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The Mental Illnesses of Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill

Grand Old Lady has online certificate degrees on the Science of Happiness from UC Berkeley and the Indian School of Business.

Two men, namely Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill, were opponents in WWII, and both of them changed the world. Churchill was the first man to dare stand up to Hitler despite the fact that militarily, England was at a disadvantage, yet Churchill won.

Both men had many things in common. One of them is that both of them were mentally ill. We will begin with Hitler’s mental illnesses, which, when he was Fuerher, were treated by a trusted doctor with many highly unorthodox medications which allegedly included sedating barbiturates and stimulating amphetamines.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Hitler's Paranoid Schizophrenia and Other Mental Illnesses

Dr. Henry A. Murray, former director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, said Hitler had:

  • Borderline paranoid schizophrenia: Dr. Murray said this paranoia exhibits an abnormal pattern of extreme fear of abandonment. Today, the illness is called borderline personality disorder. Relationships tend to be unstable, as are one’s emotions, and sense of self. Such a person often feels empty inside, can do self-harm, and is frequently dangerous to others.
  • Hysteria: Prone to persistent, delusional moods of expansiveness or elevated irritability. It is marked by grandiosity and a sense of personal omnipotence.
  • Megalomania: An unreal sense of personal importance, omnipotence, grandeur, power, fame, or wealth.

Other Medical Opinions of Hitler's Mental Illnesses

Other illnesses cited by professionals are:

  • Narcissistic personality disorder: An outward appearance of confidence that hides an extreme need for admiration, the absence of empathy, and a fragile self-esteem that is susceptible to the least criticism.
  • Severe anxiety: Deep fear manifested in physical feelings of a pounding heart, as though one is dying of a heart attack. Other feelings include sweating, trembling, choking, going crazy, and losing control, among others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Under this disorder, one needs to have total control of one’s complete environment. This is because they are inflexible and given to vicious cycles of emotional instability, and an inability to adapt when under stress.
  • Existential anxiety: This condition develops when the person is confronted with the inability to control or overpower situations or emotions, such as meaninglessness, insecurity, suffering, aloneness, sickness, and mortality.
  • Insomnia: Extreme difficulty and inability to sleep and other symptoms that resemble irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Neurotic, bordering psychotic: In 1972 the book, The Mind of Adolf Hitler was published, based on psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer’s 1943–1944 reports. Langer said Hitler had a strong Messiah complex, was significantly masochistic, and very likely homosexual.
  • Schizophrenia: Langer said Hitler had schizophrenic symptoms and predicted that he would commit suicide. Ironically, Langer’s reports from 1943–1944 were accurate, as Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945, by gunshot in his Fuhrerbunker in Berlin. His long-time girlfriend Eva Braun, whom he married before the suicide, also killed herself by taking cyanide.

Churchill's Personal Physician

Charles McMoran Wilson, 1st Baron Moran, is best remembered as Winston Churchill's personal physician. Mania ran in the Churchill blood, particularly in his father, Lord Randolph. This helped Moran treat his patient with more accuracy. His medicines included Seconal, Amytal, (now declared too dangerous for use), and Drinamyl. These drug combinations contained barbiturates to calm him down, and amphetamines to cheer him up. These were taken when Churchill had a stroke. Other medicines were Edrisal, a mixture of painkillers and barbiturates, that was Churchill’s favorite and that he named his personal “Morans.” There is the story of a more physically fit Churchill in his 80s who was given speed just before he was to deliver a speech to parliament.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Mental Illnesses of Winston Churchill

The mental illnesses of Winston Churchill were:

  • Bipolar disorder: Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, in his book, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, mentioned symptoms of depression and mania.
  • Depression: During what he called his “black dog” days, Churchill had decreased sleep, prolonged depression, little energy, overall disinterest, difficulty concentrating, and appetite loss.
  • Suicidal: Churchill, aware of his suicidal tendencies, once said, “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.”
  • Mania: According to BipolarLives, Churchill’s mania was evidenced through combative personal relationships, and enjoyment of war. He called World War I “this glorious, delicious war,” and said, “war is the normal occupation of man.” He could hold monologues for four hours, and his energy kept him working from 8 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. the next day. He also had boundary issues (dictating to his secretary while he was taking a bath), and amazing productivity (writing 43 books while he was prime minister).
  • Bipolar IIB: Dr. Ronald R. Fieve, in his book Moodswing, diagnosed Winston Churchill based on interviews he had with his only son, Randolph Churchill. Fieve diagnosed Churchill as Bipolar IIB, with the “B” referring to “beneficial” in reference to Churchill’s mood swings. Fieve said manic depressives such as Churchill’s category used their highs to benefit themselves, the family, and society.
  • Cyclothymia: The program Altered Statesmen from the Discovery Channel suggested that along with his depressions, Churchill experienced intensely creative ‘up’ moods. However, Churchill’s neurologist thought he had cyclothymia, a milder form of bipolar disorder.

