From Our 2007 Archives

Darth Vader's Psyche: What Went Wrong?

Anakin Skywalker, Who Became Darth Vader, Had Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychiatrists Say

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 21, 2007 -- Anakin Skywalker, the Star Wars character who became Darth Vader, had borderline personality disorder, psychiatrists report.

The news comes not from a galaxy far, far away, but from San Diego, where the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is holding its 160th annual meeting.

Today, experts from the psychiatric department at France's University Hospital of Toulouse told the APA's annual meetingthat Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could "clearly" be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness marked by instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior, according to background information on the web site of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The French psychiatrists -- who included Laurent Schmitt, MD -- based their diagnosis on original Star Wars film scripts.

Skywalker Psyche

Schmitt's team describes Skywalker's symptoms, including problems with controlling anger and impulsivity, temporary stress-related paranoia, "frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (when trying to save his wife at all costs), and a pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships," including his relationships with his Jedi masters.

Changing his name and turning into "Darth Vader" is a red flag of Skywalker's disturbed identity, note Schmitt and colleagues.

The researchers aren't suggesting that real people with borderline personality disorder are Darth Vaders-in-the-making. Skywalker's symptoms are an extreme, fictional case.

Borderline personality disorder can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. But that wasn't part of Skywalker's script.

SOURCES: American Psychiatric Association's 2007 Annual Meeting, San Diego, May 19-24, 2007. National Institute of Mental Health: "Borderline Personality Disorder." News release, American Psychiatric Association.

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