Did robin williams have bipolar

Robin Williams and the link between comedy and depression

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Image source, EPA

By Ian Youngs

Arts reporter, BBC News

Robin Williams was one of many comedians who made people laugh while simultaneously struggling with a personal darkness. Are comics more prone to depression - and if so, why?

"It doesn't take a genius to work out that comedians are a little bit nuts." Those were the words of comedian Susan Murray earlier this year, responding to an academic study that suggested comedians had unusual psychological traits linked with psychosis.

It takes a certain type of person to stand up and make a fool of themselves in public. But there is a difference between being a bit zany and suffering mental health problems.

However, the image of comedians as tortured souls who tell jokes in an attempt to dispel their inner demons has become common over the years.

Kenneth Williams once said: "I certainly wouldn't call myself a happy human being. All the comedians I've known have been deeply depressive people, manic depressive... They kept it at bay with this facade."

Image caption,

Spike Milligan published a book titled Depression And How To Survive It

Image caption,

Stephen Fry presented a TV documentary titled The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Tony Hancock took his own life. Spike Milligan suffered profound depression and published a book titled Depression And How To Survive It.

Peter Cook, John Cleese, Ruby Wax, Jack Dee, Caroline Aherne and David Walliams are among the others who have spoken about their inner turmoil.

Stephen Fry, who has bipolar disorder, presented a TV documentary titled The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006. Last year, he revealed he had tried to kill himself in 2012.

Fry said: "There are times when I'm doing QI and I'm going, 'ha ha, yeah, yeah' and inside I'm going, 'I want to die. '"

Robin Williams was also reported to have had bipolar disorder, which seriously affects the mood, with people swinging between phases of extreme happiness and creativity to severe, crushing depression.

"Among the creative professions, it's very, very common," says comedy producer and performer John Lloyd, who made the TV series QI and Blackadder.

"There's a very, very high incidence of bipolar disorder. It's because stable people think the world's fine as it is. They don't see any particular need to change it.

"Creative people don't feel like that. People who want to change the world tend to suffer a lot for it."

Comedians, Lloyd adds, are more likely to have extremes of personality because they are "more extreme people".

"Robin Williams was a complete genius and did an enormous body of work. You can't do that if you're just depressed. You're more likely to do that if you're bipolar and you have terrific bursts of creative activity.

"And there's a price for everything. Often, and I know this as a television producer, if you've finished a series and you've been on a high with pumping adrenalin every day, when you come down from it you're really low. It's punishing."

Image caption,

John Lloyd (second right) produced shows including Not the Nine O'Clock News

'Unusual' personalities

In January, academics from the University of Oxford published the results of research into comedians' psychological traits (this is the report Susan Murray was responding to above).

Professor Gordon Claridge, of the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology, studied personality questionnaires filled in by 523 comedians (404 men and 119 women) from the UK, US and Australia.

"We found that comedians had a rather unusual personality profile, which was rather contradictory," Prof Claridge says.

"On the one hand, they were rather introverted, depressive, rather schizoid, you might say. And on the other hand, they were rather extroverted and manic.

"That was a rather unusual profile. The actors we compared them with didn't show that, and this was highly significantly different from the norms on the test.

"Possibly the comedy - the extroverted side - is a way of dealing with the depressive side. Of course, this is not true of all comedians."

Laughing to cope

It is not. Not every comedian has difficulties, and depression is far from particular to creative personalities.

Depression is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK, according to the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm). It touches all corners of society.

Dr Nick Maguire, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Southampton, says there may be a connection between depression and comedy - but "it's certainly not a very strong one".

However, he says different people have different ways of coping.

"People often isolate themselves," he explains. "Another way of temporarily reducing the impact of those emotions is to make people laugh, to make people like you.

"Unfortunately, the release can sometimes be very temporary. It's fine as long as it's happening, but when you go home again, what do you do?"

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Terry Gilliam (right) said Robin Williams' comedic talent had been 'a miracle' but there was 'a price to pay'

In public, Robin Williams always seemed to be performing, always the wise-cracking firecracker who wanted to make people laugh.

He made no secret of his problems with alcohol and marriage break-downs, but spoke more guardedly about his bouts of anxiety in interviews, usually attempting to look on the bright side.

"Every time you get depressed, comedy will be there to drag your ass out of it," he told The Guardian in 1996.

Terry Gilliam, who directed Williams in the Golden Globe-winning film The Fisher King, said the star's comedic talent had been "a miracle", but such a gift "doesn't come from nothing".

"When the gods gift you with the kind of talent Robin had, there's a price to pay," the Monty Python star told the BBC.

