4 Famous Writers With a Mental Illness

Famous Writers with a Mental Illness

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There has long been speculation about the link between mental illness and creativity. It’s suggested by many that, somehow, mental illness promotes creativity. This seems especially possible when you consider how many famous writers, poets, musicians, and other public figures suffered from some form of mental illness, even though there does exist alternative viewpoints on this.

Let’s take a look at 4 of the most famous writers who have struggled publicly with mental illnesses.

David Foster Wallace – Depression

David Foster Wallace, best known for his 1998 novel Infinite Jest, has been hailed as one of the most inventive, creative writers of the 20th and 21st century, and Infinite Jest has been called “The Great American Novel” by multiple publications.

But David Foster Wallace struggled with depression throughout his life. He was on and off his medication and therapy numerous times throughout his illustrious career. Eventually, his medication proved ineffective, and in 2008, he committed suicide.

Sylvia Plath – Depression

Sylvia Plath is best known for The Bell Jar which is a classic piece of American literature that’s read in high school and college classrooms both nationwide, and around the world.

If you’ve read The Bell Jar, it may not be a surprise that Sylvia Plath suffered from extreme bouts of depression. The novel is semi-autobiographical, and much of it is focused on the inner torment felt by the main character.

Sylvia Plath’s story comes to a sad, unfortunate end when, in 1963, in the midst of a major depressive episode, Plath committed suicide.

Edgar Allan Poe – Depression, Possibly Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder

Of all of the people on this list, Edgar Allen Poe is probably one of the least surprising picks. His vivid, tormented descriptions of Southern Gothic themes and imagery made him one of the most famous horror authors and poets of the 19th century – and arguably, of all time.

Poe was rumored to suffer from alcoholism, and his depression, psychosis, and a possibly undiagnosed bipolar disorder could all have been contributing factors to his mysterious death in 1849. On October 3, he was found delirious, walking the streets of Baltimore. He was picked up and brought to a hospital, dying only hours later, before recovering enough to explain how he came to be in such a physically weakened state.

Philip K. Dick – Schizophrenia, Auditory and Visual Hallucinations

Philip K. Dick, the author of books such as Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, UBIK, and The Man In The High Castle, was one of the most prolific and entertaining science fiction authors of the 20th century.

Later in life, he began having extensive auditory and visual hallucinations – indeed, several of his books are autobiographical in nature and describe these hallucinations vividly. It is suspected that a lifetime of drug abuse and experimentation led to schizophrenia in Philip K. Dick – this could have been the primary cause of these hallucinations.

This same abuse may have lead to his sudden death – in 1952; Dick keeled over in his home. Two weeks later, he died when his life support was removed at the hospital.


As Guy De Maupassant said, “A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.” Sick thoughts should not be held in one’s body or mind – they should be released in a healthy manner.

These famous writers shared their illnesses with the world through their work – perhaps this was the only way they knew how.

If you’re looking for a way to share your struggles with mental illness in a safe, anonymous environment, try Supportiv.

This anonymous social network can connect you with others who wish to talk about their struggles and victories with mental illness, and can allow you to relieve yourself of some of the burden of struggles with anxiety, depression, and more.