Thursday, May 29, 2008

Darth Vader's Psyche: What Went Wrong?

As you all know, I'm interested in mental health, but also am a fan of Star Wars. I found the following while Google searching on Darth Vader's physical injuries for a piece of fan fiction writing and took interest.
Darth Vader's Psyche: What Went Wrong?

Anakin Skywalker, Who Became Darth Vader, Had Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychiatrists Say
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 21, 2007 -- Anakin Skywalker, the Star Wars character who became Darth Vader, had borderline personality disorder, psychiatrists report.
The news comes not from a galaxy far, far away, but from San Diego, where the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is holding its 160th annual meeting.
Today, experts from the psychiatric department at France's University Hospital of Toulouse told the APA's annual meeting that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could "clearly" be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness marked by instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior, according to background information on the web site of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The French psychiatrists -- who included Laurent Schmitt, MD -- based their diagnosis on original Star Wars film scripts.
Skywalker Psyche
Schmitt's team describes Skywalker's symptoms, including problems with controlling anger and impulsivity, temporary stress-related paranoia, "frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (when trying to save his wife at all costs), and a pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships," including his relationships with his Jedi masters.
Changing his name and turning into "Darth Vader" is a red flag of Skywalker's disturbed identity, note Schmitt and colleagues.
The researchers aren't suggesting that real people with borderline personality disorder are Darth Vaders-in-the-making. Skywalker's symptoms are an extreme, fictional case.
Borderline personality disorder can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. But that wasn't part of Skywalker's script.

SOURCES: American Psychiatric Association's 2007 Annual Meeting, San Diego, May 19-24, 2007. National Institute of Mental Health: "Borderline Personality Disorder." News release, American Psychiatric Association.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Apparently there has been quite some discussion of this in the blogsphere as well.

Real Space, wrote on 6/6/05:
"Watching Star Wars 3 (much better than the first two), I couldn’t help the train of thoughts running through my mind: Paranoid delusions. Grandiosity. Impulsivity. Inflexibility in thinking. Black and white thinking. Anger management issues. Issues with authority figures. Tendency to aggression and violence. Ambivalence. Labile. Poor coping style. Difficulty with trust. Psychomotor agitation. Lack of insight. Query psychosis. Query antisocial personality disorder, possibly psychopathic. Query borderline personality disorder. At very high risk of PTSD, depression. Management? Likelihood of medication compliance? Need for involuntary treatment order? We’d need a lot of backup.."

Rebel Doctor MD, who claims to be a board certified psychiatrist/sleep specialist/internist, responds:
"I think Realspace is on the right track when he mentions the cluster B personality disorder diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, though I would vote for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (he has a grandiose sense of self-importance, is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power, believes that he is special and should only associate with other high-status people, requires excessive admiration, has a sense of entitlement, shows arrogance, and is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him. He also lacks empathy, at least at the end of the movie). Anakin is very grandiose and believes that the jedi masters are envious of his power; at the same time he envies their postion on the jedi council. He wants the admiration of others and does not feel that he is getting due respect from the other Jedi. Anakin is preoccupied with power; near the end of the movie he talks about taking over the Galactic Empire from Palpatine.
I agree that he would have been at risk for developing depression and PTSD after he killed his wife and got burned, but there was no direct evidence for either of these diagnoses in the movie. I did not detect any true psychosis in Anakin/Vader...."

