Darth Vader Was Mentally Ill, Researchers Say

Darth Vader may have suffered from borderline personality disorder.

ByABC News
June 7, 2010, 5:46 PM

Jun. 9, 2010— -- Don't blame it on the Dark Side. Anakin Skywalker's epic transformation into the evil Darth Vader may have been a result of mental illness, according to a group of French psychiatrists and psychologists.

In a paper published in the journal Psychiatry Research, Eric Bui and his colleagues at Toulouse University Hospital have given new meaning to the term "Jedi mind tricks" with their psychoanalysis of why the tragic "Star Wars" hero fell from Jedi grace. Apparently, he had borderline personality disorder.

As he came of age, Skywalker showed problems with impulsivity, violent outburst, illusions of invincibility and crises of identity, all of which are in line with borderline personality disorder diagnosis, the researchers concluded.

The absence of a father and early separation from his mother set the stage for his later developmental issues, the authors noted, and violent, dissociative events, such as when he kills a tribe of Tuskans in blind revenge, precipitated his turn to the Dark Side.

Indeed, Skywalker exhibited six out of nine of the borderline personality disorder criteria laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), although fitting five is enough for a diagnosis.

What's more, they argued, because adolescents tend to display some traits of borderline personality disorder during their development, Skywalker's erratic behavior and struggles with identity may be behind the wild success of the sci-fi saga.

But some U.S. psychiatrists believe the researchers may have jumped the gun.

"Anakin shows borderline traits, but these do not persist into his adulthood," UCLA child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. H. Eric Bender said.

The borderline personality traits listed in the paper would have to be "enduring and maladaptive patterns" over the lifetime in order to justify a diagnosis, he added.

When Skywalker made the transformation to Darth Vader, the borderline personality traits didn't really come with him. In other words, Bender said, he was firm in his identity as a villain.