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Monday, February 21, 2011

Mental Illness in the Presidency

Happy President's Day to you! Hopefully you're off work, laid back in your recliner, and getting some serious writing and social media networking done. 
In honor of our presidents, I thought a post on mental illness in the Oval Office might be appropriate for my blog readership. Duke University psychiatrists Jonathan Davidson, Kathryn Connor, and Marvin Swartz teamed up in 2006 to diagnose our fearless (or not-so-fearless, in some cases) commanders-in-chief from 1776 to 1974 using biographical information.

37 presidents were researched, and 18 (49%) suffered from some sort of clinically diagnosable disorder. The most common disorders were depression (24%), anxiety (8%), bipolar disorder (8%), and alcohol abuse/dependence (8%) were the most common. 10 of these presidents (27%) suffered a disorder during their presidency, which in most cases probably impaired job performance.

So which president had what? Some of the more notable ones are below:

Abraham Lincoln: depression (more than the others, this was widely known)
Franklin Pierce: PTSD/depression from witnessing his son's violent death in railway accident
Ulysses S. Grant: alcohol abuse/dependence; social phobia
William Taft: sleep apnea (often dozed off during important meetings)
Theodore Roosevelt: bipolar (showed signs of manic energy b/c he was indefatigable)
Lyndon B. Johnson: bipolar
Richard Nixon: heavy alcohol abuse/dependence (especially through Watergate--go figure)
Calvin Coolidge:social phobia; depression (after teen son died of an infection); hypochondria
Thomas Jefferson: social phobia

Interestingly, the contemporaries of Grant, James Madison, Rutherford Hayes and Woodrow Wilson who knew them as young men wouldn't have thought that either of them would grow up to do very much based on their seeming mental problems/deficiencies. 

Just goes to show you that you can't judge a book--or a president--by it's cover too early.

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Melissa said...

Very interesting! :) I had no idea. NO work for hubby today, but kids had school. I think this is a first. LOL

Angela C. said...

I didn't know a lot of that. Very interesting. Was there any evidence of Nixon having any traits of paranoid personality disorder?

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.