June 7th, 2010
12:56 PM ET

What is Darth Vader's diagnosis?

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

The manipulations of  Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader in the "Star Wars"  saga, have long been ascribed to the Dark Side of the Force. Now, psychiatrists suggests that the actions of the Jedi Knight could be used in teaching about a real-life mental illness.

A letter to the editor in the journal Psychiatry Research explores just what is wrong with Vader. French researchers posit that Vader exhibits six out of the nine criteria for borderline personality disorder. Unstable moods, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors are all characteristics of this condition, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. It affects 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.

The young Anakin Skywalker was separated from his mother at an early age, and his father was absent, factors that could have contributed to borderline personality disorder. His "infantile illusions of omnipotence" and "dysfunctional experiences of self and others" are also indicative of this condition from an early age.

The researchers argue that Vader experienced two "dissociative episodes," one when he exterminated the Tusken people after his mother's death, and the other when he killed all of the Jedi younglings. He often showed impulsive behavior and had difficulty controlling his anger. He also may have showcased a disturbance in identity by turning to the dark side and changing his name.

Darth Vader may thus be used to educate the public about borderline personality disorder and help combat stigma associated with mental illness.

But Emory psychiatrist Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth.com's mental health expert, has a different take. In the original three movies - which are the last three chronologically - Vader appears to be under the control of an evil emperor, making his character difficult to ascribe to a psychiatric disorder.

UPDATE: Dr. Raison would like to clarify that his comment was specific to Darth Vader and not to Anakin Skywalker. "Anakin is a much better exemplar of personality disturbance," he says. "On the other hand Darth Vader laid down his life to save his son and kill the evil emperor when all was said and done. Perhaps there is a lesson here, too, on type casting people who struggle with personality disturbances?"

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soundoff (687 Responses)
  1. PA-Pilot

    Indeed the latest fad in psychiatry is to blame anything and everything on the parents, no matter how old the patient is.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. dark lady of the sith

    so what's next? the emperor will turn out 2 b just a lonely old man, taking out his anger on the world!?

    June 7, 2010 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kay

    They are not blaming the parents, per se, but are actually blaming the consequences of his childhood. He leaves his mother very young (which would affect any child) and also does not have a proper father figure from birth. He was raised as a slave, no less, which would make anyone angry and possibly have feelings of worthlessness, which could cause all the moody/depressed emotions that Anakin exhibits.
    This was a fun article and would be great to use in teaching students.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nick

    Do not offend Lord Vader, he is not forgiving.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Roy

    You do all realize they are comparing the illness to Star Wars ??

    June 7, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jonny

    And we love the Dark Lord anyway!

    June 7, 2010 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lindsey

    Okay now that that's settled, can we cure cancer?

    June 7, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Nitrogen

    "Darth Vader may thus be used to ... help combat [the] stigma associated with mental illness."

    Um, you mean associating mentally ill people with Darth Vader will make them seem less evil? I'm confused haha.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Brian

    As Palpetine confessed to Anakin ..."the dark side of the force is a pathway that leads to many abilities,....some consider unnatural."
    If Anakin were a real man and not a character, I would have to admit that I personally feel he has a very serious personality disorder. When he turns to Vader,...he murders friends and lovers. He becomes self-absorbed and almost perishes himself.

    As for the two "dissociative episodes," when he killed in cold blood.....I would say he has very much detached himself from his actions. He knows what he does is wrong,...he even admits it several times to several people...."I shouldn't have done it,...he was a defenseless prisoner" or the bit where he states "I know I'm not the Jedi I should be." He definitely could not handle "personal" stress in his life. Like many people with personality disorders, he can aid others,...but not himself. He leaps before he considers the consequences,...often to the detriment of not just them but also himself. By the end of Revenge of the Sith,....he basically has a full psychotic break. His personality disorder is down right homicidal. He almost dies as victim of his own actions in the process. As the suited Vader, he is a mentally and morally broken man that will take decades to deal with his newly prescribed fate,....only to die soon after he realizes he has been his own worst nightmare all along. As for Palpetine, he was not a "puppet master," he may have tempted Anakin all along, but Anakin had free will and chose badly. After his near fatal injuries, the "humpty-dumpty" of the galaxy far, far away took a mighty big fall. All he had left was Palpetine to pick up the pieces, unfortunately he continues to follow his "master" more out of loyalty for saving his life than any great love of a man that helped orchestrate the galaxy's slide to the abyss.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Harsh

    Thats why I love medicine. 😀 This is the one of the best way to popularize or make people aware that People like this are out there in real world. They can be helped before they damage anyone. Every Criminals have their reasons to be criminals.

    Almost NO-ONE is criminal by Birth. Even if you were being schizophrenic or something like that it is still possible to tapered down effect from that problem. If people were properly parented or guided, and raised in proper environment, it is very unlikely to produce criminals.

    Vedar is one of the famous villain of all time. It was about time to tell the world. Yes, he was humanly jadai after all, he could have been helped. Brilliant.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. John Smith

    Are you kidding me? Whats next? Will we seek the help of Yoda to combat this Darth Vader Sydrom

    June 7, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jennifer

    At least it's not Lupus.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Pontius Pilate

    Many of the young men who were victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy have personality disorders remarkably similar to Vader. I always wondered if Yoda stood too close to Anakin just a little too often...

    June 7, 2010 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Darth Vader

    Apology accepted Dr. Raison!

    June 7, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. MLB

    This study cannot even be remotely be trusted (aside from Anakin Skywalker being a fictional character) is because the people studying the character have no clue about the character Anakin Skywalker.

    A little bit of study on the STARWARS.com website or simply watching Episode One – Phantom Menace and they would know that Anakin Skywalker has no father PERIOD. He's not made from the ovum of Shmi or a sperm of any man but he was created solely of mediclorins.

    Forpetesake if these folks could even get something that my 5 year old nieces understood the first time I wouldn't want them involved in any important mental health advances. Especially when they waste time analyzing fictitious characters.

    June 7, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LMB

      And maybe these idiots could spend some of that time actually better understanding and treating bpd!

      November 4, 2017 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  16. George


    What kind of cookies?

    June 7, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. MEEEE

    He didnt choose his name when he turned to the dark side....

    June 7, 2010 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. moderatelyneato

    It doesn 't matter what Darth Vader's diagnosis is. The shiny suit is a mirror reflecting Lucas' irreparable self loathing and control freakdom.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. laminjatta

    wait – how does diagnosing darth vader with a mental illness help combat stigma about mental illnesses?

    no- its ok, hitler had a mental illness too, don't feel bad about yours!

    second question: is it possible to blame someone for evil actions, or do we now always ascribe the actions of evil-acting people to a mental illness?

    June 7, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Adam

    Now how does this remove stigma from people with mental disorders?

    June 7, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Darth Aries

    Ok, first off lets just say there is a big difference when it comes to reality and characters in movies or book. But, the idea I guess is being suggested is that there is relavance between what we see in movies and how it's interpreted by the viewing public. In this case if you break down how Anakin started out like all ppl they are good until something or someone intervenes. Now some could say that the Jedi taking him away from his mother at the age of 10 when attachement is already formed would have atttributed to a sort of rebellious nature. He learned attachement and how to show love with compassion but in a more deep context. Certain things you can't just remove b/c one secular religion or teachings feel it's wrong. I think the Jedi had some issues with change and the fact everything as they claim is in motion. Jedi then should have offered some clause or themselves changed as all things in life change. Now Darth Sidious had his own agenda he wanted to use the skills of a naive young man and who could be influenced with the one thing all young men drift to is physical love from a woman. Padme in the eys of the emperor was the perfect distraction and perfect lure for Anakin but, little did they both understand this what they had was obessessive love but, it wasn't fake love. If untouched by Sidious and the Jedi allowed change the Dark side of Vader might not have been born.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Steven Stewart

    "infantile illusions of omnipotence" Uhh... this one is true guys. He is the biggest baddest person in the Universe. More powerful then the Emperor (and by that he is more powerful than even Yoda since the Emperor trumps Yoda), Luke, etc.. everyone. He is The One.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Corbijn

    If he were a real character I would think that he suffered from extreme PTSD, Post Tramatic Stress Disorder. Think about it, he was a slave, taken from his only parent, she literally died the next time he met her, freaked out and killed those she was with when she died, was a veteran of a horrific war, his wife who was pregnant died, he was horribly mutilated and he was manipulated by the one person he trusted and confided in. That's more than most can handle and keep their sanity. Because the story line is more about a person who falls from grace then redeems himself, BPD would be the last thing he is.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Paul

    That darn Obi-Wan, treating Anni like a kid. Image not allowing him to take the trials and become a master.
    Once again tha man keepin the peeps down! You'd go wipe out a band of sand people too if you had paranoid delusions about them harming your family, and having WMD.

    Darn!! politics weasels its way in again!

    June 7, 2010 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Delaware Refugee

    Like the joker said, insanity is like gravity – you just need a little push and some people can be pushed just so many times.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. S

    This "diagnosis" promotes ignorance on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). How does equating a biological disorder with the epitome of evil promote awareness and reduce stigma for mental health? Is the psychologist indicating that people with BPD are evil?

    People with BPD are not mass murderers who reside in outer space. They are people of this world who suffer daily; 1 out of 10 commit suicide.

    The lack of compassion and understanding exhibited in this article is appalling. If you would like official information on Borderline Personality Disorder, I suggest not wasting your time on this misinformation, but to instead visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Corbijn

    Now that I think about it, maybe it was parthenogenisis. That would explain why most religious figures are complete bonkers.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. JDH

    I always thought Yoda was full of crud when he started up with his "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering" stuff. Then, he said fear and anger lead to the "Dark Side." And what's wrong with the Dark Side? As long as the trains run and the garbage is taken away, what's the big deal? Long live the EMPIRE! At least with the emperor, we know we're getting a no-good bum as the head man.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bluest

    sp strikes a chord. Do we really want to use Vader as an educational example for personality disorder? I mean, I suppose you could say that he was successful at his job...but so was Hitler. Shouldn't we be giving patients who are ashamed of the stigma of borderline personality disorder a more positive role model?

    As to applying a theory to the situation, if anything, I would place Anakin as a sociopath, always serving his own needs first, and if that fit within the law, so be it, but when it didn't, that was okay too. He served the Emporer as long as it suited him. He served the Jedi as long as it suited him. Most of all, he served his own self interest and promotion. From pod racing, to Jedi training, to becoming Vader to slaying the Emporer, it was always about what goals he wanted to achieve, the end always justified the means.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Brit

    I think the psychiatrist who took the time to diagnose a fictional character must have a mental disorder him or herself!

    June 7, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Darth Vader

    I.......am your father.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. TJM

    This wasn't where I thought this article was headed. I thought they were going to talk about smoke-induced inhalational lung injury, which would explain the mask to help him breathe...

    June 7, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Robert

    Once again the money hungry psychiatrists try to persuade people the lightness of their sadistic trade. Which by the way will not heal you as a surgeon would. They (psychiatrists) are truly not as real as aspirin.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Randi Kreger

    If you want to know about borderline personality disorder, I have a web site, http://www.BPDCentral.com. I've written three books about it, also., including Stop Walking on Eggshells.

    I wish I could add more to the discussion, but I am not a Star Wars fan. I could, however, talk about real-life celebrities who have BPD, including princess Di and Marilyn Monroe.

    Randi Kreger

    June 7, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Joe

    Illusions of ominipotence?

    Have any of you actually seen this cat in action? I mean he can hover people in the air and choke them to death for god's sake!

    June 7, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Darth Vader

    Doctor Raison...HA! You underestimate the power of the force...the ability to destroy a planet pales in comparison to the dark side!


    June 7, 2010 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 11bgg

    Anakin was going to be more powerful than the Emperor and expressed a desire to overthrow him but his injuries as Lucas put it, stopped him from being 2 times more powerful than Palpitine and instead 20% less powerful. He followed him because he then had no alternative. When he found out about Luke, he then saw a way through Luke, to overthrow the Emperor. He supposedly turned good again by saving Luke and killing the Emperor, but if it were real its just as likely he turned on the Emperor because he had told Luke to kill Vader when he was down, and simply because he felt attachment, again, this time for a son, and killed the Emperor for basically the same reason he killed friends and children.
    So even with Lucas himself saying he turned good, if he were real, that would be untrue.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Darth Vader

    Of course, everything pales in comparison to the dark side...duh.

    Get it? DARK? Dark side...it ain't rocket science folks...okay, well maybe some of it is...

    June 7, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. luxenzo

    Well Vader was always greedy. In every sense. He was too greedy to let go of his loved ones, which caused him to turn to the dark side in the first place. Yet he was also greedy for power. Emotions are the roots of his greed. Which is why the Jedi forbid them.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. D

    So what your saying is... the dark side is to blame for mental issues?

    June 7, 2010 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Davé

    Um... Darth Vader became evil because the Emperor created him for the sole purpose of becoming Darth Vader. The fact that he displays these symptoms and the reasons for them are most likely just coincidences as it STILL IS A MOVIE.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sarah

    then... did Luke Skywalker have an inferiority complex, C3PO have obsessive compulsive disorder, and was Hans Solo oppositional defiant?

    June 7, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Billy Bob

    Dude...the article has it ALL wrong. Vader's mojo was jacked up 'cause his perceptions of the Force and stuff was out of wack.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Qui-Gon

    What's so novel about this story? The wise Yoda had Anakin pegged as a basket case the moment he stepped off of Qui-Gon's space ship!

