The presence of mental health issues has been strongly stigmatized throughout history, Often suffer from those who have suffered from mental disorders not only from the effects thereof, but also from a great rejection by society.
Problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, addictions or schizophrenia are not a new phenomenon, but have been present throughout history. And although sometimes these problems are invisible and hidden, the truth is that even the great figures of history have experienced them in their own flesh.
In order to improve awareness and normalization of mental health issues, throughout this article we will be reviewing several historical figures who have exhibited mental disorders, Or the behavior has been attributed to these.
Historical figures who presented with mental disorders
In the following lines we will see about twenty historical figures who suffered from mental disorders, among which we can find well-known names in literature, art or science.
Many of them have been diagnosed with modern methods, while in other cases they are considered to have suffered from analysis of their behavior or from written testimonies or recordings of the times in which they lived. .
However, it should be noted that some of the numbers were attributed to a disorder that there is no complete certainty that they had: it is not possible to diagnose a person who cannot be assessed and for which there is insufficient information.
Even in some cases where there was a medical diagnosis, it is necessary to take into account the limits of the time in which they lived they can change what conclusions can be drawn, as well as what at one time was or was not considered a mental disorder.
Finally, it should be noted that many diagnostic labels have changed over time or even disappeared or been broken down into different alterations, so being diagnosed can then be quite different from what would be considered today.
1. Martin Luther King
People as influential as Martin Luther King also suffered serious problems. In the case of this activist pastor and politician, who fought against racial segregation and for equality between whites and blacks, throughout his life he suffered from several episodes of depression.
In their youth, some of them led to several suicide attempts after the death of their grandmother, but managed to defeat them. He also suffered during his phase of political activism, which did not stop him from fighting for civil rights.
Of course, the context of someone who lives constantly harassed by pressure groups and even gangs of organized violence greatly favors the emergence of disorders such as depression; we should not understand this phenomenon as something which occurs spontaneously in the individual.
2. Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is another of the great writers who suffered from some sort of psychological problem throughout his life.
This author, as proposed by several researchers, he suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder and filth phobia.
3. Abraham Lincoln
One of the most admired presidents of the United States is Abraham Lincoln, famous among other accomplishments for the abolition of slavery and for ending the American Civil War. But if his successes have been numerous, the number 16 president of the United States he had a difficult life and was marked by the death of several of his relatives.
He was known for his melancholy thoughts and, according to several researchers, he suffered from recurrent depression for much of his life, repeatedly manifesting the presence of thoughts of death and suicide (although over the years he would get some improvement).
4. Salvador Dalí
This great artist and one of the great representatives of surrealism suffered towards the end of his life from Parkinson’s disease, as well as a depression derived not only from this affectation but also from the death of what was his muse, Gala Dalí.
5. Robert Schumann
One of the most important German composers of Romanticism, Robert Schumann suffered what was then called precocious dementia, later known as schizophrenia. He saw visions related to religious figures, both angelic and demonic. He was interned for a while.
At present, however, he is considered more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms: he has had periods in which he suffered from depressive episodes, although at other times he is dedicated exhaustively and passionately to the production of valuable compositions (probably in episodes). manic or hypomanic).
6. Joseph Stalin
This Russian dictator, while playing a major role in the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, is also responsible for the deaths of millions of Russians, political dissidents and even allies, during their famous purges.
And if for the moment we cannot make a firm diagnosis because we have little data on their physical and mental health, the existing data seem to reflect the existence of a high level of paranoia, Which may have contributed to the fact that many of these purges will be carried out: the dictator has ordered the death or imprisonment of a large number of people, including one of his bodyguards or various doctors who treat and diagnose different conditions (including atherosclerosis).
In fact, neurophysiologist and psychiatrist Vladimir Béjterev went so far as to diagnose it and attempt to treat severe paranoia. The next day, said neurologist and psychiatrist appeared dead.
7. Marilyn Monroe
Considered one of the most attractive women in the world, and often looked down upon despite being one of the smartest celebrities of the time, this well-known actress suffered from different difficulties throughout her life, Which caused her to suffer from problems such as severe depression and anxiety, which led to her being temporarily admitted to a mental hospital.
He also developed a problematic relationship with alcohol and other substances.
8. Ronald Reagan
Towards the end of his life, this famous President of the United States suffered from one of the most cruel and common neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly: Alzheimer’s disease.
Gradually, the other time, the president was losing his powers and was unable even to recognize his relatives.
9. Franz Kafka
Despite few published works, Kafka is one of the classic authors of universal literature. The author, among other great works of The Metamorphosis, also suffered from various mental health issues.
Throughout his life the existence of sleep disturbances was common, especially insomnia very recurring.
He is also believed to have suffered from depression as well as social phobia and anxiety. If there is no absolute agreement, on the basis of his works, the records that exist concerning his behavior and certain annotations of the author have led some authors to believe that the author may be suffering from a disorder. of the schizoid personality.
10. Elisabeth of Bavaria
Elizabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, was one of the last great empresses in Europe, Specifically Austria and Hungary.
This powerful woman, of great intelligence and culture and known for her rebellion, also suffered from serious disorders throughout her life.
The Empress, who would severely difficulties and conflicts with his political family and with excessive pomposity, conservatism and rigidity of life at court, he suffered frequent depressions, especially after the death of his son. He used cocaine as an antidepressant, which was common at the time.
Among its various alterations, one of the most notable is that of its feeding problems. The Empress expressed her great concern to keep her weight under control, to eat very poorly and to perform intense exercise sessions.
