Richard G. Petty, MD

Psychological Problems, Stigma and Success

I do a lot of work to try and de-stigmatize mental illness, and to emphasize that all of my experience and all the scientific evidence makes it very clear that most psychological and psychiatric problems lie on a spectrum. We define something as an “illness” only if it is causing suffering or distress.

Because of my work I know about the physical and psychological problems of a great many people in the public eye, but I will obviously not talk about people unless they decide to say something themselves.

When I am speaking to politicians or the media I often show them a list of some of the people with psychological problems who have gone public.

I just found this long list of Deborah Serani’s blog. There were a number of names of people whom I did not know had revealed that they had suffered from problems. I am pleased that Deborah offered some references. I have also added a few names from my own research.

If there are any mistakes, please let me know and I shall correct them.

I would like to make three points:

  1. Psychological problems and psychiatric illnesses are common and usually treatable
  2. Having been diagnosed with one of these problems does not preclude you from outstanding success
  3. This list does not include people with substance abuse problems, though these problems are usually as physical as any other

I do hope that you will find it helpful to see just how many terrific people have had their downs as well as their ups!

John Quincy Adams (US President)
Alvin Ailey (Choreographer)
Lionel Aldridge (Football Star)
Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut)
Adam Ant A.K.A. Stuart Goddard (Singer)
Ann-Margaret (Actor)
Louie Anderson (Comedian Actor)
Gillian Anderson (Actress)
Fiona Apple (Musician)
Diane Arbus (Photographer)
Isaac Asimov (Author)
Drew Barrymore (Actor/Producer)
Daniel Boorstin (Former Us Presidential Adviser)
Zach Braff (Actor)
Art Buchwald (Columnist)
Oksana Baiul (Skating Star)
Kim Basinger (Actress)
Ned Beatty (Actor)
Syd Barrett (Musician)
Ludwig Van Beethoven (Composer)
Maurice Bernard (Actor)
Irving Berlin (Composer)
Danny Bonaduce (Actor/Radio DJ)
Halle Berry (Actor)
Kjell Magne Bondevik (Prime Minister of Norway)
Steve Blass (Baseball Star)
Charles “Buddy” Bolden (Musician)
Robert Borrstin (Political Advisor)
David Bowie (Singer)
Marlon Brando (Actor)
Jeremy Brett (Actor)
Charlotte Bronte (Author)
Robert Burns (Poet)
Willie Burton (Athlete)
Barbara Bush (Former First Lady – U.S.)
Delta Burke (Actor)
Carol Burnett (Actress/Comedian)
Lord Byron (Poet)
Cher (Singer/Actress)
Dick Clark (Producer/Music Magnate)
John Candy (Comedian)
Ray Charles (Musician)
Deanna Carter (Singer)
Helen Caldicott (Activist/Writer)
Dean Cain (Actor)
Drew Carey (Actor/ Comedian)
Earl Campbell (Football Star)
Eric Clapton (Musician)
Jim Carrey (Actor/Comedian)
Melanie Chisholm (Singer)
Naomi Campbell (Model)
Rosemary Clooney(Singer)
Jose Canseco (Baseball Star)
Shawn Colvin (Musician)
Mary Jo Codey (First Lady Of New Jersey)
Judy Collins (Musician)
Dick Cavett (TV Host/Writer)
Courtney Cox (Actor)
Margaret Cho (Actor/Comedian)
Natalie Cole (Singer)
Michael Crichton (Writer)
Francis Ford Coppola (Director)
Sheryl Crow (Musician)
Winston Churchill (English Prime Minister)
Nicolas Cage (Actor)
Sandra Cisneros (Writer)
Patricia Cornwell (Writer)
John Cleese (Comedian/Actor)
Leonard Cohen (Musician)
Paula Cole (Actor)
Shayne Corson (Hockey Star)
Judy Collins (Musician)
Shawn Colvin (Musician)
Jeff Conaway (Actor)
Ty Cobb (Baseball Star)
Pat Conroy (Writer)
Billy Corgan (Musician)
Calvin Coolidge (US President)
Bill Dana (Comedian)
John Daly (Golf Star)
Rodney Dangerfield (Comedian/ Actor)
Charles Darwin (Scientist)
Jefferson Davis (President Of The Confederate States Of America)
Jonathan Davis (Musician)
Sandra Dee (Actor)
Gaetano Donizetti (Opera Singer)
Mike Douglas (TV Host)
Walt Disney (Entrepreneur)
John Denver (Musician)
Dame Edna Everage a.k.a. Barry Humphries (Comedian)
Ellen Degeneres (Comedian/Actor)
Richard Dreyfuss (Actor)
Johnny Depp (Actor)
Paolo Dicanio (Soccer Star)
Eric Douglas (Actor)
Charles Dickens (Author)
Patty Duke (Actress)
Scott Donie (Olympic Star)
Kitty Dukakis (Former First Lady Of Massachusetts)
Michael English (Singer)
Jim Eisenreich (Baseball Star)
Thomas Edison (Inventor)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Writer)
Robert Evans (Film Producer)
Jules Feiffer (Cartoonist)
James Farmer (Civil Rights Leader)
Edie Falco (Actress)
Betty Ford (Former US First Lady)
Carrie Fisher (Actress)
James Forrestal (Undersecretary Of US)
Eddie Fisher (Singer)
Aretha Franklin (Singer)
Harrison Ford (Actor)
Albert French (Writer)
Sally Field (Actress)
Connie Francis (Singer)
Sarah Ferguson (Duchess Of York)
Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalyst)
Stephen Fry (Actor)
Shecky Greene (Comedian)
Barbara Gordon (Filmmaker)
