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Famous People With Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar Musicians

Updated on March 9, 2015

Bipolar Disorder doesn't just affect regular people; many famous people are Bipolar.

Over 5.7 Americans are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a mental illness characterized by periods of mania and depression. Scientists have found numerous links between Bipolar Disorder and creativity; it's no surprise that a number of musicians are Bipolar.

Famous people with Bipolar Disorder include Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, and Axl Rose.  Although Bipolar Disorder is not limited to creative types, this article will focus on musicians afflicted with this mental disorder.

Beethoven was a Bipolar composer.
Beethoven was a Bipolar composer.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Out of all the famous people with Bipolar Disorder, Beethoven is one of the most well known.

A friend referred to Beethoven's Bipolar Disorder by stating that  "he composes, or was unable to compose, according to the moods of happiness, vexation or sorrow."

It was believed that Beethoven wrote most of his best symphonies during manic episodes.  When he ran out of paper, he would write on walls and window shutters.

Britney Spears is famous for shaving her head during a manic episode.
Britney Spears is famous for shaving her head during a manic episode.

Britney Spears

Although gossip mags and entertainment blogs claimed that Britney shaved her head to avoid a hair drug test, she actually shaved it during a manic episode.

Her Bipolar Disorder has never officially been confirmed, but it hasn't officially been denied, either. Mental health experts believe she is currently being treated for Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder.

Britney Spears is a twice-divorced mother of 2 sons.  She shares custody with her ex husband, Kevin Federline.

Currently, Britney is under conservatorship of her father, James Spears, as a result of her unstable behavior.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, born James Marshall, was one of the most popular electric guitarists of all time. His intense guitar solos were believed to have been created during episodes of Bipolar mania.

In 1967, Jimi Hendrix released a song called "Manic Depression" after Chas Chandler, his manager, told him that he sounded like a manic depressive during a press conference.

On September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix was found dead in a hotel room.  His death, caused by an overdose of barbiturates, is speculated to be a suicide triggered by an episode of Bipolar depression.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose, born William Bailey Rose, Jr., has admitted to being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder; however, he has frequently stated that he is not entirely convinced the diagnosis is accurate.

Axl Rose was the lead singer of Guns N Roses, and has been named one of the 100 best singers of all time by Rolling Stone. In addition to his musical talents, he is notorious for his explosive temper and emotional outbursts.

He was arrested numerous times as a teen, and has admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol in the past.  These are all behaviors and traits commonly associated with individuals diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Earl Simmons of DMX

Earl Simmons, best known as rapper DMX, has admitted to having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. He was diagnosed as a teenager, and referred to the condition in many of his lyrics.

In "F*ckin Wit' D", DMX mentions his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder:

Listed as a manic depressin' with extreme paranoia
And dog I got somethin' for ya! Hear my name, feel my pain

His battles with drugs and the legal system are believed to be a result of his Bipolar Disorder.


Sting

Gordon Matthew Sumner, better known as Sting, was born on October 2, 1951.

Sting referred to his Bipolar Disorder in a widely discussed interview from 1996, where he was quoted saying:

"Anyway, during that period with the Police, the most successful time of my life, I was suicidal. My first marriage and my relationship with the other members of the band was collapsing. I just felt adrift. I was manic-depressive and I just wasn't chemically balanced enough to enjoy it. I was out to lunch."

Sting's life shows a history of depression, but not very many manic episodes.

Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses

Kristin Hersh, singer and guitar player for Throwing Muses, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 14.

She discussed Bipolar Disorder in many of her songs, including "Mania" and "Hook in Her Head".  After years of attempting to manage mania and depression with Lithium, Kristin has found Bipolar relief through acupuncture.

Kristin Hersh's Memoir About Bipolar Disorder and Being a Teen Mom

Music From Bipolar Musicians

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lori, thank you for bringing this back up. For sure I can say it is a brutal situation. Brilliant, like 160 IQ people suffer and others think them dumb. It is like being trapped in a mind that functions strangely but the intellect is no less sharp. But it has lapses. Bless those who suffer from.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I feel bad for Spears. She's been stigmatized as crazy, or a spoiled brat. I don't care for her brand of entertainment, but as a person who battles bipolar myself, I empathize with her struggles, not only because we both suffer

      with the disorder itself, but also because we are both stigmatized.

      So many of the old composers (and current ones no doubt), writers and poets suffered from bipolar or severe depression. There are many actors who have been courageous enough to share they have the condition and some have waged war against the stigmatized by educating people and advocacy. Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta Jones, Robin Williams, to name a few.

    • profile image

      Greg Day 17 months ago

      We are diagnosed Bipolar 1.

      Rule 1. Get medication that works. We use Tegretol & Seroquel & FishOil.

      2. Manage medication with Blister Packs.

      3. Try acupuncture or Meridian Tapping.

      4. Meditation or mindfulness

      5. There's an App for that!!!

      6. Be Positive thinker. POSITUDE.

      7. Check out Meher Baba.

      8. Relax

      9. R E L A X

    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 2 years ago

      Very interesting article to see even music stars suffer from this disease.

    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

      Kierstin Gunsberg 4 years ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Super interesting hub, but I'd be kind of hesitant to diagnose anyone who passed away before bipolar or manic depression were even recognized as a mental illness, only because I think that it requires some serious evaluation from a doctor. Also, to say that Washington or Lincoln were bipolar doesn't make sense to me because yes, they may have been depressive, but the historical records of their lives don't necessarily indicated a bipolar diagnosis.

    • Arghness profile image

      Edward 4 years ago from O'Fallon

      Wow, I really didn't know that! Now I know why I make so much better Piano music while in manic phase of my bipolar!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very nicely handled delicate subject. While this was about musicians I am pretty sure that both Lincoln and Washington also suffered the disorder. It is so common though I wonder if it should be thought of a disease. Definitely life threatening but so is smoking.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 6 years ago from California

      I've read a lot about Hendrix and this is the first time I heard he may have been bipolar. You're right, though, he did write the song "Manic Depression," but he also wrote "Purple Haze." Later!

    • PR Morgan profile image

      PR Morgan 6 years ago from Sarasota Florida

      Interesting! I never knew Sting was Bipolar!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I knew this about most of them and it is something people don't know about or why people do the things they do. Thank you for bringing awareness to this very important subject.

    • Sunnyglitter profile image
      Author

      Sunnyglitter 6 years ago from Cyberspace

      Thanks, Mommytalks! I had no idea so many famous people had Bipolar Disorder until I started writing this hub.

    • mommytalks profile image

      mommytalks 6 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      wow! Who knew! Great hub!