First and foremost, I am not by any means a professional (I think that's a given though) this is simply my sort of speculation and opinion as to what she'd be diagnosed with based on what knowledge I have of psychology. A lot of the following quotes and information will be pulled from my abnormal psyc textbook and will be cited in MLA format (because I'm a dork like that and I'm used to it).
There are actually a few disorders I could see her having some less so than others. But above all I would diagnose her with schizophrenia...above all the paranoid type. "People with paranoid type of schizophrenia have an organized system of delusions and auditory hallucinations that may guild their lives" (Comer's Abnormal Psychology). This statement holds very true for Azula. The girl had displayed a vast variety of delusions among them that her servant was trying to choke her to death with a cherry pit, she was going to be assassinated, the Dai Lee would attempt to over-throw her, and that her dad sent Lo and Li to yell at her (despite the fact that he was miles away in an air balloon). She also had very vivid auditory and visual hallucinations of her mother. And they became more constant as the Search played on. Such hallucinations and delusions very much guided her life. From the very beginning of the Search it became apparent that her life aim was to destroy her mother due in part to her delusion that her long-missing mother was trying to ruin her life. These delusions and hallucinations had sent her with Zuko and Aang's posse on a wild adventure. Her life consumed by the task of trying to find her mom to end the madness.
So exactly what types of delusions did Azula display? Upon observing her character I noted that she displayed 3 of the 5 types; delusions of persecution, delusions of control, and delusions of grandeur. "Delusions of persecution are the most common in schizophrenia. People with such delusions believe that they are being plotted or discriminated against, spied on, slandered, threatened, attacked, or deliberately victimized" (Comer 429). This, I believe is the most obvious in Azula. In regards to being plotted against she firmly believed that someone was plotting to assassinate her. In an Avatar book told from each character's perspective, Azula claimed that she thought it was Zuko trying to kill her with the cherry pit as the servant 'wasn't smart enough to think of it on her own.' She also believe that the Dai Lee were plotting to over throw her as they did with Long Feng...plotting to betray her just like Mai and Ty-Lee did. She also believed that she was being slandered--this portrayed when Lo and Li displayed concern for her. She instantly assumed that her father didn't think she could handle the job...there for slandering her good name. Of course the thought that she was being attacked and threatened was portrayed throughout her whole break.
"People with delusions of control believe their feelings, thoughts, and actions are being controlled by other people" (Comer). Azula very much pinpointed a lot of her issues on her mother. She in the Search begged Zuko to let her kill her mom so "you can be free of a throne you never wanted and I can be free of this incessant nagging in my head." She believed that her mother was in control of her mental state. But more over she believed that Ursa was controlling everyone around her. She thought that Ursa told Mai and Ty-Lee to betray her (asking Ty-Lee how her mother managed to get to her). She asked Zuko "is she whispering in your ear right now telling you to throw me over the cliff." She was seen stating that Ozai 'overcame her control just long enough to tell me about these (the letters)'. And those are just a few of many examples of Azula believing that her mother was controlling her actions and everyone else's.
Last but not least in light of delusions; According to Comer, "people who experience delusions of grandeur believe themselves to be great inventors, religious saviors, or other specially empowered persons." Azula's background certainly plays a hand in this one. She's a princess and has very well done some astonishing things. This gave her a heightened sense of self-importance. Even after her fall she remains completely convinced that she is still above everyone...she simply has to reclaim what is hers.
Azula also shows signs of what is called the 'inappropriate affect'. By definition, this is when the person "displays emotions that are unsuited to the situation." This could (not necessarily) explain her enjoyment when hearing that Ozai was to kill Zuko (smiling at bad news). Or the fact that she was smiling as Zuko was facing her father in the agni kai.
Furthermore she even has the type of history that would create for this disorder. Pulling this directly from an earlier comment I made on this spot; In my psychology class in pretty much every topic we covered (in light of severe disorders) parenting was always a factor…particularly with schizophrenia. In way of schizophrenia much research has been done particularly on the patient’s relationship with his…or in this case…her relationship with her mother. To take directly from my textbook “Years later, noted psychodynamic clinician Frieda Fromm-Reichmann elaborated on Freud’s notion that cold or unnurturing parents may set schizophrenia in motion. She described the mothers of people who develop this disorder as cold, domineering, and uninterested in their children’s needs. According to Fromm-Reichmann, these mothers may appear to be self-sacrificing but are actually using their children to meet their own needs.” This, I believe applies to Azula in many ways. First and for most both of her parents were rather cold and unnurturing, Ozai particularly. I think that Ursa was rather cold in her treatment of Azula—whether it was on purpose or not as well. Ozai was definitely cold and domineering. Neither seemed all that interested in Azula’s needs (nor for Zuko’s needs for that matter). In fact Ozai was all about dominance. I do believe that Azula was afraid of him. I think she had this undisplayed fear that if she stepped out of line she'd end up with a scar mirroring Zuko's. Going back to that book written from each character's perspectives; Azula says (after Ozai yells at her for arguing that she should go with him on the day of the comet) she never fought with Ozai before and that she was in fact afraid of the above mentioned. She questioned what he would do to her. The next part (of Frieda's theroy) applies more to Ozai—it always seemed like he cared for Azula, but at the end of the day she was a pawn…a means to achieve his world domination. His human weapon. And this, can no doubt mess a person up. Arguably, the same could be said for Ursa, she only seemed to show interest in Azula when she wanted information…particularly in The Search.
Another thing I'd like to note is Freud's theory; "Freud believed that schizophrenia develops from two psychological processes: (1) regression to a pre-ego stage and (2) efforts to reestablish ego control." He goes on to say that the harder the person tries to regain self-control, the further they fall as they become very confused and frightened. This was most evident in the Search. Azula recognizes that there is something not quite right with her. She tries to reassemble the fragmented pieces of her mind, but this really only seems to make the issue more intense.
