometimes ceases to function and retreats into a corner when her dad is not around [the whole holding her legs in fetal position thing], but is able to snap out of it if there's a person she trusts near her [which is why Clem is always able to snap her out of it: she really trusts Clementine]
- An additional trivia to the two last points is that if you save her, she starts calling for Clementine when she's in danger, instead of her dad. It shows how much she appreciated and trusted Clementine, and how she was beginning to get over her father.
Both of these are treatable through therapy only [medicine is not mandatory,if they're not available], while the latter could have most certainly been entirely Carlos' fault for coddling and sheltering her too much. Excessively coddled / sheltered children and teens often develop separation anxiety. Sarah could indeed have become a functioning member of the group. Her dad was the biggest idiot in this story.
I don't believe she is intellectualy challenged , given how she has enough perception to be completely aware and upset over how her dad shelters her,how she knows whether Clementine was forced to watch her in the forest, how she realizes Luke and Jane were going to leave her to die, and how she's also sharp enough to tell whether Clementine is lying to her when being comforted. She is also not as oblivous to how the world is out there as Carlos says, since she is aware that she must start learning how to protect herself if she wants to survive and asks Clementine to help her,and that she must not tell Carlos about it. Quoting Sarah herself : "Everything is dangerous. I need to learn how to protect myself someday."
Her behaving like a 12/13 year old instead of 15 is simply the result of her father's intense sheltering ever since the apocalypse started, which would have been her age when it happened. As a result she never "grew" past that age.