"It comes from deep problems inside. A concern, all sorts of fears. Yet he could always channel those things and turn them into gold.

"I think that comes with the territory."

Robin Williams, Mental Illness Sufferer, Dead at 63 Due to Suicide

When a person chooses suicide, it’s hard to accept that choice.

Comedian and award-winning actor Robin Williams apparently made that choice earlier this morning. Robin Williams has long suspected to be a sufferer of either depression or bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness where the person fluctuates between episodes of extreme energy, focus and productivity (mania) and severe depression. Apparently, he was in one of the episodes of depression when he took his own life.

We mourn his loss.

The coroner said that Williams’ death was “a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.”

Williams had long struggled with addiction and mental illness. ((An article on This Emotional Life noted that Williams “use[d] the manic and depressive cycles of his bipolar disorder to produce comedic genius on and off screen.” )) “Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on the “Fresh Air” NPR radio show in 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.” ((According to the same account, he also denied he was ever diagnosed with depression. ‘When Gross asked specifically if he had been diagnosed with clinical depression, Williams answered: “No clinical depression, no. No. I get bummed, like I think a lot of us do at certain times.”‘ Speculation about the specific diagnosis he may have qualified for — whether it was depression or bipolar disorder — has never been confirmed by Williams himself. ))

According to news accounts:

“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” said Mara Buxbaum, president of [Williams’] PR firm. “He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

His wife, Susan Schneider, issued a brief statement: “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” she said.

Suicide is an insidious choice due to the lies that depression tells us. When a person is suffering from severe depression, as apparently Williams was, it can tell that person, “Hey, you’d be better off dead. Life isn’t going to get any better.”

And sadly, sometimes people listen. Even brilliant, accomplished individuals such as Robin Williams.

Williams is best known as a comedian who made his name first in stand-up, then in TV on the hit show Mork & Mindy, and later with movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, and Good Will Hunting, where he won an Oscar for his role as a therapist.

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that is most-commonly treated through a combination of psychotherapy and medications. People who limit their treatment or stop taking medications may be at higher risk for the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, such as mania or depression. Most people with bipolar disorder need lifelong treatment for the concern, as there is no cure for it.

Some people with bipolar disorder feel that the medications commonly prescribed for the disorder make them feel like they’re “living in a fog,” or that all their emotions lack any sort of depth. For these kinds of reasons, some people choose not to keep taking medications to treat the disorder.

Suicide is a common symptom of severe, clinical depression. When properly treated, the feelings of suicide often remit as the depression lifts. But even under treatment, sometimes people choose to take their own life.

While we may never understand why someone who enjoyed so much family and success as Robin Williams did might take their own life, we can appreciate the body of work he left behind. He lit up many people’s lives with his humor, infectious energy, and poignant roles.

Robin Williams will be missed.

Editorial note: We acknowledge Williams himself has never stated, to our knowledge, that he had been formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression. Yet given his behaviors and symptoms, it seems far more likely he suffered from bipolar disorder — of which depression is a very significant component. News accounts saying he suffered from depression don’t appear to be substantiated by Williams’ own statements on the issue.

8/12/2014 2:30pm Update: The Marin County Coroner’s office has now stated that Williams was seeking treatment for depression.

If you are feeling suicidal, please read this first. Then if you’re in the U.S., call 800-273-TALK, or one of these numbers here for international readers (choose your country from the drop-down list). Suicide is a temporary feeling that signals untreated or under-treated depressive symptoms. There is help — and hope.

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90,000 Robin Williams: a cheerful person with sad eyes

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Starbound culture: KinoBobin Williams: Kp.ru

Denis Corsakov

August 12, 2014 15:20 9000 : A cheerful man with sad eyes Photo: REUTERS

After the sudden, stunning news of Robin Williams' suicide, everyone whined in unison: "Well, how is it, he was a comedian, he made people laugh - and then he suddenly committed suicide." Few remembered that Williams played his best roles in dramas, and not at all in passing comedies, which, unfortunately, his filmography is full of. For the role of a psychotherapist helping a brilliant, but deeply asocial young mathematician in Good Will Hunting, he received his first and only Oscar. But no less, but rather even more, Williams deserved statuettes for his masterfully played role of a maniac in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia. And, of course, for his main acting achievement - the role of a little man filled with Chekhov's poignancy, going crazy from a total lack of happiness, human communication and love, in the excellent picture of Mark Romanek "Photo in an hour." nine0004

The tragedy suited Williams very well - if you think about it, even in comedy, whether it was "The Birdcage" or "Healer Adams", he managed to bring sad notes. Alas, he will be remembered for any easily digestible nonsense like “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Jumanji”, “Flubber”, “Night at the Museum” - or the vulgar “Dead Poets Society”, which turned out to be so sweet to the heart of undemanding viewers.

