Did You Know?
According to a research by Dr. Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle, professional artists and poets have scizotypy, a term used to refer to the traits associated with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia describes a mental disorder that is characterized by abnormal perceptions of reality. Auditory hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thoughts and speech characterize this disorder. Genetics, neurobiology, and the social environment in which a person is brought up are factors contributing to schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia display co-morbid conditions, like clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Diagnosis of schizophrenia is based on individual experiences and observed behavior. Due to frequent health problems and an increased suicidal rate, the life expectancy of schizophrenics is reduced.
Living with schizophrenia is not easy. Some lose hope and succumb to the disease, while some choose to fight. Here we look at those who fought their illness and rose to fame - some famous people with schizophrenia. The names are not arranged in any particular order.
Born on June 13, 1928, John Nash is an American mathematician, who worked in differential geometry, game theory, and partial differential equations. He started showing symptoms of schizophrenia during his college years, circa in 1958. In 1959, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and mild clinical depression. In spite of the diagnosis, Nash did not lose hope. He continued his studies and emerged to become the winner of the John von Neumann Theory Prize, the Leroy P. Steel Prize, and the very prestigious Nobel Prize in 1994. The famous 2001 movie, A Beautiful Mind was based on the life of John Nash. The film depicts the genius and his struggle living with schizophrenia.
William Chester Minor
Born in June 1834, W.C. Minor, as he was also called, was an American surgeon who made a valuable contribution to the Oxford English Dictionary. After completing his education, William Chester began to serve the Union Army. After the end of the American Civil War, he spent most of his time off-duty with prostitutes. His condition further worsened to an extent where he had to be admitted to a lunatic asylum in Washington DC. Showing no improvement, he continued with his debauched life. In his paranoia, he shot a man he believed to have broken into his room. He was judged innocent on the grounds of insanity. This brought forth the reality that the disorientation in his life was the result of his mental illness. Later, Chester came to know of the requirement of volunteers to create the Oxford English Dictionary, perhaps from the booksellers of London. He proved to be one of the best volunteers contributing to the Oxford English Dictionary. Unfortunately, Chester's condition deteriorated further. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he died in 1920.
Born on June 16, 1946, Tom Harrell is a famous American post-bop jazz trumpeter. He is also a well-known composer. He began exhibiting his talent in music at a very young age. He started playing the trumpet at the age of 8. In 1969, he passed out of the Stanford University with a degree in music composition. He soon became a part of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. He later played in many famous music bands and orchestras. 1989 onwards, he is known to have led his own groups. This renowned musician suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He experiences severe side effects of the anti-psychotic drugs he is on. Despite the disease, he continues to rock musical shows in different parts of the world.
Born in Zurich, on July 28, 1910, Eduard was the second son of physicist Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric. As a student, Eduard was intelligent. He had a flair for music. He had the dream of becoming a psychoanalyst. But destiny had something else in mind. He was diagnosed schizophrenic at an early age of 20. He had to be institutionalized many times. At the age of 55, Eduard Einstein died in an asylum. Coming from the famous family of Einsteins, Eduard's illness was later used to create public awareness about schizophrenia.
Born Roger Kynard Erickson on July 15, 1947, he is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and a harmonica player. Since youth, Erickson took great interest in music. He began to play the piano at the age of 5 and took to playing the guitar at 12. He dropped out of the Travis High School in 1965. His first group called The Spades became a hit, featuring his song, We Sell Soul. He was one of the founding members of the 13th Floor Elevators. They released around four albums; all of them topped the musical charts. Erickson had a huge fan following and became one of the most famous artists of his time. In 1968, he was detected with paranoid schizophrenia. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital of Houston to receive electroconvulsive therapy. After long years of treatment, he returned to music in 1995.
Born on October 29, 1946, Peter Green is a prominent figure in Blues rock music. He is a musician, songwriter, and a Blues rock guitarist who was ranked 38th in the Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Apart from guitar playing, he has also been appreciated for his sweet tone. After starting his career in 1966, he formed a British-American rock band in 1967. It was called Fleetwood Mac and it became a huge hit during the late '60s and later during the late '70s. Around the mid-seventies, Peter Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He needed to be in psychiatric hospitals and undergo electroconvulsive therapy. During that time, he also took to drugs. According to Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis, Green's consuming LSD during a party at Munich in March 1970 was a crucial point in his mental decline. Due to his mental illness and drug use, Peter Green's career saw a downfall. It was like his life had paused, but only for a little while. He resumed work in 1979. He started recovering from the illness after moving to Great Yarmouth.
