6 Famous People with Bipolar Disorder

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 7

They represent the pinnacle of achievement, but also a thousand "Starry Nights" never painted. We view them as beings above the realm of us mere mortals, yet we still can intimately identify with them.Such is the nature of the gift and curse that represents our illness. To know them is to know ourselves.

Getty Images

Marilyn Monroe

The screen fairly lit up with her presence, but when she called in sick for the 17th time during the filming of “Something’s Got to Give,” the studio fired her. Being Marilyn,  she took on the studio and won.  Shooting was about to restart. But living up to her larger-than-life public persona took its toll. Something had to give.

Something did.

Getty Images

Teddy Roosevelt

“He zoomed, he boomed, he bolted wildly,” a friend remarked.

Cowboy, war hero, conservationist, author, Amazon explorer, and U.S. president, he packed several lives into one.

Woodrow Wilson called him “the most dangerous man of the age,” and Mark Twain described him as “clearly insane.”  Yet, thanks to TR, we all know what a tree looks like.

Getty Images

Vincent Van Gogh

"I generally try to be fairly cheerful," the artist wrote his brother Theo, "but my life is also threatened at the very root, and my steps are also wavering."

Painting under the hot sun in the south of France, the artist would descend into madness, yet produce some of his most life-affirming paintings, such as “Cypresses” and “Starry Night.”

Then came “Crows in the Wheatfields.” Night closed fast. He was 37.

Getty Images

Ludwig van Beethoven

"I joyfully hasten to meet death," Beethoven wrote, “for will it not deliver me from endless suffering?”

Withdrawing into the bleak isolation of his deafness, he stopped composing for 12 years, only to make a triumphant return with his Choral Symphony and its transcendent “Ode to Joy.”

A peal of thunder occasioned his death. Some 30,000 mourners turned out for his funeral.

Virginia Woolf

She was the life of the party, who moved in that celebrated intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury Group. Yet, depression and madness were constants in her life.

One cold day in 1941, she left a note for her husband:

“I feel certain now that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time.”

Then she walked down to the river bank.

Gustav Mahler

His professional and domestic life seemed to pit him against the elements. He sought out as a therapist none other than Sigmund Freud.

Leonard Bernstein characterized his compositions as the works of one in opposition with himself, out of which emerged “the whole roster of Yang and Yin.”

His music mystified his contemporaries. Modern ears would listen with entirely new sensibilities.