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Six Popular Leaders Who Battled With Mental Health Issues

Mental health conditions are still associated with inefficiency and weakness even to this day. Some people still have the notion that those who are mentally ill are not capable of doing great things. However, you would be amazed to know that some of the most iconic and impactful — albeit, some were quite notorious and infamous — political leaders in history actually struggled with mental health issues, but that didn’t stop them from influencing and impacting thousands of lives.

While we definitely love to keep our focus on who’s the better leader and visionary these days, we can’t help but look back in our history to find out some of the iconic world leaders who actually turned their weakness into their greatest strength.

Abraham Lincoln

Popularly voted as one of the three greatest presidents America has ever had, Lincoln was described as a melancholic person by some contemporary psychiatrists. In modern medical parlance, his mental disorder could be termed as clinical depression. Lincoln actually suffered from heavy mental depression due to a series of traumatic life events, including the demise of Ann Rutledge which devastated him. It is also a widely believed fact that Lincoln used to take a certain kind of blue mass pill for mood improvement.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan had a photographic memory before Alzheimer’s disease took that and more away from him in his 70s. He forgot the names of his trusted aides, cabinet officers, and even visiting dignitaries. In an embarrassing incident, the former US president toasted to the Bolivians while speaking in Brazil. He was symptomatic while still in office and Gerald Ford once said that Reagan could not recognize him.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler needs no description. The German dictator during World War II used to suffer from a borderline personality disorder, and his mental instability was worsened by methamphetamine addiction. Waite, who delved into the psychiatric aspects of Hitler’s character, said that Hitler was in full control of his actions due to his borderline personality disorder. Some historians also believe Hitler was schizophrenic. However, all those speculations are not proven as Hitler never visited a psychiatrist in his life.

Kim Jong-il

We’re not talking about the present one, although their names are confusing. Chances are, if you misspell or mispronounce the erstwhile supreme leader’s name somewhere in North Korea, you’ll be in serious trouble! Everybody knows that North Korean citizens lack freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to many other basic things except the propagandist media of the country. Psychiatrists say Kim Jong-il, the father and predecessor of the present North Korean leader, was both schizoid and schizotypal.

James Madison

Many of you who couldn’t care less about history might have forgotten James Madison. In case you can’t recall who he is, this man was the fourth president of the USA (Presidency: 1809 to 1817). It is said that Madison left the presidency a poorer man than when he became the president, and some historians suggest that in his later years, the former president had become extremely obsessed about his legacy. His mental disorder was evident in his growing habit of modifying letters, documents, dates, and even words, characters, and sentences. He once edited a letter which was originally written to Jefferson, and he imitated Jefferson’s handwriting style when he made the changes. Obsessed much?

Pol Pot

Pol Pot is perhaps the most hated Cambodian mass murderer and dictator. And he was a man who used to suffer from a number of mental disorders, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder, sociopathy, paranoia, and megalomania. During his totalitarian reign of terror, he compelled his urban subjects to move to villages to work in collective farming. 25% Cambodian population was dead by the time his regime came to an end. Afterward, Pol Pot died a very mysterious death, but the horrors of his dictatorship have left a lasting scar in the history of the country.

Nassir Ghaemi, an eminent Iranian psychiatrist, conducted extensive research on how mental illness and leadership are related to each other. Nassir Ghaemi proved that people with mental health issues can actually become great leaders. According to Ghaemi, there is a surprising relationship between leadership and mental health problems. He also proved with real-life examples that perfectly sane people can actually fail as politicians. Insanity can endow people with certain virtues. The examples are aplenty and are not limited to the above-mentioned leaders. Some had done greatness while others had spread only terror and fear. So, what do you think about the link between mental health problems and leadership?

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