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 and confident and hallucinations on the extreme end of the spectrum. 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.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most recent research on bipolar disorder suggests that this mental illness runs in families, meaning it’s genetic. It’s believed that as many as 2.6 percent of the U.S. population, 5.7 million adults, are affected by this condition. The World Health Organization claims that bipolar disorder 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 have struggled with it throughout history.
Here are Famous Faces that Battled Bipolar Disorder
1. Vincent Van Gogh
The tortured artist, Vincent Van Gogh, is believed to have 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, committing 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, 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 her grandfather’s suicide anniversary, 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.
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 frontman 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.
Bipolar Disorder, or any 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.