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very real and serious mental health disorder, but I find amusing that medical professionals have psychoanalyzed a Star Wars villain. It was very apparent in the movies that the character of Anakin Skywalker was struggling with inner demons. His mental health and personality were probably negatively influenced starting early in his life, as a child slave. Although his mother, Shmi Skywalker, tried to do her best in raising him, they were both slaves, subject to physical abuse by their master and poor treatment by other citizens.  Because of this, Anakin developed unhealthy fear and anger. Also, as a child, Anakin would, "would often risk his own well being...with little forethought or regard for the consequences of his actions," he was daring and adverturous, impulsive and reckless. Also, while still in childhood, he left his mother behind to train as a Jedi, something he always resented.  His grieft was probably further accentuated by experiencing the traumatic death of his mother in his adolescent years. As a young adult, Anakin developed as an arrogant and somewhat socially awkward boy. His natural abilities placed him leaps and bounds above his peers, and this fed his ego as well as caused him to distance himself from other learners of his age. He frequently showed off, chafed against authority, and displayed little respect for his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Also, he married in secret because Jedi law forbid marriage and he had unresolved conflict between attachment to his wife and his Jedi duties. Couple his traumatic past and personality flaws, with the pressures of Jedi duties, changing hornones with puberty (which may have increased agression), and potential genetic disposition, Anakin was probably high risk for developing a mental health disorder.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Please Sponsor Me in the NAMI Walks for the Mind of America


Dear Family, Friends, and Visitors,

Once again, I'm participating in "NAMI Walks for the Mind of America" an awareness/fundraising walkathon for mental illness.
Millions of Americans, including an estimated one in five families are affected by mental illness: severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic & anxiety disorders and others. Mental illness is a biologically based brain disorder, which disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Just as diabetes or heart disease, mental illness is a medical condition, which often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. You may have been diagnosed with mental illness yourself or know someone who has. 1 in 17 Americans suffer from a serious mental illness and it is estimated that mental illness affects 1 in 5 families in America (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness). These individuals are your neighbors, your fellow church members, and your co-workers, maybe even a family member. For some, an experience with mental illness is short, say Seasonal Affective Disorder. For others, it is a lifelong struggle to understand, overcome, and live with persistent and unpredictable symptoms.
I am one of such individuals with a mental illness. My struggle with major depression began during my first year at college. Unable to complete school at this time, I returned home and was fortuant to have wonderful support from my parents, family, boyfriend, and his family. I was started an anti-depressant and worked through the spring and summer. By the fall, I felt my depressive symptoms were under control and I was ready to return to college. I erolled at Vincennes University, a small, two year college which was reputated to have excellent academic support program for those with disabilities. I completed one and a half years of college and was half-way towards earning my associate's degree before returning home again due to worsening symptoms. After returning home, I lost my health isurance coverage, because I was no longer a college student and was unable to obtain private insurance because of the depressive condition was pre-existing. Anti-depressant therapy costs upward of $60-$200 depending on the medications and therapy can cost upwards of $90-150 a session. I gritted my teeth and continued to pay for my medication out of my own pockets, however therapy was out of reach. Fortuantly, in the fall of 2005, I discovered our local community mental health clinic. Clinics such as these are a vital part of our community, offering vital mental health services at low-cost and sliding-fee-scale to the homeless, impoverished, uninsured, and underinsured of our community. Most people with serious mental illness need medication to help control symptoms, but also rely on supportive counseling, self-help groups, assistance with housing, vocational rehabilitation, income assistance and other community services in order to achieve their highest level of recovery. At the clinic, I was able to see a therapist in addition to a nurse practioner for medication. However, like many community mental health clinics, they are under-staffed and poorly funded, which can result in poor quality of care. In additon, persons with a mental illness are often faced with additional challenges in the workplace, in the home, and in the community due to barriers to obtaining treatment and the stigmas surrounding mental illness. This is why I became involved in NAMI.
NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The common message of NAMI is support, education, advocacy, and research. NAMI helps in many ways:
It provides support to persons with mental illnesses and their families
It advocates for improved opportunities and for non-discriminatory policies for housing, rehabilitation and meaningful jobs
It supports research
It supports public education programs designed to help educate and remove stigma surrounding severe mental illness

On June 7, 2008, I will be participating in the NAMI Indiana Walk, the local "NAMI Walks for the Mind of America" walkathon in Indianapolis to raise awareness about mental illness, reach out to new families, and to raise money for support and education in our local communities. Our team, which is named "Footsteps" is comprised of individuals whose lives have been directly impacted by mental illness, either through a family member or spouse. And we have chosen this team name because we are walking together to take Footsteps towards hope, awareness, and education.  Please visit for more information about the Indiana WALK, go to:, to learn more about our team, or follow this direct link: to make a donation specifically in my name. (You will be taken to a secure form, as when you pay bills online, and the site will not disclose your personal information for any mailing lists or unauthorized purposes). If you prefer to send a check, please make it out to NAMI Indiana and send it to my home address (please e-mail me for my address). I'll collect and submit all donations. Personally I'm contributing $25, and my goal is to build a team of at least 10 people and raise $1000. Please let me know if I can provide you with any more information about mental health or mental illness, in Indiana or in your own community. Thank you!
Rachael C.

