There are many famous people throughout history that have been verified as having schizophrenia. We either found out from their personal public statements or reported diagnoses that were shared with the public following their death. The fact that famous people and celebrities have had to deal with a severe debilitating mental illness such as schizophrenia shows that it can affect anyone – regardless of social standing or financial earnings.
Obviously there are certain sub-types of schizophrenia that are more debilitating than others, but in general the degree to which a person is able to cope depends on individual circumstances. Below is a list of famous people that have been documented as having schizophrenia. If you have schizophrenia, this list can help you understand that you’re not alone and that plenty of other individuals before you have lived with it – some of which happened to be famous.
This shows that regardless of your mental illness, you can be a successful, productive member of society. Compared to other mental disorders, there are considerably fewer people with schizophrenia simply because it is a rare condition – only affecting roughly 1% of the population. Most people that are diagnosed tend to be between ages 18 and 30 – which is typically too young to become famous. It is still unknown what causes schizophrenia, but researchers suggest a number of genetic, environmental, and social factors play a role in increasing risk.
List of Famous People with Schizophrenia
Adèle Hugo – This was the daughter of renowned French writer Victor Hugo. Her story and battle with schizophrenia is documented in the film “The Story of Adele H.” She lived in an upscale mental institution outside of Paris, France until her death. The illness also was found in other members of the Hugo family, but is less documented. It has been noted that Victor Hugo’s brother Eugène also had schizophrenia. Much of what we know regarding her life can be derived from her personal diaries and letters.
Alan Alda’s Mother – You may know Alan Alda from the highly popularized TV series “M*A*S*H.” He has discussed that his mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He said that his mother having the illness was extremely embarrassing for him.
Alexander “Skip” Spence – The Canadian-born American musician and singer-songwriter suffered from schizophrenia. He was the co-founder of the group Moby Grape and played guitar for the group until 1969. He was also the drummer for Jefferson Airplane on their debut album.
Andy Goram – He is a former professional Scottish football (soccer) goalkeeper. He played for Oldham Athletic and Hibernian. He is widely remembered for starting for Rangers during the 1990s and was often referred to as “The Goalie.” In the early 2000s, he was regarded by a fan poll as the greatest Rangers goalie of all-time. Goram is well known for having suffered from a mild case of schizophrenia.
Antoin Artaud – Well known French playwright, poet, actor, and director of theatre was documented as having schizophrenia. The remaining years of his life was spent in different asylums and psychiatric hospitals. Doctors tried to use electroshock therapy for his condition, but it didn’t work as expected. He is also described as having a psychotic break later in his life and schizotypal personality features.
Ash Lieb – The famous artist, comedian, and writer suffered from schizophrenia. At one point he went through a tough life in the streets and was actually homeless. Eventually he was able to round up enough money to treat his condition with proper medication. He described his art as a primary outlet for his mental illness.
Bettie Page – This pinup model was documented as having a nervous breakdown as well as short-lasting schizophrenia. In other words, she was formally diagnosed by doctors as having this condition, but was able to bounce back to normal functioning. She spent 20 months in a mental hospital in California and eventually was released.
Bob Mosley – The rocker Bob Mosley is known as the bass player and one of the premier songwriters for the band Moby Grape. He had also developed a solo music career and had a wide following. His band member (already mentioned) “Skip Spence” also suffered from schizophrenia. Unlike Skip Spence, Mosley was able to tough out his form of schizophrenia and continued to create music with his condition.
Buddy Bolden – Charles Joseph “Buddy” Bolden was a famous cornet player and served as a key individual in the development of “rag time” and jazz music of New Orleans. He was known as “King Bolden” because he was a pioneer of jazz music and his band was among the elites in New Orleans. In 1907 he became incapacitated by his schizophrenia and was unable to perform. He was admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum where he spent the remainder of his life.
Brian Wilson – A former member of the wildly famous group The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson was regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time. Throughout his life he had various mental illnesses – some suggested that he had schizophrenia. He had minor delusions and most suggest that he may have had schizoaffective disorder. Eventually he regained control over his mental illness and continues to perform music.
Camille Claudel – A famous French sculptor and artist of the 19th century, Camille Claudel was said to have exhibited signs of paranoid schizophrenia. Eventually she was diagnosed as having schizophrenia and she went on to destroy many of her statues. She accused others of leading a conspiracy to kill her – this was one of her delusions. She was older sister of poet and diplomatic leader Paul Claudel.