    June 7, 2010 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. AGuest9

    [mechanical breath]
    Hello, I am Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith.
    [mechanical breath]
    I'd like to talk to you humans about a very serious subject: Borderline Personality Disorder.
    [mechanical breath]
    ...Are you aware that Borderline Personality Disorder is responsible for
    millions of deaths of rebel scum among hundreds of systems, from Dantooine to Bespin, for which I am very sorry.
    [mechanical breath]
    Unstable moods, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors are all characteristics of BPD.
    [mechanical breath]
    I hope that you educate yourself about borderline personality disorder and help combat stigma associated with mental illness.
    [mechanical breath]
    This public service anouncement has been brought to you by the Galactic Empire and the Ad Council.
    [mechanical breath]

    June 7, 2010 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Bruce

    My opinion is that Anakin Skywalker and George Lucas are suffering from mercury poisoning.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Andrew

    The field of psychology must often deal with quandaries about the nature of humanity as it works with persons of every type and bent. It is clear that the actions of some are classifiable as “bad,” but unresolved is the issue of whether there exist truly evil persons. Of all persons in history or literature, who qualify of such a loathsome and perhaps hopeless title, Darth Vader is their king. No earthly tyrant has caused even a small fraction, even indirectly, of the atrocities directly caused by the dark lord. What could have come into the life of this person, “more machine than man now; twisted and evil…,” as a child and adolescent that could have played into his becoming a Sith lord? What is the psychology of a person so clearly hurtful and, for all intents and purposes, bad? A study of his life, as Anakin Skywalker, and his personality as Darth Vader, along with a look at the cultural aspect of his belief in and use of the force, especially his indulgence in the dark side of the force, will provide a background for a study on the pathology of this world-famous villain.
    Anakin Skywalker was referred to by the Jedi order as “the Chosen One” because it was believed of him that his unprecedented ability to manipulate the force was evidence of his being a child long prophesied to bring balance to the force. Adding further evidence to this, his mother, Shmi Skywalker, attested that Anakin was of virgin birth – seemingly conceived of the force, as “there was no father.” Anakin was known for good humor, courage, and the ability to create and escape truly amazing things. However, long before he would become a prodigy of the galaxy, Anakin originated from truly humble circumstances.
    At the age of three, Anakin and his mother were sold into slavery to a cruel Hutt crime lord, Gardulla, and implanted with devices that would violently detonate if an attempt at escape were made. Lost in a bet, he and his mother were traded between masters and lived just as poorly, though Watto was not as cruel. Far from mistreated, Anakin was routinely subjected to extreme verbal, physical, terrorizing, and neglectful abuse as a slave. Being allowed to live with a caring mother seemed to be the key to Anakin’s surviving in notably good spirits.
    An impossibly talented pilot and engineer, Anakin was also daring and adventurous, several times undertaking in helpful but very dangerous endeavors. While his latent force abilities protected him, he often acted with little forethought or regard for consequences. In one such instance, Anakin selflessly offered to enter a deadly race to help a pair of Jedi. His victory impressed and convinced the Jedi to train him in their order, leaving him with the choice to stay with his mother or become a dedicated member of a religious order to seek his fortune. Choosing to become a Jedi, his mother was left in slavery by those in the high positions that he served. This would rankle Anakin until his fateful return to his home planet to find her.
    In the Jedi order, adherents are paired: master and apprentice (Padawan). These are a personally close mentor-student relationship, built on respect. Therefore it fell hard on Anakin when his first master was killed in a lightsaber duel by the Sith apprentice Darth Maul, the first of many malevolent persons to hunt Anakin and his companions. Accidently entering the fray of a simultaneous space battle, Anakin was responsible for a major military victory, thus beginning his career as a warrior, a hero, and a killer at the young age of seven by taking the lives of hundreds or thousands in a single moment; for the first time.
    Under Jedi training with a new master, Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin learned and perfected abilities in the force and began his ultimately-doomed battle against the desire for power. His early atrocities – uses of the force that drew upon the power of malevolence, and decidedly evil according the Jedi order – were much more acts of rage or terror, rather than intentional acts of murder. On his very first mission, Anakin would burn a Blood Carver from the inside out in a fit of uncontrollable rage at the age of 13. His next mission solidified his misuse of the force as a tool when he burned a more precise hole in the chest of his adversary, using only the force.
    Engaging in the life of a hero, Anakin’s regard for the rights of others and the sanctity of life began to wane as the overwhelming pressures of a warrior’s life drove him to draw upon power and use of force. Well before the age of 15, Anakin was captured several times, painfully defeated in combat, threatened with death and severe peril, tempted with the dark side, exposed to the galaxy’s deepest evils, involved in dangerous espionage and many profound ethical binds, attacked, hunted, depended upon by a galactic order (at times failing them), and was directly responsible for the deaths of many – at times in gruesome fashion. To compound this trauma, the Jedi Order taught the suppression of emotion or dependence on a social network; Anakin was in desperate need of help and would have been punished or expelled from the Jedi order if he were to communicate his actions and dilemmas to any of the persons he was surrounded by. Although the head of the Jedi council, Yoda, almost refused to train Anakin because he unsurprisingly sensed “much and anger and fear in [Anakin],” these issues were not addressed in the boy’s training except as flaws in his character. They eventually became solidified personality traits.
