9 Bipolar Celebrities: From Mr. Cobain to Mr. Churchill

9 Famous Faces of Bipolar Disorder

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  • Bipolar Celebrities

    Bipolar Celebrities

    Bipolar disorder refers to cycling between episodes of extreme high and low moods, involving periods of elevated temper or mania alternating with depression. Symptoms of the disorder include inflated self-esteem and delusions of grandeur, making it a fitting psychosis of celebrities. Common symptoms include binge eating, drinking, drug use, sexual promiscuity, and spending sprees. Since it’s difficult to diagnose, the media often cite it as cause for a celebrity’s erratic behavior or substance abuse.

  • Russell Brand

    Photo courtesy of Brian Solis (CC A-SA 3.0)

    Russell Brand

    Russell Brand, the British comedic oddball, has essentially made a career out of his disorder. He is known for his instability: he withstood an unhappy childhood, a heroin and crack habit, bulimia, and sex addiction. His bipolar disorder, however detrimental to his sanity, has shaped his career as an unpredictable combination of ambition and vulnerability.

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones

    Catherine Zeta-Jones

    After a stressful year watching her husband, Michael Douglas, suffer from cancer, Catherine checked herself into a mental health facility for treatment of Bipolar II, which is marked by longer bouts of depression and less elevated “up” periods. She only sought treatment briefly in order to ensure her mental health before returning to work.

  • Kurt Cobain

    Kurt Cobain

    The grunge rocker and cultural icon was diagnosed with ADD at a young age and later with bipolar disorder. Despite the success of Nirvana, Cobain committed suicide at age 27. Time magazine listed him as one of art, music, and literature’s “manic geniuses.” 

  • Graham Greene

    Graham Greene

    English novelist Graham Greene led a hedonistic life—he would swing from periods of elation or irritability to despair, and was guilty of repeated infidelities. He was an alcoholic who abandoned his wife and children in favor of a series of affairs with married women. He was a devout Catholic who was tormented by his behavior, and expressed the moral struggle between good and evil in his novels, plays, and films.  

  • Nina Simone

    Nina Simone

    The famous singer of I Put A Spell on You was a political activist, vocal during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. She was prone to fits of rages, and because of her instability, was labeled a “difficult diva.” Nina experienced greater freedom of expression and authenticity, and ignored the pressures to conform to “normal” social conventions—she was known to be a seductress and posed nude.

  • Winston Churchill

    Winston Churchill

    Some believe that it was because of his bipolar disorder, not despite it, that Churchill was able to succeed. When all odds were against Britain, a stable leader of sober judgment might have given up hope. Churchill often referred openly to his depression, calling it his “black dog.” A controversial statue depicting Churchill in a straightjacket was commissioned by a British mental health charity in 2006.

  • Tom Waits

    Tom Waits

    The eccentric singer, songwriter, and actor took to heavy drinking in an attempt to ease his depressive moods. During his bipolar mood swings, he recorded songs portraying pessimistic and cynical moods: alcohol, heartbreak, and darkness are constant themes in his works.

  • Alvin Ailey

    Alvin Ailey

    Abandoned by his father as a child and raised by an impoverished teenage mother, Alvin Ailey grew up in an unstable environment. Despite his illness and internal conflict about his sexuality, Ailey achieved great success in the American arts landscape as a renowned modern dancer and choreographer. Ailey suffered from bipolar disorder, which was aggravated by his drinking and drug use.  

  • More Information

    More Information

    You may think you suffer from mood swings, but as these celebrities show, bipolar disorder is much more severe. Learn about the signs and symptoms, and find out if you may suffer from this condition. It’s important to protect your mental health, and get the support you need if you suffer. Learn more about the disease and some causes, symptoms, and treatments by clicking here.