On the other hand, one major thing that makes me doubt the diagnosis though is the age onset. Typically
this disorder shows up when the person is around their late teens and mid-30's. However there are some exceptions to the rule, and stress is another factor. "Sometimes this phase is triggered by stress or trauma in the person's life" (Comer). While not quite fitting in with the age onset, Azula had recently lost her two friends, her father's respect, and had just revived a very important and stressful job. All this pressure may have been the trigger. Adding onto it the fact that she saw her brother get half his face burned off and the fact that she felt unloved by her mother.
As a side note "A fuller recovery form schizophrenia is more likely in persons who functioned quite well before the disorder whose initial disorder is triggered by stress" states Comer. So Azula's odds at recovery are pretty good if given the help she needs. As she functioned more than well prior to her collapse. And her collapse was probably triggered by stress. So there's a bit of positive thinking there.
This disorder can also tie into something like Paranoid Personality disorder (defined by Comer as) "people with this disorder deeply distrust other people and are suspicious of their motives. Because they believe everyone intends them harm, they shun close relationships. Their trust in their own ideas and abilities can be excessive."
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Another diagnosis that I would place on her is Antisocial Personality Disorder. Comer describes this disorder as "Sometimes described as psychopaths or sociopaths, people with antisocial personality disorder persistently disregard and violate others' rights [...] some displayed patterns of misbehavior before they were 15, including truancy, running away, cruelty to animals or people, and destroying property."
Azula very much does seem to disregard and violate others' rights. This was seen when she tries to get Ty-Lee to join her team. She has the girl's safety net set ablaze and dangerous animals let loose. She constantly goes at Zuko and Iroh as well as team avatar and she does so without remorse. Banishing her servants, Lo, and Li displayed a clear violation of rights. I won't neglect to mention that she threatened to throw the ship captain overboard.
She had also displayed a small degree of cruelty towards animals when she tossed whole loaves of bread at turtle-ducks and waved fire at Appa.
She was also seen destroying Chan's entire house after he pissed her off.
Comer also notes that people with this disorder "lie repeatedly." Azula does lie and manipulate quite a bit. Though I give leeway in the fact that some of it is done with purpose and not for the sake of lying.
"Recklessness is another common trait: people with antisocial personality disorder have little regard for their own safety or for the safety of others, even children" (Comer, page 486). Also displayed more so in the Search, Azula does begin to develop this sort of disregard for her own safety. When she felt as though she didn't need team Avatar she proceeded to jump off Appa whilst he was still dangerously high above ground. She yelled at the Mother of Faces (this portrayed a disinterest in both her own safety and the safety of others) and so on. She also was reckless in attacking Ursa...completely forgetting that a child was in the room still.
And finally "They are self-centered as well and are likely to have trouble maintaining close relationships. Usually they develop a knack for gaining personal profit at the expense of other people. Because the pain or damage they cause seldom concerns them, clinicians commonly say that they lack a moral conscience. They think their victims as weak and deserving of the treatment." This is a very accurate picture of Azula. She does often think of herself. And she has loads of trouble maintain friendships. I do have an explanation for taht, but I won't get into it here...if you are interested I typed it all out here; link
Azula does seem to use other people to further her own position. And she very rarely cares who it hurts--they are simply collateral damage. However (as I do love Azula so so much) I will note that she does seem to have the ability to regret as she does apologize to Ty-Lee on the Beach for offending her. And she did show signs of caring for Zuko, she just doesn't know how to do it.
Finally Azula does seem to view her victims as weak and deserving of whatever she had bestowed upon them.
Like Schizophrenia, this disorder has an assumed cause; "Many behavioral theorists have suggested that antisocial symptoms may be learned through modeling, or imitation. Others have suggested that some parents regularly reward a child's aggressive behavior" says Comer. *CoughOzaiCough*. Azula very much models her behavior after Ozai. She looked up to the man and often displays similar viewpoints to his own. Ozai is also seen agreeing with her aggressive behavior, smiling at it, and nodding in approval.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder & OCD
Two other disorders that I could see her having, but at a lesser level are Narcissistic Personality Disorder & OCD.
"People with narcissistic personality disorder are generally grandiose, need much admiration, and feel no empathy with others. Convinced of their own great success, power, or beauty they expect constant attention and admiration from those around them" states Comer.
While Azula doesn't seem to seek attention she does display that lack of empathy and is very convinced of both her own success and power...she didn't really speak of her own beauty one way or another. The reason I wouldn't place this diagnosis on her as quickly as the other two is because she is in fact missing two of the key components.
Last but not least, Comer explains that "people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are so preoccupied with order, perfection, and control that they lose all flexibility, openness, and efficiency. Their concern for doing everything right impairs their productivity."
Azula clearly displays a need for perfection, order, and control. In fact she is rather obsessed with all three. In one of her first scenes she gets really angry upon finding a single hair out of place muttering that "almost isn't good enough." She seems to seek order in all areas of her life and wishes to maintain it. Lastly Azula is very much all about control (in other people and all situations) to a point where she does indeed lose flexibility and openness. I however, like narcissism, rule it out because she is missing two big factors; the fact that she is actually still very efficient and productive and the fact that she doesn't display the tell-tale routines/rituals (such as washing her hands repeatedly, picking up an item and putting it down again than repeating so twice over, and or carrying out a certain series of actions again and again). She also doesn't really present that fear that if she doesn't carry out a certain ritual something bad will happen.
Long story short I think Azula displays signs of various disorders. However I think most suiting for her are schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder. That said I love Azula very much and I do believe that she is capable of love and moral thinking. I also note that there is certainly more to Azula than her apparent disorder(s).