    At the age of 19, Skywalker revealed a secret affection for Senator Padme Amidala, his future wife, along with an overt distrust of the political process, and his view of the need for a individual, powerful leader of the galaxy. His life would forever change when, upon returning to his mother’s home planet, he sought and found his mother. Discovering her captured and beaten to death by a group of Tuskens, the young man’s struggle against the dark side collapsed. Indulging his rage, Anakin slaughtered the entire band, even “the women and the children.” Having already achieved the conscience of the worst of criminals, Anakin kept his dark secrets hidden and began to grow in arrogance and ambition. He lost his forearm and more of his master’s trust when he attacked a Sith lord out of pride.
    These significant loses and traumas did not distract from his romance with Senator Amidala, and the two were married in secret, against the code of the Jedi, when Anakin was 20. The relationship was significantly difficult and emotionally charged; under the constant threat of exposure to the highest levels of galactic leadership. He a warrior and she a leader of state, the Clone Wars gave them very few moments together, and those were spent protecting her from harm; a theme of his life. Soon fear of failing to protect became a persistent part of his worldview; even as his arrogant pride swelled with his victories, the weight of his responsibilities became a terror toward which he would become reactive. In his first battle against his nemesis of the Clone War, this terror gave way into a use of dark side rage in order to win a losing battle. Anakin progressed on his path toward embracing evil for the sake of power.
    In one of the galaxy’s greatest conflicts in history, as one of the most significant contributors to the war effort, Anakin regularly faced inhuman stress and hurt. In one battle, Anakin grieved the supposed death of his master, and faced full-blown war on the front lines, leading a group of other apprentices that had lost their masters. He was ordered to leave the battle front, where his friends, without his help, were eventually slain to the man. It was he who was left with the decision to evacuate the planet – leaving the native peoples to defeat and subjugation. Upon realizing Anakin’s intent, the commander of the native’s forces threatened Anakin’s life, and the young man’s reaction was to choke him to death with the force; a decidedly dark gesture and his first true and flagrant use of evil energy against an ally.
    Failed attempts at healing would frustrate Anakin. His helplessness served as a source of growing fear to a boy who had answered terror with ability and power. It was this desire to be able to circumvent death that would eventually lure him fully into the dark side. Searching for a father figure that had more power than he, and who possessed abilities that Anakin desired, Kenobi was supplanted by the diabolical senator Palpatine – the dark lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious. Seeking a dark apprentice, Palpatine lured Anakin to the dark side through the fear of losing his wife, the abandonment of reason, and forcing a grave decision of loyalty. Anakin chose to turn on the Jedi order and accept his place as Darth Vader when he committed murderous treason and embraced fear, anger, and aggression as sources of power via the dark side of the force.
    Nurturing the blossoming and fanatical fealty to his master that were characteristic to Vader, Anakin’s first act as a dark lord would seal his self-hate and devotion to the way of evil when he infiltrated the Jedi temple and single-handedly slaughtered every youngling (force-sensitive child in Jedi training) even as they ran to him for protection from the burgeoning Jedi purge. Impressively, this may have been Darth Vader’s most heinous act in a life long with atrocities only an evil and all-powerful overlord could accomplish. Darth Vader became responsible for the enslavement, wrongful use, and manipulation of entire planets. His life was constantly fraught with regular and murderous betrayal of those closest to him, constant plotting and guarding against assassination and coup, and a general lack of trust or safety. Even his master, whose partnership comprised his only trusted relationship, showed no value for Vader’s life. Darth Vader was a torturer, a seller of lives, and a furious man known to kill on a whim even his highest ranking officers for the simple reason of being angry.
    As an Imperial commander, Darth Vader considered all alien species inferior to humans. Systematic enslavement, usury, and the extermination of another race dubbed ‘animals’ was not uncommon to the dark lord. To be near him or working for him was to be in danger of death. To be his enemy was to face death. While his belief in and the use of the force is notable to his character, an analysis of the qualities of the dark side of the force make hope of treatment for such a person quite bleak.
    The dark side of the force embraces the use of energies with a decidedly bad connotation, such as fear, anger, selfishness, and aggression, for the sake of gaining personal power at whatever costs. In order to rehabilitate a person prone to such usage of power, would primarily require successful effort in convincing the other that evil actions are wrong and that power is less important than personal rights and liberty. Darth Vader specifically opposes liberty for the sake of gaining what liberty defeats: oppressive power over others through terror and force. While, in terms of treatment, one might consider belief in, and use of the force as a cultural aspect of the client, use of the dark side might render any approach impossible since a dark sider’s ambitions are altogether unhealthy and are the intentional modality of the dark side practitioner.
    Embrace of depression and self-hate, along with aggression and anger as a life-style make a mood disorder diagnosis un-useful. Also, Vader’s mood is quite stable – irritable and dire, but stable. There seems no evident reason to note any psychosis, except for brief, isolated events (e.g. attacking his surrogate master, thinking him one of his mother’s tormentors as he was a Tusken). Any anxiety is understandable and expected in the dark lord’s life, ruling out an anxiety disorder. The dark lord has several medical conditions that affect his bodily functioning and well-being, as he has lost every limb and has had computer and mechanical components extensively grafted to his body throughout, ruling out a somatoform disorder as an answer to his chronic pain and characteristic breathing or other characteristic manifestations.
    However, the criterion for a personality disorder have been strongly met. As Darth Vader’s personality traits are inflexible and involve regular murder and coercion to reach goals, his inner experience and behavior deviates significantly from what is acceptable in any human community and is manifested in interpersonal functioning (e.g., lack of any relationships or trustworthiness) and impulse control (e.g., killing on personal whims). These disruptive patterns are stable and have been prevalent in his life since adolescence.
