Because March 30 is recognized as World Bipolar Day, it’s an ideal time to learn about famous people with bipolar disorder so others know they are not alone in experiencing this mental health condition.
Bipolar Disorder is a psychiatric condition that causes severe shifts in behavior, thought patterns, sleep, energy and overall mood.
Individuals with this disorder can experience manic episodes where they feel energized, overly excited, confident, and on the extreme end of the spectrum, have hallucinations. On the flip side of the coin, people with bipolar disorder can suffer from severe depression.
Both depressive and manic episodes can be physically and emotionally painful and they impact each person differently.
The most recent research on bipolar disorder suggests that this mental illness runs in families, meaning it’s genetic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
It’s believed that as many as 2.6 percent of the U.S. population; 5.7 million adults are affected by this condition. So it stands to reason that there are plenty of famous people with bipolar disorder that have been successful at overcoming the symptoms.
The World Health Organization estimates that bipolar disorder affects approximately 45 million people worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of disability around the globe.
Since bipolar disorder affects all races, genders and ages, it’s no surprise that notable personalities and famous people with bipolar have struggled with it throughout history.
Here are 10 Famous With Bipolar Disorder
This list of famous people with bipolar disorder includes both contemporary and historical figures to show that this mental health issue has been affecting people for quite some time.
It is unfortunate that better treatment methods and greater understanding of bipolar were not available until more recently.
1. Vincent Van Gogh
The tortured artist, Vincent Van Gogh, is believed to have a suffered from bipolar disorder, creating some of his work during manic states.
The American Journal of Psychiatry examined a number of historical texts, including his own letters, in coming to this conclusion.
2. Virginia Woolf
An early feminist and famous writer in the 20th century, Virginia Woolf battled bipolar disorder from the age of 15 on, and eventually died by suicide in 1941.
In a letter, she wrote, “My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring, diving and then buried in the mud. And why? What is this passion for?”
3. Florence Nightingale
The mother of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, also called “the lady with the lamp,” accomplished incredible goals while suffering from crippling depression.
Dr. Kathy Wisner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center writes, “Florence heard voices and experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20s – symptoms consistent with the onset of bipolar disorder.
4. Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II and referred to his bipolar condition as his “black dog.”
Some historians believe that Churchill’s depression allowed him to realistically assess the threat of Germany to the whole of Europe.
5. Ernest Hemingway
An icon of not only literature, but of masculine bravado, Ernest Hemingway had a troubled childhood that followed him throughout his life.
In fact, his entire family was prone to manic-depression. Dr. Christopher D. Martin, a staff psychiatrist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston diagnosed Hemingway after researching 15 different biographies.
“Bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, traumatic brain injury, and probably borderline and narcissistic personality traits,” he said in an interview.
6. Margaux Hemingway
American fashion model, actress and granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Margaux Hemingway is another example of famous bipolar people who struggled with episodes of clinical depression throughout her life.
She’d sought treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction, and seemed as if she were on the road to recovery.
However, one day before the anniversary of her grandfather’s suicide, Margaux intentionally overdosed on phenobarbital and died.
7. Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut and American icon, Buzz Aldrin wasn’t prepared for the fame, which followed his historic trip to the moon. Depression and alcoholism plagued him for a long period in his life, despite his accomplishments.
After years of struggle, he sought out treatment and later served as chairman to the National Mental Health Association.
8. Catherine Zeta-Jones
A famous actress in her own right, Catherine Zeta-Jones is also the wife of Michael Douglas.
After an incredibly stressful year, she sought treatment for a bipolar II diagnosis, which causes wild mood swings.
Many believe that her open struggle with the condition will help others who are coping with the stigma of a mental illness.
9. Sting (Gordon Matthew Sumner)
English rock star, Sting, has been outspoken regarding his battles with bipolar disorder. He’s also participated in events raising awareness about the disease.
Looking back at his time as front man of the band Police, he noted, “I was suicidal… I was manic-depressive and I just wasn’t chemically balanced enough to enjoy it.”
10. Jane Pauley
Jane Pauley, former host of NBC’s The Today Show wrote an autobiography, “Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue,” which included her experience with bipolar disorder.
During a leave from the network, Pauley received treatment at a psychiatric clinic, and decided to see the illness as an opportunity to educate and create a better understanding for those who suffer from it.
Famous People With Bipolar Disorder Can Help Others
Bipolar disorder, or all forms of mental illness, can be a struggle for anyone, at any time. It’s imperative for people to know there’s no shame in seeking help and others have also walked in their steps, as noted from those listed here.
Some of the earlier famous people with bipolar disorder mentioned here struggled with it until the end of their life and possibly died from complications related to the symptoms.
Fortunately, others more recently have found treatment to be helpful for overcoming the symptoms of depression and mania, and they have been outspoken about their positive experiences.
There are a variety of treatment therapies that can help with managing symptoms and some types of prescription medications might be necessary for people to stabilize their mood. Therapy and medications together are often the most effective option.
Letting people with bipolar know that it affects everyone and it’s okay to ask for help will go a long way in reducing the stigma and helping others successfully manage the disorder.
Famous Bipolar People Photo Credits:
Sir Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh
Catherine Zeta-Jones by David Shankbone
Sting by Raph_PH
Jane Pauley by David Shankbone
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