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Did Adolf Hitler Have a Mental Disorder?

Updated on July 26, 2014

The life of Hitler


Introduction:

When the name of Adolf Hitler is mentioned, there is often a reaction of awe and amazement. Shivers and interest tend to envelop one’s mind and history becomes vivid. Such intense emotion is not usually caused by admiration, but from astonishment and fear. It is rather puzzling to actually encounter a man in history who is truly viewed as evil by some, when in reality no one is really evil.

“Fairly examined, truly understood, No man is wholly bad, nor wholly good.”- THEOGNIS OF MEGARA, Fragment XLI

Adolf Hitler committed his malevolent crimes out of evil intentions, but it is not fair to call him evil, because he did partake in positive roles, such as uniting the German nation. His motives have been studied for years and constantly researchers have tried to explain his actions by understanding his behavior. Fritz Redlich, a psychoanalyst, attempted to understand Hitler’s motivations and cruel actions, but ended with the conclusion that Hitler was simply an “evil man” and the psychological excuses that people theorized were just “insanity defenses; yet to actually be classified as evil, one would have to commit an evil deed daily, which Hitler did not do. Adolf Hitler was not evil, since evil people do not exist, but he had to have a strong motive to risk what he risked, which was his life. It is hard to truly analyze his characteristics and likelihood of a mental disorder, because although he had the cruel intentions of wiping out an entire race, many others tend to view him as “the evil genius” icon. Even I cannot deny that his method of madness was the key to his personal success and accomplishment, even if it was an accomplishment of despair; yet it is obviously a sign of insanity to some, for a person to be so unethical and so morally distraught as was he. . However, when comparing him in depth to the historical past of other leaders and countries in relation to what was considered socially and politically acceptable during that era, for example, the United States and slavery, there appears to be little, if any difference. Although most countries had outlawed slavery and viewed it as immoral, the United States continued its practice far beyond other highly developed societies. Thus, one could argue that Hitler’s personality and ideals were simply in sync with the ideals of the German nation. Emphatically, I must state that I realize there is a strong possibility that he was simply tyrannical. However, crazy people are often known to do things beyond the extreme, which Hitler is known for doing, so it is fair to say that he had a psychological problem. After an in depth study of prior research and knowledge, Hitler can be diagnosed with a bipolar disorder.

Investigation:


Research shows that half of all lifetime mental illness start during childhood, so it is necessary to study one’s background and behavior before any valid diagnosis of a psychological disorder can be made. Thus, Adolf Hitler was born to Alois (originally Alois Schicklgruber but changed to Hieidler or Hitler) and Klara Hitler in 1889. Alois was a civil servant, whose profession caused the family to be unstable, and Klara was a retired housewife, who loved her children dearly. However, her love was not able to shield them from the abuse of their father. Alois was a proud, humorless, frugal man, whose temper would flare up unpredictably at home and at work. For reasons that I will state later, it is important to know that his parents were so closely related that they had to have consent from Rome before they could be married. Out of Klara’s six children, Adolf and his younger sister Paula were the only ones to survive. Two siblings died of diphtheria and another died shortly after birth.

Hitler was an active child, attending church, singing in the choir, and constantly drawing. Although he had a poor school record and eventually left at the age of 16, he had dreams of becoming either an architecture or artist. Nevertheless, his childhood was depressing and at the age of 13, Alois (who had been indubitably abusive to Hitler and his mother) died, leaving Klara to raise the two children on her own. August Kubizek was his only childhood friend and during their early years the two became inseparable.

During his childhood, Hitler was shy. August Kubizek reported that although he was reticent at times, Hitler often had outbursts of anger at whoever disagreed with him. Hitler would ramble for hours and give dramatic speeches with wild hand gestures, yet Kubizek, his only audience, would patiently listen. Hitler would analyze and speak of works of art in extreme intelligence, as if he himself had created it. He hated to be corrected and only desired approval from his friend.