Clara Bow – Hollywood actress of the 1920s Clara Gordon Bow was a superstar. She starred in the film “It” and was nicknamed “The It Girl.” She was a leading sex symbol of her time and an iconic figure of 1920s Hollywood. She appeared in over 40 films. Near the end of her career she was considered “delusional” and diagnosed with schizophrenia because she experienced “pains” that had no medical foundation. There is some debate as to whether her diagnosis was by an incompetent doctor due to the fact that she experienced no hallucinations. Bow rejected the notion that she was schizophrenic and appeared to function normally – just behaved oddly.
Daniel Johnston – The singer, songwriter, musician, and artist was diagnosed with schizophrenia and manic depression. He was the subject of “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” – a documentary.
Darrell Hammond – He was a comedian, actor, and stand-up comedian. He is widely regarded as a regular comedian on SNL (Saturday Night Live) and served on the show for 14 years – longest of any cast member. He has made more SNL appearances than any other member and has done impersonations of over 100 celebrities – Bill Clinton was his most well known. In a 2011 interview with CNN, he confessed that he was victim to extensive childhood abuse and traumatized. He was involved in cutting, was hospitalized, and had been diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He says that he was medicated during his entire career on Saturday Night Live and used to cut himself backstage.
Eduard Einstein – Albert Einstein’s son suffered from schizophrenia. He was diagnosed at the age of 25. After onset of his illness, he told his father that he hated him. Albert never saw Eduard for the rest of his life. Prior to his illness he was said to have been a great student and very musically talented. He struggled with his mental illness for the remainder of his life and ended up dying of a stroke at age 55.
Elyn Saks – Elyn Saks is a high functioning individual with schizophrenia. She is a Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Gould Law School. She is involved in much research and has written a best-selling autobiography. Not only does she battle schizophrenia, she also is a cancer survivor. She had her first full blown episode of schizophrenia when she attended college. Her mission is to show people that they can still lead a successful life despite this diagnosis.
Gene Tierney – American stage and film actress Gene Tierney is said to have suffered from schizophrenia. She was known for her role in the movie “Laura” (1944) and had been nominated for an academy award for her role in the movie “Leave Her to Heaven” in 1945.
Jack Kerouac – Novelist, poet, and writer, Jack Kerouac suffered from schizophrenia. He is considered one of the most prominent figures of the Beat Generation. His military records showed that he was diagnosed with “dementia praecox” – an old term that used to mean the same thing as modern day “schizophrenia.” He was deemed “unsuitable” for the navy and was enlisted for an extremely short duration.
Jeremy Oxley – Australian singer, song-writer, and guitarist well known for his work with the band The Sunnyboys suffers from schizophrenia. The band broke up in 1984 due to conflict within, but it was later revealed that Oxley was struggling with schizophrenia. He eventually went on to form The Chinless Elite and they released many cover records.
Jim Gordon (James Beck Gordon) – Many consider him one of the greatest drummers of all time during the golden years of rock N’ roll (1960s – 1970s). He was an American recording artist, musician, and songwriter. He is a Grammy Award winner and was the drummer in the groups Derek and the Dominos, Little Richard, and Delaney & Bonnie. In 1983, he was classified as living with undiagnosed schizophrenia following the murder of his mother. He served 16 years to life in prison.
Joe Meek – The 1960’s British record producer and songwriter lived with undiagnosed schizophrenia. Most people remember his work with the Tornados “Telstar” from 1962 which became the first record by a British group to reach number one on U.S. charts. His commercial success was essentially a flash-in-the-pan. He eventually fell into deep financial debt and depression. He exhibited undiagnosed symptoms of schizophrenia and went on to kill his landlady and commit suicide.
John Hinckley, Jr. – This was the guy who attempted to assassinate United States president Ronald Reagan in D.C. in 1981. He did this in effort to impress actress Jodie Foster. He was eventually found not guilty by plead of insanity and has remained under psychiatric care. Vincent Fuller – a legal representative for Hinckley has said that Hinckley had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and dysthymia.
John Nash (Dr. John Forbes Nash) – He was a Nobel Laureate in Economics, and a Nobel Prize winning mathematician known for his genius as well as diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. His life is well documented in the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind.” His mathematical theories involved determining “chance” and many are still used today to analyze monetary trends. He suffered delusions of persecution later in his career – he thought government agents were after him.
John Ogdon – The English pianist and composer was known for his musical talents. He made his debut in London at age 21 with an hour-long performance of Ferruccio Busoni on the piano. He was regarded among the top musical talents in the world during his time. His career was interrupted by schizophrenia – a condition which ran in his family. His mental illness was written about in the book “Virtuoso” by his wife Brenda.
