Case study: Darth Vader and His Brother Chad

The author finds a CNN article suggesting Darth Vader suffered from mental illness. Looking back, it all makes perfect sense.

Mood music for this post: “The Imperial March” METAL version!

Darth Vader is one of the most famous movie villains on the planet. He is responsible for billions of deaths. He let his temper get the better of him. But looking back, he was just another misunderstood sufferer of mental illness.

CNN tells me so.

According to the following, very well written article, the Dark Lord of the Sith had a personality disorder:

By Elizabeth Landau 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,’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?”

No wonder why I had a Star Wars obsession as a kid. Hell, the obsession lasted well into my 20s. I guess I really identified with Vader.

Actually, I identify more with his less-talented brother Chad. Chad had serious control issues that manifested themselves at work. He was such a bad-ass manager that none of his workers would take him seriously. The creators of the Chad Vader saga have done a ton of episodes you can access at the link above. But to get you started, the first episode is below. It’s really a great case study in mental disorder:


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