Schizophrenia is often misunderstood and even parodied in popular culture. Many people don’t fully understand schizophrenia and are afraid to explore the details of the condition. Like many psychological conditions, schizophrenia can range in terms of intensity, and affects people in different ways.
People who have schizophrenia can exhibit minor characteristics like being forgetful and disorganized. Some can display symptoms that are much more serious, such as being delusional and listening to voices in their head that encourage them to harm others. Unfortunately, some criminals have committed horrible acts as a result of this mental condition. It is also important to note that multiple personality disorder is different from schizophrenia, although the two conditions are often viewed as the same disease. Also, contrary to popular opinion, schizophrenia isn’t exactly an uncommon condition. HelpGuide.org suggests that about 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia at some point in their lives.
Medical advances make it possible for people with schizophrenia to live happy and fulfilling lives. Some individuals are able to have healthy family relationships and professional success. Treatments can include medication, counseling and a host of exercises and activities that are designed to recondition the brain.
These ten well-known schizophrenics all suffered to different degrees; some managed to go on to live fulfilling lives while obtaining treatment, while others’ lives were irrevocably led down dangerous paths and they became tragically defined by the illness.
10. Wesley Willis
Willis was an artist and musician who received a schizophrenia diagnosis after hearing “demons” in his head. As a result of his episodes, which he referred to as “hell rides,” he stated that rock ‘n’ roll was “joy ride music.”
After his diagnosis, he spent two months in a psychiatric hospital. Willis began his career as a singer and songwriter in the outsider genre. He had a huge following in the 1990s and released his Greatest Hits album in 1995.
His visual art included intricate drawings of city buses and streetscapes of his hometown, Chicago. Many of Willis’ episodes occurred while he was riding the city buses of Chicago, which may be why he was inspired to create art that depicted these scenes. Wesley Willis passed away from complications due to leukemia in 2003. He was 40 years old.
9. Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnston has been diagnosed with manic depression and schizophrenia. He has had significant psychotic episodes, including throwing a key from a plane’s ignition while the plane was in the air, due to believing he was Casper the Friendly Ghost.
The California native is best known as a film composer, musician and singer and made the Ranker list at #48 for the Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers. He is known for his recording of the song 1990 and for his cover of Unpack Your Adventures from Schoolhouse Rock.
Johnston is also regarded as a renowned artist, and his work is featured in the Aquarium Gallery in London. Daniel Johnston is also known for painting the mural of Jeremiah the Innocent, also known as the “Hi, How Are You” frog, for Sound Exchange record store in Austin, Texas.
8. Lionel Aldridge
Aldridge was a professional football player. His athletic abilities were so impressive that legendary coach Vince Lombardi decided to use Alridge as a starter, even though he was a rookie in 1963. Lionel Aldridge proved that Lombardi made the right decision, since he helped the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl twice.
Aldridge spent a decade in the NFL, but retired in the late 1970s after he began suffering from schizophrenia. The illness led to a significant amount of turmoil in the ex-athlete’s life, and he became homeless in Milwaukee before getting the proper treatment for schizophrenia. This led Alridge to become a spokesperson and advocate for the mentally ill and homeless. Lionel Aldridge passed away in 1998.
7. Skip Spence
Spence, whose real name was Alexander, was a singer and songwriter popular in the 1960s. He was the cofounder of the band Moby Grape. Skip Spence was also the drummer on Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, which was Jefferson Airplane’s debut album.
After taking too much acid, Spence started to have delusions. He marched around his hotel room wielding an ax and claiming to be the antiChrist as he tore down doors with the ax. Spence was then taken to Bellevue, where he was officially diagnosed as schizophrenic. The Canadian musician passed away at the age of 53, from lung cancer.
6. Jim Gordon
Jim Gordon was a skilled drummer who was highly sought after during the golden years of Rock ‘n’ Roll. During the 1960s and 1970s, everyone from Eric Clapton to Jim Henson wanted Gordon to play percussion for their projects.
Jim Gordon knew how to play all types of music, from the feel-good sound of The Beach Boys to the hard rock that Alice Cooper is known for. In the late 1970s, Gordon started developing paranoid schizophrenia, and started to hear voices.
Doctors didn’t give him an accurate diagnosis, which meant that Gordon would not receive proper treatment. In 1983, Jim Gordon murdered his mother and is still imprisoned.
5. Peter Green
Peter Green is a guitarist from Great Britain, and is most well known for being one of the founding members of the legendary group Fleetwood Mac. Green is considered one of the best guitarists in the world.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s and began therapy to manage the condition. Green became a recluse for years after having some violent episodes and spending time in psychiatric hospitals. However, he has come back into the public eye for live guitar performances and will likely always be known for his creatively significant contribution to music.
4. Darrell Hammond
Comedic actor Darrell Hammond is best known for his long stint on Saturday Night Live, and is living with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He stayed on the show longer than any other cast member, from 1995 to 2009.
Hammond made countless people laugh with spot-on impressions of celebrities such as former president Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, and was ranked #26 on the Best SNL Cast Members of All Time list. He was also voted #54 on the Most Successful Saturday Night Live Alumni list.
Hammond is also a stand-up comedian, and often appears on The Howard Stern Show. He has appeared on popular television shows such as Damages and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Hammond has admitted to suffering from alcohol abuse and cocaine addiction, and went to rehab in 2009. He also released a memoir in 2011, which discusses his mental health issues and abusive childhood.
3. Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson is the former lead singer for The Beach Boys and continues to perform today. Wilson is credited as being the former leader of one of the most popular groups in the world. He was even ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone.
Wilson suffers from schizoaffective disorder. The condition causes him to have delusions that are similar to the ones people with schizophrenia experience. There are several theories about the triggers of Brian Wilson’s disorder, including the fact that the singer had a stroke and has a history of drug use. Fortunately, Wilson has revised his lifestyle and works actively to manage his condition.
2. Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett was one of the founders of the legendary band Pink Floyd. He was first thought to have schizophrenia by his family and friends, and medical experts confirmed this assumption. Barrett was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Pink Floyd was rated #509 on the Best Rock Bands of All Time list, and Barrett was ranked #105 on the These Poetic Geniuses Wrote Your Favorite Songs of All Time list. Syd Barrett was born in the UK, and aside from being a great songwriter, he was also a skilled guitarist and singer.
Barrett’s long-term drug and alcohol abuse likely contributed to his development of pancreatic cancer. Barrett lost his battle with cancer in 2006, and the song Shine On You Crazy Diamond was written by Pink Floyd member Roger Waters as a tribute to Barrett.
1. John Nash
Dr. Nash was a mathematician who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his significant strides in the field. He was considered a genius by many, and also suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. His theories include the forces that determine chance and probability. Many of these theories are used in currency trends and are a method for analyzing arms races. In the latter part of his career, Dr. Nash suffered from delusions that he would be persecuted by government agents. His life, accomplishments and struggles are depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind, which starred Russell Crowe. John Nash and his wife unfortunately lost their lives in a car accident in New Jersey in May of 2015. Dr. Nash was 86 years old.