August Kubizek recalls that in 1905 he and Hitler attended a performance of Wagner’s Reinzi at the Linz Memorial Theater. It is thought to be the foundation of Hitler’s plan. Kubizek says:

“"Adolf stood in front of me; and now he gripped both my hands and held them tight. He had never made such a gesture before. I felt from the grasp of his hands how deeply moved he was. His eyes were feverish with excitement .. Never before and never again have I heard Adolf Hitler speak as he did in that hour, as we stood there alone under the stars, as though we were the only creatures in the world. He now spoke of a mission that he was one day to receive from our people, in order to guide them out of slavery, to the heights of freedom.." (Bulow, Louis ..2009)

Kubizek said these words stayed with him, and 30 years later when he would meet Hitler again, Hitler also recalled the exact moment and spoke of it as “the beginning.”

Three years after this event, to the dismay of Hitler and his mother’s Jewish doctor Edward Bloch, Klara died of breast cancer, leaving Hitler to live on his father’s small orphan pension and forcing him to eventually move to Vienna, where he searched for places to eat and ate in charity kitchens. He sold sketches and paintings to make money, but eventually the likeliness of the dream of becoming an artist died. It was during this time that Hitler developed his hate for Jews. Vienna was a place of anti-Semitism and Hitler found fascination in the media’s stereotyped attributes of Jews. While in Vienna, Hitler began to search many places, looking for a job and soon he became a member of The German’s Worker Party. Much later in life he would assume leader of the group, which eventually came to be known as the Nazi party. From there his destruction of Jews began.

The significance in the later years of Hitler’s life is a mere shadow in relation to the behavior he displayed as a child and in his earlier life. Therefore, the anti-Jewish movements or the Holocaust, he partook in will not be discussed in depth. However, it is important to know that at the end of the war, Hitler was reported to have gone crazy. He gave fanatical commands, constantly yelling ignoring soldiers and their request or ideas, yet sometimes he could be charming and talk kindly to people. His personality change was evident throughout the years and was observed mainly by people close to him. An example is in his thought processes. Where previously, colleagues thought highly of him for his incisiveness and keenness, his thinking became disorganized and impulsive. He couldn’t stick with a single idea. For example, Rommel, the general of Hitler’s army previously had success from fighting and running. However, Hitler later refused to countenance any retreat. Once he even disrupted a discourse about Russian progress to comment on flamethrower production. His thinking was obviously jumbled, not to mention that he suffered from periodic depression. It is said that his moods of kindness was his way of controlling people, however his change in attitude could also be another sign for being bipolar.

The bipolar disorder is a condition in which on one day a person may be full of energy, while the next day they’re moody. It is classified according to the severity of the symptoms. The four main types are: depression, mania, hypomania, and mixed mood. These four categories are normally considered bipolar 1 or bipolar 2. Depression, mania, and mixed mood fall under Bipolar 1 symptoms, while hypomania would be considered bipolar 2.

Depression is when people have sad moods and don’t feel like doing the normal things that they do on an everyday basis. People with bipolar depression may feel irritable, lack energy, uncontrollable, and have thoughts of death and suicides. They also may face changes in appetite and weight loss. Depression episodes last longer than mania episodes and are harder to treat. They result in high ultimate risk of suicide. In some cases, individuals become psychotic.

Mania is when the person may start with a good feeling, like a “high” or they may be irritable and angry. They often do very risky things. Mania symptoms may include irritability, high sex drive, restlessness, ect. These people often experience an increase in energy, while losing a need for sleep. Manic depression can start at any age, but it usually begins during late adolescence. An adequate amount of sleep is a major treatment for mania bipolar.

Hypomania is a mild form of mania, in which a person may feel good, but their mood can change. They think that they are getting a lot done when in reality they are not. Sometimes, individuals can be creative and productive. At times they are even over-productive. The difference between mania and hypomania is that, episodes of hypomania tend to have shorter durations than episodes of mania. People that have hypomania often overestimate their abilities.

A mixed mood is simply when a person’s attitude changes back and forth in the same day. In mixed moods, people have symptoms of mania and depression bipolar. A person can be sad and depressed, while being energetic at the same kind. The same symptoms of both are present: insomnia, fatigue, panic, rage, etc.

