Mental Illness Common Among U.S. Presidents
> 5/24/2006 9:12:13 AM

Excessive stress would seem to be an accepted component of the world's most powerful job, but did founding father and Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson suffer from social phobia? Was Lyndon Johnson bipolar? Was Franklin Pierce a depressive alcoholic? If these allegations are true, did such impairments affect the political performance of our former Presidents? A new Duke University study suggests that, of the thirty-seven past presidents considered, almost half suffered from some form of mental illness, most commonly depression and anxiety disorders. Reviewing compiled presidential papers and biographies, the study's authors came to some surprising conclusions: though Richard Nixon's alcohol abuse is common knowledge, who would guess that Civil War hero and Union commander Ulysses S. Grant retained an irrational fear of blood, that William Howard Taft suffered from compulsive overeating and a related breathing disorder which warped his sleep patterns, or that James Madison fought through severe depressive tendencies to become the primary author of our Constitution and overseer of the Louisiana Purchase?

One could argue that speculation about men who have been dead for decades and did not undergo regular psychiatric treatment is, at best, an imperfect diagnostic method. And the issue of how our country was affected by the mental instabilities of our leaders is nearly impossible to consider, but one may be reassured by the fact that Abraham Lincoln, one of our most admired leaders, was also a well known depressive whose friends worried about possible psychotic and suicidal tendencies. Though it's more a symbolic overview than a precise assessment, this study may help to move our society a small step further from the common stigmata surrounding mental illness. Also, before pundits and clinicians begin assigning such conditions to their political enemies, they may want to consider the fact that depression and anxiety are hardly birthed by party affiliation or popularity, for although John F. Kennedy's serial womanizing does not fall within the DSM-IV definition of a psychological disorder, both his Republican predecessor Eisenhower and his Democratic successor Johnson moved through extended depressive episodes. In fact, the study's most comforting conclusion may well be that mental illness is a bi-partisan affliction.


Another great post!!
Posted by: Deb 5/26/2006 11:47:03 AM

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy