Psychiatry trumps the Force?

by Cody Dolan on October 8, 2010 · 2 comments

in borderline personality disorder

Now this is the kind of science I can get behind: French psychiatrists and psychologists, who are clearly using their time well and are probably not at all putting off more pressing work, have written a letter to the editor of the journal Psychiatry Research titled Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?” This, my friends, might be the best letter to the editor of a scholarly psychiatric journal ever. I kind of want to take back all the mean things I’ve said about the French.

While I’m sure you’ll agree this is a wonderful use of science that should be encouraged, that doesn’t mean the subject matter is a joke. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness. Individuals who have it generally exhibit unstable relationships, a negative sense of self, inconsistent moods, a high degree of impulsiveness and a sometimes crippling fear of abandonment.

Eric Bui, a psychiatrist from Toulouse University Hospital in France, watched Episodes II and III of the prequel trilogy and realized that Anakin was a good candidate for the diagnosis. According to LiveScience,

Skywalker hit six out of the nine borderline personality disorder criteria as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. He only needed to meet five criteria to qualify as suffering from the disorder.

For instance, the future Darth Vader showed both impulsivity and anger management issues as an overexcited, lovelorn Jedi. He went back and forth between idealizing and devaluing Jedi mentors, such as a humorless young Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Abandonment issues also surfaced. Skywalker had a permanent fear of losing his wife, Padme Amidala, and he went so far as to betray his Jedi mentors and companions to try to prevent her death.

“From what we know of the future DSM-V, Anakin is a ‘good’ to ‘very good’ match to the future BPD,” Bui said.

Darth Vader meets Hello Kitty

Bui analyzes more of the films if you follow the above link, and it’s a pretty light read if you don’t want to get all science-y. I like to think that Anakin’s wild mood swings are probably responsible for this version of the Darth Vader costume.

I find myself torn on this subject. On the one hand, it’s comforting to note that Bui thinks psychotherapy would’ve really helped in this case, and probably would have stopped Anakin from turning to the Dark Side. Of course, that would mean that the original trilogy wouldn’t exist, and I don’t want to live in a world where that’s possible.

I’m looking forward to Bui and company’s next article on the effects of the prequel trilogy on the psyches of Star Wars fans. I can think of plenty of people who exhibited “both impulsivity and anger management issues” after watching the train wreck that was The Phantom Menace.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kevin blumer January 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

id seen this around the web quite a bit this article i would tend to agree that darth vader has bpd i really like the picture of darth vader meets kitty the photo jsut looks so funny i wouder what you would name it

Chrysalis October 12, 2010 at 4:24 am

Interesting, but I notice you didn’t comment on the equation of BPD to emo?

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