Bipolar disorder and the causes vary between individuals. Studies have shown that genetics as well as environment influences the disorder. Genetic research suggests that bipolar disorder is related to chromosomal regions, but the studies and data are inconsistent. Advanced parental age has been questioned and linked to a chance of increasing the risk for the disorder.

Some studies show that children who are later diagnosed as bipolar, showed early traits, such as cyclical mood abnormalities. They possibly even had ADHD with mood fluctuations. Many people diagnosed with the disorder, have a history of being in a harsh environment during childhood. Early experiences of conflict have been known to create developmental challenges in adolescence, which may have been hard to endure, which put them at risk of becoming bipolar.

Throughout his entire life, Hitler had signs, such as those listed, which suggested that he was bipolar. As stated earlier, August Kubizek reported him as very talkative at some times while at other moments he was shy. People with a bipolar disorder often are more talkative than usual, or they feel pressure to keep talking in which Hitler rambled for hours. He also had outburst at the slightest disagreement, which is evidence for mood changes. As stated, having racing thoughts is also a symptom of the disorder. His wild hand gestures and speeches to only one person were a bit dramatic and further induces the idea that he was mentally ill. Obviously his idea to rid the world of Jews was risky and extreme, which is only another sign. People who have been detected to have the disorder usually have a high-self esteem and because Hitler thought that German was the superior race, it can be assumed that his self-esteem was fairly high. At the end of the war his impaired judgment was evident in his desires, not mentioned, which were to destroy German buildings and that if he fell, all of Germany should fall with him.

It has been suggested that genius and mental disorder are linked. Indubitably, people have viewed Adolf Hitler as a genius. Any man who can win several countries, brainwash and mutilate millions of people, and then have the right process of going about his goals, is obviously very intelligent. In this case, it would be difficult for one to plead insanity defense. Still, it is not right to think that because he was nearly successful in destroying a race and culture, and influencing many, that he could not have had a mental disorder. Reports show that numerous amounts of successful and intelligent people have had a psychological illness, in particular, the bipolar disorder. (Unive=rsity of Toronto, 2003)

Shelley Carson of Harvard says, "Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked. It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others.” For example, during the earlier stages of disease, mystical knowledge takes place, which makes latent inhibition disappear. If true, this explains why many people are prestigious, despite having bipolar disorder. Patricia Cornwell, an American crime writer, is bipolar. Mel Gibson, an actor and director, is bipolar. Even Albert Einstein, a man whom is considered a genius and led to several scientific discoveries, was bipolar. Therefore, it is no reason, that a man such as Hitler, despite his despicableness, could not be bipolar.

The likelihood of Adolf Hitler having a disorder is high. The bipolar disorder often starts in teens or adults but sometimes in younger children. As mentioned, Hitler was a child of inbreeding. As biological psychologist would claim, incest is known to increase the chances of retardation or a mental disorder by 50 percent because of genetics and mutations. Also, a third and a half of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder were victims of traumatic or abusive experiences, as was Hitler. The abuse that his father caused and the sickness that his mother endured, could be used as causations for his potential disorder. His sister Paula states,

” Adolf challenged my father to extreme harshness and got his sound thrashing every day. He was a scrubby little rogue, and all attempts of his father to thrash him for his rudeness and to cause him to love the profession of an official of the state were in vain. How often on the other hand did my mother caress him and try to obtain with her kindness where the father could not succeed with harshness ..."

Such severe treatment may have caused everlasting trauma. Furthermore, the death of his seemingly only protection against the abuse, his mother, would have further sparked the disorder. It was mentioned earlier that older age might be a factor to the disorder. Alois Hitler was about 52 years old when Hitler was born.

Adolf Hitler had Parkinson’s disease, Monorchism, and dental issues. Illnesses have often been linked to mental disorders. Even more, Waite, a man responsible for authoring a psychohistory of Adolf Hitler, concluded that he had borderline personality disorder. Still, there are other theories to Hitler’s mental health, which does give evidence that he was indeed psychologically ill. The main debate is to what extent he was mad. Despite, conflicting views and solution to his mental health, evidence proves that he was bipolar. The disease mentioned are no his only illnesses. It is also believed that Hitler may have had syphilis, which is known for causing mental issues. This would explain his hate for Jews, for if he did encounter the disease, it was from a Jewish prostitute that he slept with when in Vienna. However, syphilis was not Hitler’s only health defect. (Hope, 2009)

It is important to realize that Hitler did not always hate Jews. According to John Toland, two of Hitler’s closest friends were Jewish, and he often admired Jewish art works and producers. Therefore, he must not have been an evil man, but instead he was influenced by his surroundings, or possibly, his bipolar disorder was triggered and began to bloom. Vienna was already known for being a place of Anti-Semitism, and surely the media’s portrayal of Jews did not escape Hitler’s fascination.

Still, August Kubizek believed that Hitler’s madness began during the show at the theater they attended. It is possible that the play triggered the disorder, for in Kubizek’s description, Hitler sounded mad. He spoke of a mission as if it was his job to free Germans. People who have the disorder often think that they are getting things done, which was a cue for hypomania. Also, stress is a trigger for bipolar. Social rhythms, which is a disruption of ones life, falls under stress. Hitler attending a show could possibly have been not a normal routine for him. (Kubizek, 2006)

Conclusion:

No matter the cause or the probability of a disorder, Hitler apparently had a problem. While some people have an evilness about them that stems from nothing, Hitler’s background increases the probability that he was deranged. Reported characteristics of his behavior provide evidence of his mental instability as well. As for his hate toward Jews, it’s possible that it was a false non-Jewish ideology. After his death, music and paintings from Jewish artist and composes were discovered hid in his room. Patients who are bipolar often feel an unreasonable guilt, which would help to further explain Hitler’s accusation of Jews. Because he felt guilty, he wanted someone to blame, and therefore annihilated the Jewish race to make up for his guiltiness that was due to his bipolar disorder. Hitler was not evil. Evil is the intention of causing pain out of anger or spite.

“I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.” – Adolf Hitler

Hitler had the intention of doing what his mind told him was “God’s work.” It is not fair to acknowledge him as an evil man. Albert Einstein said that evil people do not threaten the world. It is the people who sit by and watch them happen that threaten lives. This is because evil people do not exist. However, if they did exist, then those who let them commit their malevolent crimes are just as guilty. Hitler was simply psychologically ill. To further that statement, at the end of the war and at Hitler’s defeat he decided to commit suicide, another symptom among those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Bibliography

University Of Toronto. "Biological Basis For Creativity Linked To Mental Illness." ScienceDaily 1 October 2003. 28 January 2010 <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm>.

Bulow, Louis. "Adolf Hitler- The Holocaust". 7/8/09 <http://www.auschwitz.dk/Hitler.htm>.

Kubizek, August. " The young Hitler I Knew". The Free Library. 7/9/09 <December 1, 2006>.

unknown. "Adolf Hitler's Childhood". ThinkQuest. 7/7/09 <http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112264/Hitler1.html>.

Guardian News and Media, "Hitler's Secret Musical Collection-Of Russian and Jewish Artist". Buzzle.com. 7/8/09 <http://www.buzzle.com/articles/147891.html>.

unknown, "About Bipolar Disorder". Bipolar.com. 7/7/09 <http://www.bipolar.com/what_is_bipolar/about_bipolar_disorder.html>.

Hope, Jenny. "Did Hitler Unleash The Holocaust Because a Jewish Prostitute gave Him Syphillis". Mail online. 7/7/09 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-463391/Did-Hitler-unleash-Holocaust-Jewish-prostitute-gave-syphilis.html

Belmonte, Joelle. "Understanding Bipolar Disorder". Helpguide.org. 7/8/09 <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm>.

Hitler's Health". BBC HOme. 1/27/10 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A11914085>.

Bipolar disorder Guide: Symptoms and Types". WebMD. 1/27/10 <http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-symptoms-types>.

Donahue, Linda. "About Bipolar Disorder". eHOW. 1/25/10 <http://www.ehow.com/about_5099061_hypomanic-bipolar-disorder.html>.


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      Verena 3 years ago

      This is a good article. The title seemed a bit misleading at first. I thought you were talking about rather or not he was simply evil. But i think it was nice how you navigated your writing into his psychological issues