Jumping from comedies to tragedies and back strangely rhymes with the disease from which the actor suffered. He had bipolar affective disorder (in Soviet times it was also called manic-depressive psychosis): phases of inexplicable euphoria in bipolar disorder alternate with phases of an equally inexplicable black melancholy. Like many people suffering from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, badly (whatever psychiatrists say) being treated with pills, Williams tried to find salvation in drugs and alcohol - and, naturally, got bogged down in them. He struggled with his addiction for a long time - and he was never shy about talking about it. “Addiction is a thing that can wait. She lies in ambush,” he said in an interview three years ago. Apparently, addiction waited for its own: drug problems recently covered Williams again, he once again turned to the doctors, but they did not have time to help. Longing once again, for the last time, took him by the throat - and on August 11, Robin Williams was found suffocated. nine0004

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Suicide Prevention - Evidence-Based Medicine for All

The death of actor Robin Williams at age 63 is a tragic reminder of the high prevalence of suicide, especially among middle-aged white men experts say.

"Current data indicate that white males aged 55 to 64 have the highest risk of suicide," says Professor of Psychiatry, Prakash Masand, MD. nine0004

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011 there were more than 28,000 completed suicides in the United States among white men, 7,600 completed suicides among white women, and fewer than 2,000 among black men.

“If you try to create a profile of a person at the highest risk of suicide, it would look like this: a middle-aged or older white male, ending a successful career, who has a serious medical diagnosis, suffers from chronic depression, abuses alcohol or drugs; at the moment he is going through a difficult period in the personal or professional sphere,” write Lenny Bernstein and Lena Sun in an article [1] published on August 12 in the Washington Post and dedicated to the death of Williams. nine0004

Robin Williams fit this profile perfectly. It is known that he used cocaine for a long time, in addition, a number of news outlets reported that he suffered from bipolar disorder.

Harry Croft, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas, says, "Even if this diagnosis hadn't been officially confirmed, one had only to look at Robin Williams' performance to wonder if he had bipolar disorder." .

“Bipolar disorder (BD) itself can be a deadly diagnosis, literally. The fact is that in the general population, for 30 incomplete suicides, there is one completed one. And in patients with bipolar disorder, one in three suicide attempts ends in death, which means that their suicide attempts are ten times more effective,” said psychiatry professor Jan Fawcett, MD. nine0004

Combination of depression with drug addiction is also a major risk factor for suicide.

Another factor that increases the risk of suicide in men is that they react to depression differently than women. Depression leads them to alcohol abuse, irritability and anger, while women usually experience depression through sadness, apathy and a sense of hopelessness.

Recent research data also show that patients who do not meet the standard diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder are often not diagnosed and treated appropriately. Williams's combination of bipolar disorder and depression made it difficult to find medication for him. nine0004

For example, in the US, there are only three drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of bipolar depression compared to 40-50 drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of unipolar depression.

It is not clear if Williams was receiving treatment at the time of his suicide, but it appears that he was under the care of doctors at the Hazelden Clinic, a highly prestigious addiction treatment center, at the time.

Once Williams sought medical help at the best clinic in the United States, even if only for the treatment of drug addiction, his doctor could not help but notice that he had all the risk factors for committing suicide. nine0004

“After reaching a certain age, a very high percentage of people see their doctor at least every 1-3 months. This is especially true for older people. A significant number of people who have committed suicide have seen their doctor less than a month ago. This is a pretty sad statistic and we need to do something to change it,” said Dr. Croft.

Williams' death is an important reminder to physicians to be on the lookout for patients with risk factors for suicide. nine0004

“I have been a psychiatrist for over 30 years, and I learned a long time ago that asking direct questions about suicide is pointless. If you ask a patient if he plans to kill himself, the answer is almost certainly no,” said Dr. Croft.

“Many older people believe that if they tell their doctor about their suicidal thoughts, the doctor will lock them up in a psychiatric clinic from which they can no longer leave,” he added.

It is more correct to ask such questions insidiously: “Have you ever felt so depressed that you had no desire to continue your life?” nine0004

And if the patient admits this, you should carefully ask him clarifying questions, for example:

  • Have you ever thought about suicide?
  • Did you come up with a specific plan?
  • Did you take any steps to prepare this plan for implementation?

“If you are careful, patients are less likely to deceive the psychiatrist. They start to believe that you really care about them and try to help. You have to understand that most people don't really want to kill themselves. They are simply tired of pain, depression or stress and want to put an end to it,” says Dr.

Learn more