Diagnosing Darth


Can you imagine being a psychiatrist and having Darth Vader on your couch? If he didn’t like your line of questioning, would he strangle you or just cut you in half with a lightsaber? There’s no denying that Anakin Skywalker had issues. And according to an upcoming article in the journal Psychiatry Research, Anakin may have been suffering from borderline personality disorder.

Eric Bui, a psychiatrist at Toulouse University Hospital in France, suggests Anakin exhibits six out of the nine borderline personality disorder criteria as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Especially in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin continually acts in impulsive ways and has difficulty controlling his anger. He goes back and forth between idealizing and rejecting his Jedi mentors. He also has abandonment issues. Though he is the one who technically abandons his mother on Tatooine, Anakin fears abandonment by Padme and betrays and abandons his Jedi “family” in an attempt to prevent her death. Researchers also point to two instances where Anakin experiences dissociative episodes trying to distance himself from stressful events: one when he massacres the Tusken Raiders after his mother’s death, and the other when he murders all of the Jedi Younglings. Finally, issues of identity seem fairly obvious. A turn to the dark side and a name change represent the ultimate sign of identity disturbance, according to the research team.

Unstable moods, relationships and behavior are all characteristics of borderline personality disorder, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (You know, NIMH.) It affects two percent of adults, and mostly young women. The Anakin researchers suggest that the success of the prequel films might partially rely upon how young people can relate to the troubled character. Skywalker’s case of borderline personality disorder has also proven useful as an example to teach psychiatry students about the condition and as a way to raise awareness.

I’m all for raising awareness, and I think it’s amazing that so much of the human condition can be found and analyzed in the Star Wars films. I’m not sure how thrilled I’d be if I had BPD and read the analysis of Anakin. I can’t imagine it eases anyone’s suffering to realize, “Oh good. I’m just like Anakin Skywalker.” Still, until one of the Jonas brothers is diagnosed, it will have to do.

You can read more about the BPD and the Anakin Skywalker diagnosis here and here.