Did Winston Churchhill have bipolar disorder?

Feb 2019
896
Pennsylvania, US
And we never will, because no such source exists. All of the diagnosing of him has been done by armchair psychologists that want to project their own image of Churchill onto the man, and make the evidence fit their agenda, not vice versa.
Well, look... I'm sorry if conjecturing about Churchill is distasteful to you. I say it mainly because for me it's just a intellectual exercise... and I don't really want to rub anyone the wrong way (within reason). I'd probably be upset if someone where theorizing that Churchill had ... say liver disease, simply because being from an uptight, old school, German background, liver disease could mean alcohol abuse or something worse (hepatitis), and that would paint Churchill in a morally wanton sort of light, having dubious character, etc.

I sense that you feel this sort of topic is perhaps beneath you, @WhatAnArtist, which I respect... but just disliking the topic doesn't really make for a good argument... or shut down the line of reasoning you'd rather not hear. You have to counter the argument with more persuasive information or a more persuasive presentation - and since this is something you'd probably rather not waste thought/time on, allow me...


The basic symptoms of bipolar on Mayo Clinic show both the high and low range of symptoms... and I've also snagged one of the first lists of Sir Winston Churchill's Character Traits from a quick search (and it basically summarizes the things we all equate to Churchill's personality)... by looking at both of these lists, I can quickly see there are several points here that show many of Churchill's accomplishments / tendencies CANNOT coexist with bi-polar episodes.

First is "poor decision making" as an aspect of mania; this includes risky behaviors (sexually, making bad financial choices, etc). This is behavior is incompatible with a leader successfully staving off the Nazis when they were on the doorstep, starving Britain out... you may say he was an impulsive character, but he never took on bad risks. This is also the difference in remembering Churchill as "courageous" versus "foolhardy" - very, very different characteristics.

Second is "distractability", which is also an aspect of mania - how could a man write 8 or so books, compose many speeches, orders, etc. if he were actively suffering from this symptom? It would be impossible.

Third is weight fluctuations, which can be part of a depressive episode - Churchill was famously rotund and never seemed to vary in his physique. Someone with bipolar could gain or shed a significant amount of weight with each episode - it would have been very apparent in photographs of him.

Fourth is "decreased ability to concentrate", which is also a depressive symptom... this seems diametrically opposed to Churchill's ability to focus in spite of what must have been extreme exhaustion from overwork and lack of sleep. It would be impossible to make sound decisions without being able to concentrate on all the factors and choose the best path forward.


So there are a few lines of argument why Churchill could not have had bipolar that could be expanded upon. I will say that it is unfortunate that many of Winston's characteristics do lend themselves towards the diagnostic criteria for certain manifestations of bipolar - but without proof positive, how can anyone know? **I would like to think some great, historical character could have some mental disorder they overcame - and I'm certain there are some who have, just based on the odds of probability.** Yet, in this case, you could also say on paper a tiger and a cat have many striking similarities... but all it takes is one aspect (size) to designate them as very different animals...
 

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,680
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
Drinking as much as WC did for decades is a high insult to the human body, a system which does not make judgement about a socially proper way to consume.
Curious aside on his drinking: After the death of Churchill, Pol Roger champagne added a black band to the labels of its champagne shipped to Britain. He was their greatest patron, having purchased some 42,000 (!) bottles between 1908 and his death. He constantly quoted Napoleon's maxim on champagne: "In victory, drink it! In defeat, need it!"
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,736
San Antonio, Tx
From my several old French friends, I’m aware of how they drank: slowly without the obnoxious English soccer fans’ tendency to destroy everything in sight when they become blind drunk. From my readings, Churchill was rarely if ever, ‘blind drunk’ and the thought that Hitler was beaten by a man they routinely called a “drunk”, oh, the irony!
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,736
San Antonio, Tx
I think it says a lot about the small-mindedness of America that Ulysses S. Grant is often cited as being an alcoholic when he actually abstained for the large portion of his adult life. Churchill imbibed constantly but the habit is a historical footnote.
I’m a lifelong admirer of Grant. He overcame a lot of personal issues in order to succeed and had more than a couple of failures earlier in life which I rather admire him for overcoming them. He had problems with people he thought were friends but who shamelessly robbed him. I think he was a great general who showed the confederates what real fighting was all about.
 
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