Phil Graham (Washington Post)
James Gandolfini (Actor)
James Garner (Actor)
Peter Gabriel (Musician)
Kendall Gill (Basketball Star)
Ruth Graham (Writer)
John Gibson (Pianist)
Danny Glover (Actor)
Dwight Gooden (Baseball Star)
Tipper Gore (Former US First Lady)
Galileo (Scientist)
Carey Grant (Actor)
Mariette Hartley (Actor/Activist)
Tim Howard (Soccer Star)
Juliana Hatfield (Musician)
Ernest Hemingway (Writer/ Nobel Laureate)
Margaux Hemingway (Actor)
Audrey Hepburn (Actor/Activist)
Olivia Hussey (Actress)
Pete Harnisch (Baseball Star)
Linda Hamilton (Actor)
Stephen Hawking (Physicist)
Sir Anthony Hopkins (Actor)
Marty Ingels (Comedian)
Janet Jackson (Musician)
Kay Redfield Jamison (Psychologist/Author)
Richard Jeni (Comedian)
Jim Jenson (Newscaster)
Billy Joel (Musician)
Beverly Johnson (Supermodel)
Elton John (Musician)
Angelina Jolie (Actor/Activist)
Daniel Johns (Musician)
Ashley Judd (Actor)
Naomi Judd (Singer)
Al Kasha (Songwriter)
Danny Kaye (Actor)
Leila Kenzle (Actress)
John Keats (Poet)
Franz Kafka (Writer)
Gelsey Kirkland (Dancer)
Margot Kidder (Actress)
Nicole Kidman (Actress)
Joey Kramer (Musician)
Julie Krone (Star Athlete)
Pat Lafontaine (Hockey Star)
Jessica Lange (Actor)
Robert E. Lee (US General)
Jacob Lawrence (Artist)
Vivien Leigh (Actress)
Peter Nolan Lawrence (Writer)
Primo Levi (Writer)
John Lennon (Musician)
Meriwether Lewis (Explorer)
Courtney Love (Singer)
Allie Light (Director)
Abraham Lincoln (American President)
Rick London (Cartoonist)
Mary Todd Lincoln (Former US First Lady)
Salvador Luria (Scientist/Nobel Laureate)
John Madden (Football Star)
Meat Loaf (Musician/Actor)
Camryn Manheim (Actor)
Martha Manning (Psychologist)
Gustav Mahler (Composer)
Alanis Morisette (Singer)
Howie Mandel (Comic)
Bette Midler (Singer/Actress)
Dave Matthews (Musician)
Gary Mcdonald (Actor)
A.J. Mclean (Musician)
Burgess Meredith (Actor)
Sir Paul Mccartney (Musician)
Robert Mcfarlane (Security Advisor)
Sarah Mclachlan (Musician)
Rod Mckuen (Writer)
Gary Mcdonald (Actor)
Les Murray (Poet)
John Stuart Mill (Philosopher)
J.P. Morgan (Industrialist)
Edvard Munch (Artist)
John Mellencamp (Musician)
Paul Merton (Comedian)
Kate Millet (Writer/Feminist)
Carmen Miranda (Dancer)
Claude Monet (Artist)
Many Moore (Singer)
Michelangelo (Artist)
V.S. Naipaul (Writer/Nobel Laureate)
John Nash (Mathematician /Nobel Prize)
Ralph Nader (Consumer Rights Advocate)
Stevie Nicks (Musician)
Vaclav Nijinsky (Dancer)
Sir Isaac Newton (Scientist)
Deborah Norville (Journalist)
Marie Osmond (Entertainer)
Sir Laurence Olivier (Actor)
Rosie O’Donnell (Comedian/Actress)
Georgia O’Keefe (Artist)
Donny Osmond (Entertainer)
Lani O’Grady (Actress)
Eugene O’Neill (Playwright)
Dolly Parton (Musician)
Meera Popkin (Broadway Star)
Charley Pell (Football Coach)
George Patton (US General)
Jane Pauley (Journalist)
Teddy Pendergrass (Musician)
Edgar Allan Poe (Writer)
Elvis Presley (Entertainer)
Ezra Pound (Poet)
Jason Pollock (Artist)
Cole Porter (Composer)
Jimmy Piersall (Baseball Star)
Alma Powell (Wife Of General Colin Powell)
Susan Powter (Motivational Speaker)
Freddie Prinze Jr. (Actor)
Roseanne (Comedian/Actress)
Bonnie Raitt (Musician)
Burt Reynolds (Actor)
Lou Reed (Musician)
Norman Rockwell (Artist)
Theodore Roosevelt ( President Of The United States)
Joan Rivers (Comedian Actress)
Mac Rebennack A.K.A. Dr. John (Musician)
Alex Rodriguez (Baseball Star)
Alys Robi (Vocalist)
Axel Rose (Singer)
Winona Ryder (Actress)
Yves Saint Laurent (Fashion Designer)
Sam Shepard (Playwright)
Tom Snyder (TV Host)
Monica Seles (Tennis Star)
Linda Sexton (Writer)
Neil Simon (Playwright)
William T. Sherman (US General)
Marc Summers (TV Host)
Diana Spencer (Princess Of Wales)
John Steinbeck (Author)
Paul Simon (Musician)
Lauren Slater (Writer)
Willard Scott (Star Weatherman)
William Shakespeare (Writer)
Carly Simon (Singer)
Jose Solano (Actor)
Rick Springfield (Musician/Actor)
Brooke Shields (Model/Actress)
Rod Steiger (Actor)
George Stephanopoulos (Political Advisor)
Barbra Streisand (Singer/Actress)
William Styron (Writer)
Charles Schulz (Cartoonist)
Teresa Stratas (Opera Singer)
Sissy Spacek (Actress),
Dave Stewart (Singer)
Darryl Strawberry (Baseball Star)
Lori Schiller (Writer)
Francis Sherwood (Writer)
Scott Simmie (Journalist)
Earl Simmons A.K.A. DMX (Musician/Actor)
Alonzo Spellman (Football Star)
Nikola Tesla (Inventor)
Spencer Tracy (Actor)
Hunter Tylo (Actor)
Leo Tolstoy (Author)
Ted Turner (Entrepreneur)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (Artist)
Mark Twain (Author)
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky (Composer)
Anne Tyler (Author)
Tracy Ullman (Actor)
Dimitrius Underwood (Football Star)
Vivian Vance (Actor)
Kurt Vonnegut (Writer)
Tom Waits (Musician)
Mike Wallace (Journalist)
Michael Warren (Editor Canada Post)
George Washington (US President)
Evelyn Waugh (Novelist)
Damon Wayans (Comedian/Actor)
Tennessee Williams (Writer)
Dar Williams (Musician)
Robin Williams (Comedian/Actor)