Katherine Routledge – The British archaeologist was known for suffering from mental illness since childhood. She later developed paranoid schizophrenia and many are astonished that she was able to gather so much valuable anthropological research. It should be noted that her brother Harold also suffered from some form of mental illness. Routledge became obsessed with Spiritualism and she experienced major delusions and she was eventually confined to a mental institutions. She was known for her Easter Island expeditions as well as her papers and photographs. Various documents released from her family were released that included details of her illness after her death.
Lionel Aldridge – The Super Bowl winning NFL player Lionel Aldridge also had to deal with schizophrenia. His coach Vince Lombardi started him as a rookie in 1963 and he helped the Green Bay Packers win 2 Super Bowls. He eventually went on to retire from football and in the late 1970s, he developed schizophrenia. He was found homeless in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before recognizing that something needed to be done about his condition.
Louis Wain – This artist is well-known worldwide for his incredible paintings and drawings of cats. He slowly regressed with major symptoms of schizophrenia, but some credit it to his unique paintings of “schizophrenic cats.” He was an extremely successful artist whose works still remain published in many pieces of literature.
Meera Popkin – This highly talented Broadway start was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was just hitting the prime of her career when symptoms emerged and she was unable to cope. She ended up getting locked up in a padded room for a period of time, and has learned to cope with the condition. She is now a huge advocate for mental health awareness and lives a productive life.
Parveen Babi – The Indian actress who became a superstar was eventually handcuffed and ankle-cuffed by policemen and removed from an airport for hysteria as a result of her schizophrenia condition. It is believed that she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. She was most remembered for her roles along heroes of the 1970s and 1980s in movies like “Deewar,” “Namak Halaal” and “Shaan.” Many people regard her as one of the most beautiful actresses of all time in Indian cinema. There was even a movie created called “Woh Lamhe” which documents her struggles with the condition. For more related-films, check out the article “Movies About Schizophrenia.”
Peter Green – The guitarist for the highly popular band Fleetwood Mac had become famous for his distinct sound. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. In the 1970s he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent therapeutic treatments. He spent some time in psychiatric wards and became a recluse for years while trying to cope with his condition. He still plays live guitar at performances today.
Philip K. Dick – The popular American author used themes in his works that reflected his personal interests. He is believed to have suffered from schizophrenia, paranoia, and had abused drugs in his past. Most of his work was science-fiction based and included themes of monopolistic corporations, government dominance, and altered states of consciousness.
Roky Erickson (Roger Kynard) – He was the founder of the Austin-based rock group The 13th Floor Elevators. Roky was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player from Texas. He is regarded as a pioneer of psychedelic rock. In 1968, he was performing and began to speak gibberish. Professionals eventually diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and he was sent to a mental health ward to receive electro-shock therapy. Some hypothesize that drug use of LSD, mescaline, DMT, and marijuana may have lead to development of his condition. Read more about how smoking marijuana could cause schizophrenia.
Rose Williams – The sister of renowned author Tennessee Williams was said to suffer from schizophrenia. This caused Tennessee to experience feelings of shame and guilt that his sister had a major mental illness. This case shows that even individuals that are related to someone successful can develop this condition.
Rufus May – This was a British clinical psychologist who was known for using his personal experiences as a psychiatric patient to help educate others. He had obtained his credentials as a clinical psychologist and eventually went on to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was diagnosed at age 18 and was detained in psychiatric care three times. He said that psychotic symptoms develop as a result of emotional loss and social isolation. One of his documented delusions was that he was a spy for the British secret service. He also claimed to have received messages from radio and television – which lead to hospitalizations.
Rufus Watson – The son of Dr. James Watson, winner of the Nobel Prize for co-discovery of DNA. Dr. James Watson has become a strong advocate in understanding and improving the treatment of mental illness. His goal is to determine how genetics has an influence in the development of this condition.
Sarah Holcomb – She was an actress that starred in films such as “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) as well as other films such as “Caddyshack” (1980). She is remembered for her debut role in Animal House as Clorette DePasto – the daughter of Mayor Carmine DePasto. At the time of filming, she was only 18 years old. Unfortunately her life took a turn for the worse with accelerated drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and the eventual onset of schizophrenia. A movie called “Stateside” from 2004 was said to be based on her career and life story.
Syd Barrett – The founding member of the band Pink Floyd is considered one of the most famous rock stars to ever develop a mental illness. Although there is some dispute as to what kind of mental illness he suffered from, his close friends and band members have identified his condition as schizophrenia. He had lived a relatively quiet life for three decades in a small cottage in England. Some hypothesize that his development of the condition was a result of high stress and significant drug abuse. He had a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia and experienced many environmental triggers – likely contributing factors for its development.