This 1979-born Australian writer earned world acclaim in the early years of his writing career. His award-winning novel The Pilo Family Circus, which was also his first novel, brought him fame. He was diagnosed schizophrenic at the age of 20, while he was pursuing law. He had to discontinue education after that. In 2009, he published Strange Places, which talks about his battle against schizophrenia and how he evolved as a writer during that time. His first novel is about a young man's struggle with his psychotic alter-ego. Though it seems to be autobiographical, Elliott says it isn't. He has been almost-successful in battling schizophrenia and the condition has not relapsed. He continues writing horror and literary fiction.
Born on July 29, 1905, Clara Gordon Bow was an American actress who acted in silent films. She had a "deprived childhood", as she puts it, because her childhood years were spent taking care of her mother who suffered from psychosis owing to epilepsy that was resultant of a severe head injury. As a child, Clara had a boy-like stature and had no girlfriends. Probably, that made her dislike school. The conditions at home weren't good either. She found solace on the silver screen. At the young age of 16, she realized that she wanted to be an actress. The '20s saw her rise to limelight. She retired from acting in 1933. Around the 40s, her health declined. She became socially withdrawn, had insomnia, experienced delusion, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She stayed in the Institute of Living to receive treatment for her illness. She left the institute to never return to her family. She stayed alone until her death in 1965.
Born on June 20, 1942, Brian Wilson (also known as Kenny) is an American musician who was the chief songwriter and also the main producer and arranger of the band Beach Boys. He showed his musical talent from a very early age. During early childhood, he suffered hearing impairment in the right ear. He used to sing at the church and at school functions. He continued taking music lessons throughout college. His career in music began in 1961. He had a nervous breakdown in 1964, following which he stopped performing live with the Beach Boys. In the late 1960s, he took to cocaine. He was psychologically disturbed and had to be treated in a psychiatric hospital. He continued writing and playing music until his father's death, which led him to seclusion for two years. During these years, he took to drugs and alcohol abuse. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the exact cause for which is debated. He experiences auditory hallucinations and has manic depressive and schizoaffective disorders. However, his illness hasn't stopped him from performing. He is a Grammy winner and has been enlisted among the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone.
Born on July 14, 1945, James Beck "Jim" Gordon is a Grammy Award-winning musician, recording artist, and songwriter. Starting his career in 1963, with The Everly Brothers, he went on to become a very popular recording-session drummer. He recorded with many famous musicians of the time. In the late 1970s, he started experiencing auditory hallucinations and suffered paranoid schizophrenia. His ailment remained undiagnosed. He stabbed his mother to death for which he is serving imprisonment.
Born on February 14, 1941, he was a professional football player of the United States. He played for the Green Bay Packers during his NFL career of eleven years. He played a major role in winning NFL Championships for his team and in earning them two Super Bowl victories. Post-retirement, he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. After recovering, he started working for the homeless and the mentally ill. He died on February 12, 1998.
Born on September 4, 1896, he was a French playwright, actor, director, and poet, best-known for The Theatre and Its Double. He had meningitis at the age of four. He had neuralgia and bouts of clinical depression for which he was treated with opium, further leading him to addiction. He had to spend years in sanatoriums to seek treatment. After a career spanning about 20 years, he started showing symptoms of mental illness again. He was treated using electroshock treatments combined with art therapy. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1948 and died the same year. Overdose of chloral hydrate is said to have been the cause of his death.
Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden was an African-American cornetist who is considered to have been hugely responsible for the development of jazz. He was also known as King Bolden or Buddy Bolden. It is said that his band was the first one to make use of brass instruments to play the Blues. He was known for his loud playing and his improvisations. For a period between 1900 and 1907, he suffered from schizophrenia. His recordings cannot be found and not much is known about his life. He died on November 4, 1931.
Born in 1866, she was a British archaeologist recognized for her role in starting the first survey of the Easter Island. It is said that she had paranoid schizophrenia since childhood. After 1925, she also developed delusional paranoia. She was forcefully sent to a mental institution for treatment. Her research and work in archaeology and anthropology, was commendable.
Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. First a guitarist, then a drummer, he co-founded Moby Grape in late 1966. He was diagnosed schizophrenic. His career suffered because of his mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. He died of lung cancer in 1999. One of his biographers describes him as "a man who neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out".
Born on January 6, 1946, Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett was an English singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known for founding Pink Floyd. Psychedelic rock, space rock, blues rock, and experimental rock were some of the genres he created music in. After a decent career in music, he took up painting and gardening. Diagnoses about his mental health vary. Some consider him to have suffered from schizophrenia, while some believe it was bipolar disorder. The diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome has also been suggested. Drug use is said to have worsened his illness. On July 7, 2006, he died of pancreatic cancer.
Mary Todd Lincoln
Born on December 13, 1818, the world knows her as Abraham Lincoln's wife and the First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865. She witnessed the deaths of 3 sons and was accompanying Abraham Lincoln when he was shot dead in 1965 at the Ford's Theater. Many enlist Mary among the famous people with schizophrenia. But it is unclear whether she really was. She had suffered a head injury, following which she had started having frequent headaches. She often showed mood swings and episodes of temperamental imbalance. Some psychologists and historians have suggested that she had bipolar disorder. She died at the age of 63.
Vincent van Gogh
Born on March 30 1853, he was a Dutch post-impressionist painter and one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He used to draw since childhood. In the initial years of his career he worked with art dealers and for a brief period as a teacher. His first major artwork came in 1885. He was pretty self-absorbed and showed a somewhat eccentric behavior. Though some consider him to have suffered from schizophrenia, the diagnosis is debated. There are speculations of bipolar disorder, syphilis, and temporal lobe epilepsy. Some consider his illness to have resulted from poisoning due to swallowed paints. Overwork, lack of sleep and nutrition, and alcoholism are considered to have deteriorated his health. He died on July 27, 1890. He is believed to have shot himself with a gun. But no gun was found on the scene.
Born on July 24, 1900, she was an American novelist referred to as the "first American Flapper". She was the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, also an accomplished writer. Her first novel This Side of Paradise, that came out in 1920, was a huge success. At the age of 30, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The diagnosis was confirmed after months of observation for which she had to stay in a sanatorium in France. She was moved to a clinic in Switzerland, released in 1931 and had to be admitted again when her health condition worsened following her father's death and Scott's decision to leave for Hollywood. She died at the age of 48 in a fire accident in a hospital where she was awaiting treatment.
Born on March 12, 1889 or 1890 (the exact year is unknown), he was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer. Both his parents were dancers. He studied dancing at the Imperial Ballet School. He was a sensual dancer known for his en pointe and leaps. He was one of the greatest male dancers of the time. Around 1916, he showed symptoms of schizophrenia and was diagnosed with the ailment. He went to Switzerland for treatment but could not recover completely. The rest of his life was spent in hospitals, undergoing treatment. His illness incapacitated him as a dancer and performer, until one day when he came across a group of Russian soldiers playing folk tunes. He started dancing intuitively and surprised everyone by his exceptional skill. Till then he used to prefer being alone and silent. After this incident, he got back a little of his ability to communicate. He died in 1953.
Some other eminent figures, including Picasso, Socrates, and Joan of Arc, were believed to have been schizophrenics.
Joan of Arc had religious visions. Today's scholars attribute them to a psychiatric or neurological disorder which could have been epilepsy or schizophrenia. There are other speculations about tuberculosis or migraine causing the visions. But since Joan of Arc did not show other symptoms that accompany these health conditions, no conclusions have been drawn.
A few sources may tell you that Pablo Picasso was a schizophrenic. Carl Jung sheds light on the truth. According to him, patients can be divided into two groups - neurotic and schizophrenic. The former group produces pictures with a unified feeling or symmetry, while the latter produces pictures that communicate no feeling or depict contradicting emotions. Picasso's creations belonged to this group which is why he can be classified as schizophrenic. And this does not necessarily mean that he showed symptoms of the mental illness.
With this article, we tried to share with you, the stories of some very famous people who battled schizophrenia. What makes these people stand out is the courage they showed to fight against what fate had brought their way.