Ann Wilson (Singer)
Bill Wilson (Founder Of Alcoholics Anonymous)
Brian Wilson (Musician)
Oprah Winfrey (TV Host)
Jonathan Winters (Comedian)
Ed Wood (Director)
Tom Wolfe (Writer)
Lewis Wolpert (Scientist)
Hugo Wolf (Composer)
Virginia Woolf (Novelist)
Luther Wright (Basketball Star)
W.B. Yeats (Poet)
Robert Young (Actor)
Bert Yancey (Golf Star)
William Zeckendorf (Industrialist)
Renee Zellweger (Actor)


Buchwald, A. (1999). Famous, important people who have suffered depression. Psychology Today.

Fonda, J. (2005). My life, so far. New York: Random House.

Jamison, K.R. (1993). Touched with fire. Manic depressive illness and artistic temperment. New York: Free Press.

Shepard, S. (1999). Mrs. gore breaks the ice on mental illness. Wahsington Bureau: The Palm Beach Post.

Shields, B. (2005). Down came the rain: My journey through post partum depression.
New York: Hyperion Books.

______(2005). Health: Celebrities who have admitted suffering from depression. England: Burmingham Post.

People with Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives

Celebrity with Anxiety Disorders

Famous People Who Have Battled Depression

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.


2 Responses to “Psychological Problems, Stigma and Success”
  1. Deb says:

    Cheers to all stigma-busters!

  2. Richard Petty says:

    I agree!!!

    Stigma is the new racism, IMHO.

    Kind regards,


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