    Since the dark lord will manipulate only for power and the execution of his will, but never for nurturance, his disorder is differentiated from a Histrionic Personality Disorder. Any narcissism or grandiosity exhibited by Vader is easily reasonable given his galactic weight and real importance. While the dark lord speaks little of himself in comparison to the Empire and his Emperor, any appreciation of his own position would be reasonable, rather than a symptom of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. While an excessive devotion to work that excludes leisure, friendship, and the insistence of personally accomplishing important tasks is readily evident, the dark lord is not so consumed with perfection that he is inefficient, nor is he unable to discard objects; eliminating a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Finally, a Schizotypal Personality Disorder is closely eliminated for several reasons. What might be interpreted as a superstitious belief in the force is readily manifested quite effectively by the dark lord, his eccentric suit and behavior are both necessary for his survival, any suspiciousness is well-placed, and, most notably, Vader lacks in perceptual or cognitive distortions and operates at a very high level.
    The dark lord has been diagnosed with a provisional personality disorder (Schizoid) and a severe personality disorder (Antisocial) in this assessment because of exceeding all criterion for each. It is important to note that Darth Vader underwent an extreme change in his personality when he was defeated as Anakin by his master, Obi Wan, and transformed into the Sith lord, Darth Vader. While many of his current traits have been evident since his pre-adolescence, a good deal of his traits that meet and exceed criterion for his current diagnosis of Schizoid (provisional) and severe Antisocial developed suddenly and have remained stable for two decades, though this conversion did not happen before he was 15 years old.
    With the above noted, Vader meets all seven of the four required expressions of criterion A of Schizoid Personality Disorder, and is stable and pervasive in these traits (criterion B). (1)While the dark lord has not offered up a statement on the desire for, or enjoyment of, close relationships, it is notable that he has no close relationships and has made a point not to create as a result of losing anyone who was ever close to him (notably mother, wife, and master). (2) Except on missions, Darth Vader spends his time alone, meditating, healing, or training for combat, and is not known to ever socialize. (3) It is believed that Darth Vader is incapable of sexual intercourse and he displays a notable lack of interest in having a sexual experience with another person. All offers made have been refused quickly and curtly. (4) Vader is not a hobbyist and would gain little from pleasurable activities since his power comes from pain and anger. As Anakin, Vader would routinely build and engineer, however there is little evidence that this has carried on into his life as the lord of the Sith. (5) With the exception of his treacherous master, Vader has no known close friends, confidants, or first-degree family members. (6) Vader does not accept praise and has not been recorded to say “thank you,” ever. His indifference to criticism, however, may not rival his indifference to praise, since he has a quick temper and is known to kill anyone who questions him (e.g., two admirals, a flight deck officer, and the admiral so famously choked in the Death Star conference room for insulting the dark lord), but will calmly accept correction from the emperor without going on an angry rampage to cope with the blow. (7) Unless using rage as a tool for power or intimidation, Darth Vader’s demeanor is typically notably cold, and detached (e.g., turning his son over to his master was done without any notable emotion.) Because Darth Vader is a galactic leader who is personally and emotionally involved at times with his villainous work, and especially because of his over-ability to express anger, exceptions to the diagnosis of Schizoid have been recognized with denotation that the diagnosis is provisional.
    Most notably, Darth Vader’s consistent and extreme antisocial behavior shapes not only his life and the lives of those around him, but those of the entire galaxy and whole planets. Meeting six of the seven aspects of criterion A (three required for diagnosis) and criterions B (at least 18 years of age), C (evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15), and D (does not occur exclusively during schizophrenic or manic episode), Darth Vader easily qualifies for the disorder. Conduct Disorder is evidenced through Vader’s use of the force as a weapon and attacking and killing others with a lightsaber, threatening and intimidating others – often torturing or killing them (e.g., inferior officers, choking Admiral Motti on the Death Star, the torture his daughter, Leia Organa, on the Death Star as well as Han Solo on Cloud City), destroying other’s property (e.g., Prince Xizor’s skyhook), and willfully committing war crimes (e.g., “sterilizing” 200,000 Falleen infected by a viral weapon of his own creation). Behaviors qualifying Vader for the six aspects of criterion A are: (1) Creating his own law and flagrantly violating all galactic laws of basic individual rights to life (esp. in participation in the destruction of Alderaan), (2) repeated deceitfulness for his own gain (e.g., “altering” his deal with Boba Fett), (3) the impulsivity of murdering high ranking officials who have failed, (4) aggressiveness and irritability (e.g., strangling Raymus Antilles on the Tantive IV, interrogating Princess Leia, dueling with Luke), (5) a profound disregard for the safety of others and even himself (e.g., deciding to bring a fleet into an asteroid field to find his enemies, fighting multiple combat droids armed with real lightsabers), and (7) a profound lack of remorse evidenced by indifference to hurt caused by his actions and rationalization of his violence and use of the dark side of the force.
    Basic Description of Disorders
    “The essential feature of Schizoid Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings. This pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts(DSM-IV-TR, pp. 694).” Schizoid Personality Disorder is the least commonly diagnosed personality disorder and is prevalent in approximately 1% of clinical earthling populations. This disorder is slightly more prevalent in males, and is difficult to treat because of the avoiding nature of those with the disorder. In most cases, a goal for therapy would simply be to create and model an interpersonal relationship with the client. This, however, might be what overwhelms the client and leads to the premature discontinuation of therapy. In the case of Darth Vader, it is likely he would react violently and quickly resort to deadly force in order to avoid an interpersonal relationship with his therapist. The Thematic Apperception Test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI-II) tests are recommended for resolving the provisional status of the diagnosis of this disorder.