Mental Illness, Good and Bad

Just as there are good people and bad people who are perfectly normal, the same can be said for those who are mentally ill. There are good people and bad people who are afflicted with mental illness. Hitler emerged as one of the bad people with mental illness and yet, he attained power and influence over so many people, most of them without any psychological illness at all. They all participated in Hitler’s mass campaign of violence in World War II.

The lesson today is to understand the psychology of leaders like ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, and how they wield power over largely sane people. For as long as there is evil, whether from a normal mind or one that is mentally insane, it must be studied and understood so that the lessons learned can be applied to benefit the world’s future safety.

Would a Normal, Psychologically Fit Man Confront Hitler?

On the other hand, we must not forget that Churchill's mental illness was well suited during World War II when England, then the underdog, defeated Hitler after five years. His hardheadedness, which was due to his disorder, benefitted the Allies during World War II. A saner mind would have seen Britain’s disadvantages compared to Germany’s and decided to give up. It took the madness of Churchill to take Germany on, get the people to rally behind him, and win the war in five years.

Because Churchill recognized his depression, he learned to cope with it by painting and writing. A self-taught painter, Churchill’s first painting was done at age forty. He completed 500 paintings in his lifetime. Writing was another way of coping with depression. He wrote 43 book-length works in 72 volumes. In these ways, Churchill dealt with his mental illness, lived a fulfilled life, and changed the world for the better. His unwavering manner regarding his depression, and use of his mania to advantage are great motivators for others with similar impairments that it is possible to pursue excellence and become good and great and make the world a better place for others.

© 2016 Mona Sabalones Gonzalez

I would love to know what you think about this. Why do you think mental illness can contribute to either strength or weakness? What makes the difference?

Stella Kaye from UK on August 30, 2020:

Fascinating article. I've always been intrigued by what makes people tick as my mother struggled with mental illness for much of her adult life. When it's a political figure who has mental illness, it's even more intriguing as they could be the people who have their finger on the nuclear button nowadays. Apparently, most of the Roman emperors suffered from mental illness and their position of power made it even more frightening for the populous they ruled over. It's true enough that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' and with an unstable captain at the helm, it's difficult to tell whether their mental illness will steer them to creative or destructive ends.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on July 09, 2020:

Hi Dolores, Yes, that's true. And yet you do wonder why one was so evil, and the other so good.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 07, 2020:

Hi Mona - interesting article that reminds us that mental illness does not preclude becoming a powerful, influential person.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on June 12, 2019:

Hi Cecilia, my Spanish isn't too good but am I correct in saying that you said that since then, there have been advances made in science? If so, then I certainly agree with you. However, if you said something else, I would love to know what you said. Thank you for visiting my page and for your comment. Very grateful for your precious time and input:).

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on September 24, 2018:

Hello, I want to say that all comments are welcome, but I won't entertain comments from people who have no hub pages identity or who may have a questionable identity (for example, not writing any articles, or just one article). I will entertain comments from non-hubbers if they have a clear identity which can be found through other social media.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on September 04, 2018:

Thank you Rinita, for stopping by. I appreciate your keen, insightful comment on this article.

Rinita Sen on September 03, 2018:

It was interesting to learn about the two sides of mental illness. The article has a good flow, and is well researched. I agree it is important to understand the illnesses behind the activities of some of today's so called leaders.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on February 13, 2017:

Hi Flourish Anyway, it's so ironic that you had commented on Trump before elections and now he has won:(. Yeah, his psychological profile is something of concern, and how it affects his decision making. Vladimir Putin's psychological profile is also something that would be interesting to look into. The thing is, Trump's vulnerabilities are so transparent, and countries that don't like the US can provoke these vulnerabilities to make him do exactly what they want him to do. Putin keeps his cards close to his chest, and you never know what he will do next until he does it. However I do believe the democratic system can prevail with its checks and balances, and the people who take to the streets and do what they can will help to turn history off the crooked course it is on. And in a best case scenario, in two years elections will take place and hopefully a far more independent congress will be in power. I hope so, I really do hope so.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 11, 2017:

Now that the election is over, you might have to do a follow-on article about Donald Trump. Sigh.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on January 13, 2017:

Thank you for reading, Clisver. I hope your bipolar disorder is not too severe and that you are getting good medications. I also hope that you have loving people to watch over you. I can't believe that prison is the answer. Focus on getting better. Dark times are temporary, don't fear them, but make sure that you learn from them. I have a friend who is bipolar, and she is leading a good, fulfilling life. It IS possible.

Clisver on December 30, 2016:

I really enjoyed your article. I suffer from bipolar disorder. I live in the U.S. Can you believe that here the best mental health care is in prison? So that means that in order for you to get good attention, you have to do something illegal. Isn't that absurd.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on August 18, 2016:

Hello Emge, you are so right, both men were game changers. The Germans were choosing between Hitler and Communism. It's like having two bad choices, and one bad choice won over the other. One does wonder, however, how things would have been if Communism prevailed.