Update May 12:

Dear Family, Friends, and Visitors,

I have yet to reach my fundraising goal of $1,000 and it's only 3 weeks until the walk.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a 501(c)3 charity and any donation you make to support my participation in this event is tax deductible.  NAMI has been rated by Worth magazine as among the top 100 charities "most likely to save the world" and has been given an "A" rating by The American Institute of Philanthropy for efficient and effective use of charitable dollars.

The goals of the NAMIWalks program are: to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness, to build awareness of the fact that the mental health system in this country needs to be improved, and to raise funds for NAMI so that they can continue their mission.

Please re-consider making a donation. Even a minimal donation of $5 will contribute to making a difference in someone's life.

Thank you in advance for your support.
Rachael C.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Condoms Won't Fix This"

Christina at Real Choice nails it in her blog post, "Condoms won't fix this"

10 Million Children Die From Lack of Health Care Each Year, Charity Group Reports

Kids in developing nations are still dying for lack of basic antibiotics and oral rehydration therapy -- not to mention potable water and basic sanitation.

Which is why I want to throttle people whose solution to poverty is to just throw condoms, Pills, and cheap abortions at people. It's adding insult to injury when people are helplessly watching their children die from preventable and treatable diseases, and the rich people "help" them by trying to spay and neuter them like so many stray cats. We don't need Poverty Pimps going in and throwing abortion and contraception at people whose dream is to have a few children who survive to adulthood. They need a chance of survival for their children, not a way to keep them from ever drawing breath in the first place.

You can go to Mercy Ships and underwrite the cost of a well and sanitation so a village can have safe water to drink, or contribute toward a community health clinic that can treat the infections that needlessly end so many young lives. World Vision also provides potable water and basic medical care. Both these organizations get the highest ratings from Charity Navigator, meaning that money given to them is used effectively to reach the target recipients, and isn't sucked up in salaries for administrators, fund-raisers, and so forth
This refers to those who push family planning and birth prevention as a solution to poverty, malnutrition, disease, and poor sanitation. She says it well. However, where we differ is that I believe that condoms are still important in the prevention and reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ignorance and Stigma is Still Well and Alive

This afternoon my husband and I went to see a rental house (not the one we decided on). The landlord met us there and showed us the inside. In casual conversation, the small town where we we live was brought up and the landlord replied he left the area because "They were building a nuthouse nearby and I was not ok with that. ...them being dangerous and all" I knew what he was referring to as I've heard that term used all too many times in a degrogatory manner and I was shocked and angered by that statement about anyone with a mental disability or mental illness. Furthermore it dawned on me that he may have been referring to my workplace, a local residential facility for inviduals with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges, the only one in that area that is known. I tersley told him, I believe he was talking about my employer and the clients we serve. My husband added that they (the clients) might of been like that just a long time ago. I then told the man that they've come a long way with behavior modification and those clients needed a safe place to get the help and treatment they needed and we are careful about keeping them safe. And it was especially hurtful to me too because I have a mental illness, it's hard not to take that personal, you know? At that point, my husband asked where it was and he said a neighborhood that we're not familar with in the town, but still, you just don't talk about individuals with mental disabilities or mental illnesses like that. Ugh, I couldn't wait to leave.

Previous Comments:

Well, every neighborhood has a "nuthouse" or two...usually identified by the folks who still have a blinking musical Santa in July :) In any case, the residents of assisted living homes enjoy a fair amount of supervision and help with day-to-day life skills, right? Unlike, say, the 12 year old drug dealers in my current neighborhood, or the frat boys in my old neighborhood.