He is considered to have suffered from bulimia and anorexia nervosa, This greatly deteriorated his health and altered his depression state.
11. Edgar Allan Poe
If one thinks of an author best known for his horror stories and Gothic-style novels, one of the first names that will come to mind is likely to be Edgar Allan Poe.
This author had a difficult and tortuous life, marked by losses, And suffered from severe depression (especially after his wife died of tuberculosis), as well as addiction to alcohol and other substances such as opium.
The presence of bipolar disorder is not excluded having been reported to have sudden mood swings, although the turn to mania was primarily produced by alcohol consumption.
It was also speculated during his lifetime about the possible existence of epilepsy. His suffering and discomfort are visible in his work, often pessimistic about life.
12. Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes is a particularly important historical figure in the field of aviation, being a pioneer who designed and implemented a large number of improvements which enabled the creation and served as inspiration for the creation of various types and aircraft models (in fact, he designed the largest seaplane of his time, although this was not used).
He was also a skilled aviator and perhaps the richest man of his generation (he is considered the first billionaire).
As he is expressed in the film which is based on his life, the aviator, this man have severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, With obsessions and compulsions linked to the fear of germs.
13. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock also had mental health issues. More precisely, this great musician he suffered from a major addiction to various psychoactive substances, Such as cocaine, amphetamines and barbiturates, used to treat depression.
14. Nikola Tesla
This very important scientist, best known for his work in the field of electromagnetism (thanks to which we can have electric light by alternating current, having developed the first induction of this type of current) and inventor of the “ generator that carries his surname, is also one of the great historical figures who have undergone mental alterations.
Specifically, existing data seems to indicate that today may have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, depending on the numerological type opinion. He performed a large number of compulsive behaviors and rituals, usually related to the number three and its multiples.
He also suffered from visual hallucinations, As well as a phobia of germs and jewelry.
15. Winston Churchill
The famous British Prime Minister, First Lord of the Admiralty and a key figure in the Allied Forces during World War II (as well as Nobel Prize winner for literature), also suffered from one of the most common mental disorders. depression (at this time, melancholy).
Throughout his life this politician suffered differently severe depressive episodes he called his “black dog”, With whom he had to fight often. He also took refuge in alcohol. Despite this, he managed to lead a country with strong leadership in a time of turbulence.
16. Edvard Munch
Another important figure in the art world who suffered from mental problems is the painter of the famous painting “The Scream”. Specifically, he has been hospitalized numerous times for problems such as alcoholism, depressive disorders and hallucinations.
Munch himself admitted that his problems were part of his art, And even made descriptions of the hallucinations he suffered (the painting in “The Scream” is inspired by one).
The exact suffering of this painter is the subject of debate, but especially the possible presence of schizophrenia (disease diagnosed in one of his sisters), of depression with psychotic symptoms or of a bipolar disorder is discussed.
17. Ernst Hemingway
One of the great authors of the 20th century and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ernst Hemingway also suffered from a serious mental health problem. Specifically, the author of The Old Man and the Sea suffered major depression, triggered by various problems throughout one’s life.
The author tried to cure himself and underwent electroconvulsive therapy, but nevertheless in his case it was not effective and in addition it caused memory impairment in him. He ultimately committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
18. Vincent Van Gogh
One of the most famous painters of post-impressionism and whose presence of psychic alterations is the best known is Vincent Van Gogh. This artist, author of large canvases like The Starry Night and The Dockers of Arles, suffered from serious mental problems which led him to tear part of his earlobe after a fight with an acquaintance.
the painter he found himself voluntarily confined to various psychiatric hospitals (At that time, insane asylums).
She has been assigned many diagnoses, some linking her alterations to medical illnesses and others attributing them to disorders such as epilepsy (which has been diagnosed), alcoholism or schizophrenia (also referred to as intermittent psychosis).
However, one of the explanations and diagnoses that most often it is linked to the presence of bipolar disorder.
19. Virginia Woolf
This great British-born writer and literary critic is known for breaking with the realism of her time to find a form of expression centered on the inner monologue in which to strike a balance between the rational and the irrational, to be one most relevant. figures of British modernism and to explore and defend women’s rights (being a relevant figure of feminism).
The author of Mme Dalloway, The Waves or Orlando, among other works, suffered many depressive episodes throughout his life with other episodes in which his mood changed dramatically: different experts consider that this important character suffered from bipolar disorder.
20. John Nash
One of the more recent historical figures (the deceased occurred in 2015) on this list is the 1994 Nobel Laureate in Economics, John Forbes Nash.
This great American-born mathematician, who has been recognized for his contributions in economics (among which he greatly contributed to the development of game theory) and history inspired the well-known novel and film A Wonderful Mind, he was first diagnosed with paranoia and later with paranoid schizophrenia at McLean Hospital.
This author felt he was the victim of a conspiracy perpetrated by the Soviet Union and the Communists and suffered from auditory hallucinations. For a time he saw himself as a messenger, a religious figure who was persecuted by the Communists of the Soviet Union and the Vatican.
He also had ideas in which he believed the men with red ribbons were communists against him, as well as the New York Times reflecting coded alien messages, and had several issues with behaviors considered erratic and regressive.
After several seemingly unsuccessful treatments and as he grew older and struggled with his hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms, he gradually achieved a partial recovery which allowed him to return to work in research and teaching and even dropped out of treatment (well that the literature seems to show, the same indicated that he did not feel fully recovered).
The scientific contributions of this man were numerousNot only in math, but also and it is a symbol of hope for many people who see it as a reflection that mental illness does not have to make success impossible.