The condition, coupled with anxiety attacks, ran in his family and plagued him from a very young age, when he was still simply a young lawyer in Illinois. As his law partner, William Henderson, once said, "His melancholy dripped from him as he walked."Wikimedia Commons
As National Geographic writes, "He loathed jewelry and round objects and wouldn't touch hair. He was obsessed with the number three and polished every dining implement he used to perfection, using 18 napkins."Wikimedia Commons
Vincent van Gogh
Those diagnoses, according to the journal, include depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, but also schizophrenia, which may have run in his family. However, other writers and physicians have since disputed this diagnosis.Wikimedia Commons
Dozens of physicians and writers who either knew Hitler personally or studied him posthumously have advanced possible diagnoses of everything from schizophrenia to narcissistic personality disorder to sadistic personality disorder to antisocial personality disorder to Asperger's syndrome.Wikimedia Commons
A team of doctors studied Putin's movement patterns and defensive behavior in large social settings to ultimately conclude that his "neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy" by some tragic event and that he now "carries a neurological abnormality."Wikimedia Commons
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
And what some medical journals have now suggested is that these vulgar preoccupations — along with his vocal and motor tics — indicate that Mozart had Tourette's syndrome.Wikimedia Commons
There, doctors noted that "neuropsychiatric examination disclosed auditory hallucinations, ideas of reference and suicide, and a rambling, grandiose, philosophical manner," diagnosed him with dementia praecox (schizophrenia), and discharged him on psychiatric grounds.Wikimedia Commons
Both historians and medical journal writers have suggested that, perhaps stemming from the childhood abuse he received from his drunken father, Stalin developed a clinical paranoia that informed his more terroristic acts as dictator decades later.Wikimedia Commons
Few, however, know that after Darwin returned from that voyage, he very seldom left home and lived as a recluse for the rest of his life.
The reason, according to recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association? Darwin suffered from agoraphobia and panic disorder.
"Had it not been for this illness," suggests the research, "his theory of evolution might not have become the all-consuming passion that produced On the Origin of Species."Wikimedia Commons
"The evidence," writes the Journal of Medical Biography, "relates to his single-minded work routine, unusual lifestyle, limited interests, poor social and communication skills, and issues of life control."Wikimedia Commons
Understanding that his "condition was verging on madness," as he later wrote, Munch entered a therapeutic clinic, where he received eight months of treatment (including electrifications) in 1908.Wikimedia Commons
And while that may still be true — definitive diagnoses in cases from the BC era are of course difficult — new scholarship suggests that he may have actually suffered from small strokes instead, in addition to vertigo. Wikimedia Commons
Indeed, some current scholarship suggests that the notoriously megalomaniacal French conqueror likely had NPD.Wikimedia Commons
Ludwig van Beethoven
These journals even suggest that one can hear Beethoven's dramatic swings from suicidal depression to frenzied mania in the dramatic swings in dynamics and tempo in the man's music.Wikimedia Commons
It remains somewhat unclear, however, whether the CIA used that term in its clinical sense (a mental disorder characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships) or more loosely to refer to someone who simply, as Woodward writes, "alternated between crazy and noncrazy behavior."Wikimedia Commons
Coupled with alcohol dependence and a traumatic brain injury, Hemingway frequently sank into long periods of depression before ultimately committing suicide at 61 in 1961. Wikimedia Commons
Those who subscribe to this theory point to Newton's swings between periods of enraged mania (such as when he threatened to burn his parents house down with them inside it) and wallowing depression including delusions and hallucinations.Wikimedia Commons
According to the journal, Woolf "experienced mood swings from severe depression to manic excitement and episodes of psychosis," all of which landed her in an institution for a time and informed her bouts of suicidal thoughts.Wikimedia Commons
"After writing War and Peace," the journal reads, "his existence had been torn apart by a serious depression. This depression, which was melancholic in character, almost destroyed him and, once he had finished Anna Karenina, led him to want to renounce not only sexuality but also literary creation and material possessions."Wikimedia Commons
In 2009, researchers at Hungary's Semmelweis University published new findings about a relatively seldom-studied gene called neuregulin 1. To that point known almost solely as a gene that increased one's susceptibility to schizophrenia, neuregulin 1 belonged to the study of madness.
What the Semmelweis researchers did, however, was connect the gene not just to madness, but to genius as well.
Confirming Aristotle's immortal yet disputed quotation stating that "No great genius has existed without a strain of madness," the 2009 study found that neuregulin 1 informed brain development and neural communication in ways that increased both one's creativity and one's likelihood of developing any number of psychoses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
While this result provided a scientific underpinning for the link between genius and madness, it's safe to say that most of us already understood, at least implicitly, that that link was there.
Surely, most of us had noticed the frequency with which our favorite writers and artists sank into depression, suffered breakdowns, and committed suicide relative to the general population.
Indeed, as researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institute found in 2014, people working in creative fields (dance, writing, photography, and so on) were significantly more likely to have — or at least have a family history of — mental issues like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.
The Karolinska researchers found that writers, in particular, were 121 percent more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder compared to the general population, and nearly 50 percent more likely to commit suicide.
However, it's not only clinically depressed writers like Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf who demonstrate the link between genius and madness; it's also political leaders, inventors, and scientists who have battled mental disorders that both tormented and fueled them.
And sometimes, the link between genius and madness is even apparent in other historical figures whose world-changing albeit loathsome qualities force us to stretch our very notion of "genius." These are the tyrants and conquerors, like Napoleon and Stalin — people who changed history immeasurably regardless of where we think they fall on the spectrum from good to evil.
From Stalin to Hemingway and beyond, discover some of the iconic historical figures who grappled with serious mental disorders in the gallery above.
Next, read up on 12 more historic figures who struggled with mental illness. Then, discover five of the world's most unusual mental disorders.