The Mental Illnesses of Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill
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.
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.
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.
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© 2016 Mona Sabalones Gonzalez