vincent van gogh
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Vincent van Gogh

Today he's one of the world's most celebrated painters, but van Gogh struggled with mental illness throughout his life. Different stories of his behavior make some scholars think he had schizophrenia. According to one account, van Gogh, during an argument with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, heard someone in his ear say, "Kill him." Instead, he took a knife and cut part of his own ear off. Other psychiatrists think he might have had depression or bipolar disorder instead.

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jim gordon
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Jim Gordon

For about 2 decades, Gordon was one of the most in-demand drummers in the rock world, working with John Lennon, Frank Zappa, and Jackson Browne, to name a few. He won a Grammy for co-writing Eric Clapton's hit, "Layla."  But in 1983, while he had symptoms of schizophrenia, he killed his mother. Gordon remains behind bars and is taking medication for the disorder. His attorney, Scott Furstman, called the case "tragic," adding, "He truly believed he was acting in self-defense."

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veronica lake
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Veronica Lake

The movie star, who turned millions of heads in the 1940s, was known for her roles in "Sullivan's Travels," "This Gun for Hire," and "Blue Dahlia." She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, according to the biography Peekaboo. Her parents thought acting would help control the condition. But in Hollywood, she was known for her difficult nature on-set: A 1944 magazine article speculated about "what precise moment her time-bomb mind will explode." But Lake shrugged it off, saying, "Women are always trouble to unimaginative men."

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john nash jr
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John Nash, Jr., PhD

Nash's life was portrayed in the book and movie A Beautiful Mind. By age 30, he was known as one of the world’s best mathematicians. Then delusions and other schizophrenia symptoms took hold. He lived with them for 20 years before he slowly improved and went back to work at Princeton University. In 1994, he won the Nobel Prize in Economics. After Nash and his wife died in a car crash in 2015, New Jersey Sen. Richard Codey said, "He was very candid about his illness and we're all better off for it."

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lionel aldridge
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Lionel Aldridge

After a stellar football career in the 1960s, Aldridge made it into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, then covered the game as an analyst for NBC. But in his 30s, he became paranoid, had hallucinations, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. For a while he was homeless. But with the help of medications, he regained control. He spoke publicly about his condition for many years before his death in 1998. His message: "People can and do recover from mental illness."

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peter green
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Peter Green

Green, a rock guitarist and founder of the group Fleetwood Mac, struggled with symptoms of schizophrenia. After he was admitted to a mental hospital, he began a slow recovery. Green now focuses on the basics in life: "I used to worry and make things very complicated. Now I keep it simple."

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woman being comforted in talk therapy
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What to Know About Schizophrenia

The disorder affects people in different ways. Some people hear voices or think others are plotting against them. They might not make sense when they talk. Others might sit for hours without moving or speaking. Some people can be violent. Most, however, are not and are more likely to victims rather than perpetrators of vilonce. Once symptoms begin, usually in the late teens, 20s, or early 30s, they last for a lifetime. There’s no cure, but medications, talk therapy, and other treatments can help people manage the illness.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/09/2019 Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella on September 09, 2019


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National Institute of Mental Health. “Schizophrenia.” "A Brilliant Madness." "Famed 'A Beautiful Mind' Mathematician John Nash, Wife, Killed in N.J. Turnpike Crash."

Lenburg, J. Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake, iUniverse, 2001. "The Haunted Talent Behind 'Layla.'"

Rolling Stone: "Jailed Drummer Jim Gordon Denied Parole."

Beloit Daily News: "Lost and Found: Ex-Packer Aldridge Winning Life's Battle." "Lionel Aldridge: Great Man, Great Career, Troubled Life."

New York Times. “Lionel Aldridge, 56, Stalwart On Defense for Packer Teams.”

Harvard Magazine: "Van Gogh's Malady."

National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Schizophrenia.”

Blumer, D. American Journal of Psychiatry, April 2002.

LA Times: "Back From Brink, Peter Green Plays On."

Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella on September 09, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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