Famous People Who Have Experienced an Anxiety Disorder
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)
Poet of the highest distinction. He was a Poet Laureate and an inspiration to others. The years 1840-5 were in many ways the most challenging in his life. He was separated from his wife; he had lost his money; he felt more nervously ill than ever, and he could not write. So severe was his nervous illness that his friends despaired of his life.
"I have", he wrote, "drunk one of the most bitter draughts out of the cup of life, which go near to make men hate the world they move in."
In 1843 he wrote to a friend
" ... the perpetual panic and horror of the last two years had steeped my nerves in poison: now I am left a beggar but am or shall be shortly somewhat better off in nerves."
He was undertaking Hydropaths treatment which included: no reading, no going near a fire, no coffee, perpetual wet sheet and cold bath and alternation from hot to cold. It didn't work. In 1848 he went to a new doctor who gave him iron pills. It was commented "..this really great man thinks more about his bowels and nerves than about the laureate wreath he was born to inherit..". Many of his friends thought him a hypochondriac. He never received appropriate treatment for his condition and so experienced nervous illness through his life. He was also a brilliant poet and writer of the first order.
Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)
Gifted poet and writer of the Victorian era. One of the infamous Bronte sisters. Author of, amongst others, Jane Eyre, Villette and Shirley. In 1852 developed a state of anxiety with depression. Charlotte was given a mercury treatment which provoked a violent reaction.
She said she was not writing but instead was swallowing drugs
"for the purpose of chasing away a low nervous fever which after long annoying threats - at last established a somewhat unfair tyranny over spirit - sleep and appetite".
She portrayed her condition in the character of Lucy in Villette. She suggests a connection between mental and physical illness
"my mind has suffered somewhat too much; a malady is growing upon it - what shall I do? How shall I keep well?" She also says "Sleepless, I lay awake night after night, weak and unable to occupy myself".
She would say the breakdown was a result of writing a book in isolation (Jane Eyre). But, she also said
"It would take a great deal to crush me!"
Developed and taught psychoanalysis which is a form of psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis is
associated with the couch, the note pad and the silent listener. Contrary to popular belief, Freud was not the father of psychiatry. Sigmund Freud suffered from Panic Disorder at the time when he wrote his famous papers on anxiety neurosis. He had symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder and worried a great deal about his 'spells'. He had many medical evaluations for them. Nothing of a serious medical nature could be found wrong with him. He was told that his symptoms were 'nervous' in origin. Freud was not satisfied with what he was told. In his quest for a fuller explanation, he searched for a psychological cause. He built an elaborate model based on psychology of the mind and the role of internal conflicts in causing and maintaining anxiety. This model has preoccupied everyone studying anxiety for most of the century*. * The Anxiety Disease: David Sheehan MD
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
Genius & greatest inventor the world has ever known. Invented device to harness alternating electrical current, invented radio , fluorescent lighting and bladeless turbine, fundamentals of robotry, computers and missile science. Many of the 'modern conveniences of life' are a result of Tesla's inventions. At 5 years of age, following death of his older brother, he developed many phobias and compulsions and in general became a 'perfectionist' - subjecting himself to iron discipline in order to excel. He was also 'plagued' by panic attack - like symptoms. Strong flashes of light that marred sight of real objects and 'shooting flames' through the body. Their intensity increased as he got older.
'This caused me great discomfort and anxiety ..' said Tesla, 'None of the students of psychology or physiology whom I have consulted could ever explain satisfactorily these phenomena ..'
No surprise here, most people still can't get a satisfactory explanation about what is happening ......
Last Updated: 01 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD