The term "schizophrenia" itself is a recent word, having been coined by famed psychiatrist Dr. Eugen Bleuler in 1911. However, recorded documents from various civilizations have shown that schizophrenia has existed since ancient times.1
Throughout history, countless people have been affected with schizophrenia, but some of them were able to rise above their condition and make a lasting impact. The following schizophrenics can help serve as an inspiration for those who are going through the same path.
Wilson is the front man for The Beach Boys,2 one of the most famous American rock bands of all time. He wrote and produced most of the music in their critically praised album, "Pet Sounds," during a time when his schizophrenia was starting to develop.
A movie about Wilson's life, "Love & Mercy," was released in 2014, showing how he dealt with the voices inside his head while working on "Pet Sounds." The movie was received warmly and even got two Golden Globe nominations.3 Wilson continues to write and perform music to this day.
Vincent Van Gogh
The famed Dutch painter passed away in 1890, two decades before Bleuler came up with the term "schizophrenia." However, that hasn't stopped 150 medical professionals from posthumously diagnosing him and agreeing that he had the disease.4
Based on biographical accounts, Van Gogh developed schizophrenic episodes during the last two years of his life and, being unable to cope with the symptoms, took his own life at the age of 37.
In spite of having difficulties with his mental health during that time, Van Gogh's talent flourished and he was able produce his best-known works, most notably "The Starry Night."5
John F. Nash Jr., Ph.D.
Nash was a brilliant mathematician who was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences,6 along with John C. Harsanyi, Ph.D.,7 and Reinhard Selten, Ph.D.,8 for their contributions to the field of game theory. He struggled with paranoid schizophrenia during his 30s and believed that all those who wore red neckties were involved in a communist conspiracy out to get him.9
The disease initially derailed Nash’s academic career, but was able to battle the symptoms and even published scientific works well into his later years. A book about his life, "A Beautiful Mind" was released in 1998, as well as an Academy Award-winning movie of the same title in 2001. Nash passed away in 2015 at the age of 86 in a car crash along with his wife, Alicia.10
Darrell Hammond is well-known for his tenure as a cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1995 to 2009. The American actor is famous for having done over 107 celebrity impressions, with Bill Clinton being his most famous one.11 He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age and attributes his condition to childhood abuse. Despite his condition, he continues to have a successful career in comedy.
Nathaniel Ayers is a talented musician that was once admitted to the prestigious Juilliard School for the Performing Arts, even playing on the same orchestra as Yo-Yo Ma, one of the most famous cellists in the world.
However, he was unable to cope with his schizophrenia and he ended up homeless in Los Angeles, playing music in the streets to get by. In 2009, a movie about his life was released, titled "The Soloist,", which garnered international attention to his life and schizophrenia in general.12 He is currently getting help from medical professionals, and still continues to play music today.13