The Mental Illnesses of Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill

Hitler’s paranoid schizophrenia and other mental illnesses were treated by his trusted doctor allegedly with sedating barbiturates and stimulating amphetamine

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 | Source

Hitler's paranoid schizophrenia and other mental illnesses

Some of Hitler’s mental illnesses are:

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. Today the illness is called borderline personality disorder.
  • Hysterical. Given to persistent, delusional moods of expansiveness or elevated irritability. It is marked with grandiosity and a sense of personal omnipotence.
  • Megalomania. An unreal sense of personal importance, omnipotence, grandeur, power, fame, or wealth.

Hitler as a baby
Hitler as a baby | Source

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, a heart attack, or as though one is dying. Other feelings include sweating, trembling, choking, going crazy, dying, 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 is also related to 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.

House where Hitler grew up as a child
House where Hitler grew up as a child | Source

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 which 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 were 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 | Source

Mental Illnesses of Winston Churchill

The mental illnesses of Winston Churchill are:

  • 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 (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 feature, 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.

Churchill age 7
Churchill age 7 | Source

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 legacies of World War II and the Holocaust.

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 people who are largely sane. 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.

Churchill's family home, Blenheim
Churchill's family home, Blenheim | Source

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.

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? 16 comments

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 months ago from Philippines Author

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.

emge profile image

emge 2 months ago from Abu Dhabi

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 2 months ago

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!

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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.

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Mel Carriere 3 months ago from San Diego California

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!

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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 3 months ago

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.

DDE profile image

DDE 3 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Interesting and game me lots to think about such leaders.

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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.

Richawriter profile image

Richawriter 3 months ago from On Top of the World

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.


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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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

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MsDora 3 months ago from The Caribbean

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.

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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

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FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

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.

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines Author

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)

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billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

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

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    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (grand old lady)214 Followers
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    Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

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