    “The essential feature of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence an continues into adulthood(DSM-IV-TR, pp. 701).” Studies have found APD to have genetic and environmental factors, increasing five fold in likeliness in children of APD parents. Children under the age of 10 who exhibit ADHD symptoms are more likely to manifest symptoms of APD, and childhood abuse also has a correlative relations ship with APD. Up to 3% of Male populations, and 1% of female populations in the U.S. are thought to exhibit APD, but the disorder accounts for 3-30% of clinical cases. Some estimates claims that up to three quarters of prison populations meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder; likelihood increases for inmates who are in treatment for substance abuse. Antisocial Personality Disorder is highly unresponsive to any form of treatment, and medications that are found to ease symptoms are often either abused or their consumption regimens are met with non-compliance. Symptoms of APD are found to diminish past mid-life, particularly in criminal manifestations, however impulsive violent or homicidal tendencies often lead to long-term incarceration. Since persons with APD are readily willing to coerce and use force in order to have their way, considering themselves the only important end or purpose of life, it is reasonable that the dark lord of the Sith and a galactic evil overlord would be found to present APD. As will be noted below, treatment for such an individual is unfortunately, but clearly, bleak.
    This combination is particularly odd since the two disorders could be argued as opposites. Antisocial persons tend to be braggarts and smooth talkers, while a Schizoid personality will avoid claims or communication about themselves, whether for good or ill. Again, the Schizoid will find great difficulty in expressing anger and frustration, but the Antisocial excels in it, ready to sincerely claim superiority to others. Anakin and Darth Vader both are very proud and arrogant, however the dark lord is quite introverted and curt when he is not killing someone. Darth Vader seems to embody a very low need for interaction or excitement, as per Schizoid, but his career involves a great deal of both. While an Antisocial is prone to chronic deceitfulness, the dark lord rarely lies for no reason, but is constantly wrapped up in political schemes, promise breaking, and deceit. Tactics like conning, lying, and a parasitic lifestyle that are common to an Antisocial’s efforts to gain power are not necessary for the dark lord, since he wields nearly unimaginable, and certainly un-maintainable power. While an Antisocial is known for irresponsibility and impulsivity, a Schizoid is often notably productive as long as their work does not require great amounts of interpersonal interaction, as is the case of the dark lord.
    A key component of APD is violence (deliberate violation of others’ rights) without remorse; which is clearly evident in the dark lord. However, a key component of Schizoid Personality Disorder is a lack of angry expression and avoidance of interaction, which is clearly thwarted in Darth Vader’s behaviors. Furthermore, the dark lord has utter disregard for the rights of others and very rarely shows anxiety or remorse; anxiety being a main component of a Schizoid personality. This is further reason for the provisional delineation of the dark lord’s diagnosis of Schizoid, since he demonstrates all criterion for the disorder in his behavior, but much less in his cognition. This may be accounted for by a lack of disorder in a man set in extreme circumstances.
    In fact, the dark lord seems a high-functioning and healthy individual, save for his total lack of a social network, his extreme embodiment of Antisocial behavior, and his use of the dark side of the force. He is not found to misuse many, if any, defense mechanisms but grimly accepts and embraces what he is. An exception might be the use of omnipotence (e.g., “there will be no one to stop us this time!”), which is evident as a flaweven in the thinking of an incredibly powerful being. The dark lord readily embraces the use of acting out (use of physical actions instead of emotional processing), overgeneralization (a single negative event drives despair and futility), mental filter (dwelling on a single negative detail so that one’s vision of reality becomes darkened), and even emotional reasoning (a cognition that feeling something makes it true) to deepen his attunement to the dark side and ability to wield it.
    Given that lord Vader is matchless in personal power and unbeatable in combat, and also the Supreme Commander of the largest naval force in galactic history, his probable unwillingness to undergo a therapeutic or corrective process must be considered. Since it must be assumed that he would resist therapy and/or capture, and would likely end the life of someone who suggested a possible benefit from some form of treatment, recommendations for treatment begin with the assumption that the dark lord has been incarcerated and incapacitated using force-numbing ysalamiri creatures.
    As Darth Vader has immediate medical complications that drive his use of the dark side through physical pain, it is recommended that addictive Sith stimulants be slowly removed from his regular usage and eventually eliminated. Also, it may be powerful to show the dark lord a life with less pain and medical complication by trading his mobile, armored frame for a restful sanctuary/medical facility.
    Psychoeducation might be useless because of the dark lord’s anticipated resistance to treatment, thus Strategic Family Therapy might be utilized to slowly make a point to the dark lord that the way of the dark side is bad, or incompatible with an acceptable lifestyle. Once a state of willingness to answer questions and engage in therapeutic processes has been reached, Experiential Family Therapy is the recommended modality for helping Darth Vader to express his emotions concerning his early life experiences, and possibly any remorse for his more recent history.
    It should be expected that Darth Vader’s will to remain an evil overlord will result in the ultimate failure of any attempts to treat him, and that his likely escape or liberation will certainly end in the slaughter of those whom he deems his enemies. For this reason, treatment is not suggested; it will ultimately be more productive to wait for fate to bring Luke to his father and Vader to bring balance to the force by finally turning against his dark master and embracing the
    light side of the force, at the end of his life.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. GL McColm