Ted Kaczynski (Theodore John Kaczynski) – He is famous for being known as the “Unabomber” and serial killer, but was also a mathematician. He had views that opposed industrialism and modern technology. He engaged in a campaign against individuals involved with technology by mailing home-made bombs. He was an assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley, had a PhD in mathematics, and was involved in experiments at Harvard. Some debate whether he had schizophrenia, but he was formally diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia.”
Tom Harrell – Jazz musician Tom Harrell was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was dubbed as “the greatest trumpeter of his generation” by Entertainment Weekly. He has suffered from schizophrenia for years and fought the debilitating side effects of many medications that are used for treatment. For decades he took Stelazine, then switched to Zyprexa, and eventually Seroquel.
Vaslav Nijinsky – The famous Russian ballet dancer and choreographer was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Many consider him the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century. He was known for his virtuosity due to the detail and intensity of his performances. Many also know him for his incredible leaps. He became the star dancer for the Ballets Russes which showed Russian ballets in Paris. Although he experienced great success, he went on to develop schizophrenia after experiencing high amounts of stress. His wife had taken him to Switzerland to get treated by a psychiatrist, but treatment was not successful. He spend the remainder of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and various asylums.
Veronica Lake – This famous Hollywood actress of the 1940s was known for her performances in movies, television, as well as on stage. She is widely remembered for her role in Sullivan’s Travels and her roles with Alan Ladd during the 1940s. Her career flourished early on, but experienced a decline as a result of alcoholism and mental illness. She had a troubled childhood and according to her mother, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Vincent van Gogh – It is well known that many creative minds are linked to schizophrenia. Most people know Vincent van Gogh for his post-Impressionist paintings and profound visual artworks. He is thought to have suffered from both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Some suggest that craniofacial asymmetry from birth lead to much of his mental health problems.
Wesley Willis – This singer, songwriter, and visual artist from Chicago was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia in 1989. His career began as an underground singer and songwriter and was known for his bizarre, humorous, and obscene lyrics. He developed a major cult following throughout the 1990s. He started his own punk band called Wesley Willis Fiasco and was also known for creating hundreds of colored ink-pen drawings that depicted the city of Chicago.
Will Elliott – This Australian writer is known for his novel “The Pilo Family Circus” which was published in 2006. It went on to win a variety of awards for being such an incredible piece of fiction. Although Will experienced much literary success, he dropped out of law school at age 20 when he began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia. Despite the fact that his novel is about a guy struggling with an alter-ego, he claims that the book is not based on his own life. Elliot has since gone on to publish many short stories as well as a book “Strange Places” – a memoir that documents his experiences with schizophrenia.
William Chester Minor – This was the person known for most contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary. He began his life as an American surgeon for the army and worked on his contributions while staying in an insane asylum in the early 1900s. He found many of the quotes that you’ll see displayed for proper use of words. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, committed murder, and actually cut off his genitalia during a break with reality.
Zelda Fitzgerald – The wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (also a dancer and artist) was said to have suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It cannot be fully verified that she had schizophrenia, but some hypothesize that she may have. Although she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, most historians believe this was a misdiagnosis and that she actually had bipolar disorder.
Other Famous People that May Have Had Schizophrenia
Marilyn Monroe’s Mother – It is pretty well documented that Marilyn Monroe’s mother was institutionalized for having paranoid schizophrenia. Mental illness ran in Monroe’s family and when her mother was asked about her famous daughter, she replied, “I have never heard of Marilyn Monroe.”
Mary Todd Lincoln – It is guessed that the wife of president Abraham Lincoln may have dealt with schizophrenia. It is suspected that she had it, but since diagnostic criteria wasn’t around during her time in history, it is not completely verifiable.
Michelangelo – Many historians say that Michelangelo had significant difficulties forming social relationships and his behavior was erratic. He was considered one of the most brilliant men to have ever lived. He is known for being an Italian painter, architect, engineer, and poet in the Renaissance era. Several historians hypothesize that he may have suffered from schizophrenia.
Vivien Leigh – She was the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara in the movie “Gone With the Wind.” According to biographer Ann Edwards, she suffered from a mental illness that resembled schizophrenia. However, due to her partying behavior with drugs and alcohol, some believe that it may have been a drug-induced schizophrenic state.
Bottom line: Schizophrenia can affect anyone, regardless of celebrity status
This list should demonstrate that schizophrenia can affect anyone – regardless of age, social status, and talent. Some of the most talented individuals can eventually go on to develop this debilitating mental illness. There are a variety of factors and hypotheses regarding what causes schizophrenia. Hopefully over time we can work towards finding more effective treatment options for people with this condition and eliminate the taxing social stigma associated with it. Although it only affects roughly 1% of the U.S. population, it is important to raise awareness.