Hello Cee-Jay, delighted to meet you on Hub Pages. It is a good question, why sexuality is brought up when discussing mental illness. I'm thinking that maybe Langer was of the old school, which used to consider homosexuality as a mental illness. At any rate, thank you for reading this and for the insight that you contributed through your comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 17, 2016:

What a wonderful and well-researched post. Gave great information. Its a wonder that both became world shakers in their own ways

Cee-Jay Aurinko on August 17, 2016:

We all know that you have to be a little out of it if you want to achieve big stuff. I don't know how any one person can have so many different illnesses though. Hitler was what he was: a monster. Why did Walter Langer feel the need to bring up his sexual orientation though. I'm sure there's a category for Langer for saying this somewhere. As for Churchill, this article thought me something about WW2 I didn't know before. Great article Grand Old Lady!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on July 13, 2016:

Hello Mel,

True, Churchill had to make a strategical alliance with Roosevelt and Stalin. And when Hitler was defeated, the spoils were divided up. he But as you say, Churchill was what the doctor ordered for the free world, including the Philippines, as Japan had allied with Hitler. My father and uncle were guerillas at that time, as was my great grandmother. And when MacArthur came back, we were thankful that it was all over and we could be free again.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on July 13, 2016:

I just wish Winston Churchill had won the war. If he had done so, we would not have been forced to endure the Cold War for another 40 years, because he was the only one who recognized Stalin for the monster for what he was.

On that note, I think Stalin was the ultimate victor of WWII, and while we are on the topic of mental illness I think you have found the poster boy right there. Then again, Stalin just might have been crazy like a fox, whereas Hitler was bonafide delusional.

I will say, in agreement for you, that England was blessed with Churchill. He was certainly the right man for the moment, after Chamberlain's deadly appeasement policies. As you said, his bullheadedness is exactly what the Doctor ordered for Great Britain. Outstanding hub!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on July 09, 2016:

Hello Teaches, happy to meet you here:). Yes, that is the irony I found, that these two men at war against each other shared mental illness. And yes, despite all, evil and good remain the same. Churchill lived a long life with his wife and children and grandchildren. Hitler committed suicide. One has choices even with mental illness, and I'm so amazed at how Churchill had such will to deal with his black dog by being so amazingly productive. Mentally ill patients should learn about him and be inspired.

DDE, how wonderful to hear from you:). Yes, there is so much irony in this. It makes you think truth can really be so much stranger than fiction.

teaches12345 on July 08, 2016:

You have educated me on these two famous people in history. Who would have known they had this in common? I agree with your view on one making a positive difference in spite of his illness.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 07, 2016:

Interesting and game me lots to think about such leaders.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on July 04, 2016:

Dear Richawriter, thank you for your comment. I also believe childhood has a lot to do with either the development of mental illness or the ability to cope with it. A lot of research on Hitler's childhood exists that talks about how he turned out the way he did. However, it seems psychiatry as it is practiced today doesn't go back to childhood as much as it did then. I don't know why. But this was the reason I didn't go into the childhoods of both men. It is amazing how much the two shared in common, including elements of their childhood. It might be interesting to write about that as well. Plus, both men were painters but Hitler couldn't paint the human body. And yet, when you look at both of their works, I think Hitler was the better painter, but Churchill's was more purposive, a way to deal with his black dog.

Richard J ONeill from Bangkok, Thailand on July 04, 2016:

Very interesting hub! I learned a lot as I read. Thank you.

Being highly sensitive means we're also vulnerable to developing the conditions mentioned.

I think the seeds are sown in childhood, then develop in adulthood blooming into these dangerous but often useful conditions.

Richard

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on July 01, 2016:

how very true, Ms. dora. Especially when it comes to evil leaders.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 01, 2016:

Look what madness accomplished! Thanks for these detailed mental facts on these two historic leaders. We should discover what we can (and try to restrain) about these brutal leaders who promote mass murders.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on June 30, 2016:

Hi Flourish Anyway, I think you are right. I hope Trump doesn't win because what happens in the US affects the world.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 30, 2016:

A very interesting hub. In an honors college history seminar years ago I delved into the psychohistory backgrounds of Hitler, Mussolini and other famous war figures. It was truly captivating. If we don't watch out well be talking about Trump this way years from now.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on June 30, 2016:

Thank you Mr. Billy Buc). I appreciate that you were gracious enough to be the first one to read this article and comment on it. I had also heard about Abraham Lincoln's illness. He would be a very interesting topic, too. He was a major gamechanger in the US and in the world)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2016:

Toss in Abraham Lincoln and we have quite a trio of diverse human beings with some serious issues. :) Great read, my friend.