    As I recall, Lucas was influenced by Joseph Campbell's work to create the following collage: evil black knight captures beautiful princess and carries her off to dark castle, but two faithful squires (see Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress) find young hero (raised by loving dwarves - or their futuristic equivalent) (and who are helpfully bumped off) of what turns out to be noble birth is guided by wise sage and accompanied by diamond-in-the-rough to rescue said princess from Claude Rains (sorry, Peter Cushing) and Basil Rathbone (well, Rathbone would have made a better Vader) from said castle leaving no cliche unturned.

    I'm not sure that it's Vader who needs psychoanalysis...

    June 7, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Mike

    Darth Freud
    Sometimes a light saber is just a light saber...

    Dude, I should have to pay you for how much I laughed at this. tyvm.

    As far as Anakin's psychological problems... I think a lot more people would go to the darkside in real life if there was such a thing. Most people want to be famous or rich, the darkside offers both. Imagine what the common man or woman would do if they felt invincible. I think many would turn to evil, because there would be no fear of repercussions.

    Think about it. When some jerk cuts you off, your first instinct is the call the guy an ahole, wish he and his family would all die, etc. then after a few second go by and you calm down you realize how irrational you're being, remember when you probably cut someone off before and realized you and your family would be dead if you followed your own rules. But, if you had UNLIMITED POWER!!!!, you would probably never go past the killing him and his family stage.

    June 7, 2010 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply

    First I want to thank all the people whose comments really hit the mark. In your own way, you stated how "FLIPPIN RIDICULOUS" this whole psychoanalysis of Darth Vader....a FRIGGIN fictional movie character really is.
    As for Michael WONG(hehehehe).......a.........you're "WONG" about the Christian God. Not that He has anything REMOTELY to do with the discussion at hand... you frickin MORON...LMAO......Try criticizing your own religion first, leave others out of your inane babbling. Anyway...I must say, you really made me laugh, and for that I thank you. Have yourself a great life..... 🙂

    June 7, 2010 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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