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Abraham Lincoln Memorial statue. Lincoln suffered from depression.

By PYM STORE

4 Accomplished U.S. Presidents You Didn’t Know Had Mental Health Challenges

Existence of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder have been documented for centuries, although the terminology and treatments have changed over time. Currently, about 1 in 10 Americans and almost 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults report feelings of depression. 

Our nation’s leaders are not above these statistics! In fact, according to a study published in 2006 in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 49% of former presidents had experienced some form of mental illness. The study was published by psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center which reviewed the biographies of American presidents from 1776 to 1974. It analyzed the historical data of 37 presidents looking for symptoms of mental illness as defined by the criteria of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. 

What they found was startling. Depression was the most common type of presidential mental illness (24%), followed by anxiety (8%), bipolar disorder (8%), and alcohol abuse/dependence (8%). In 10 instances (27%), a disorder was evident during presidential office, which in most cases probably impaired job performance. 

Even though so many presidents struggled with mental illness, as well as other chronic health conditions, many of them still achieved great things. So if you are living with a mental health condition, take a moment to look at the lives of many of our nation’s past presidents to find some inspiration on this President’s Day!

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is well known to have suffered from not only severe bouts of depression but also suicidal ideation. Author Michael Burlingame, in his book, The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, depicts Lincoln as a man who suffered multiple losses leading to his depression. Before the age of twenty, Lincoln had lost his newborn younger brother, his mother, aunt, uncle, and sister. 

Those who were close to him, and even those who were not, could clearly see that he was suffering. "No element of Mr. Lincoln's character," declared his colleague Henry Whitney, "was so marked, obvious and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy." His law partner William Herndon said, "His melancholy dripped from him as he walked."

Of course, he still achieved great things, with one of his most famous accomplishments in office being that on January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

James Madison

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,'' and one of the Founding Fathers of our nation, was constantly exhausted and suffered from depression and seizures. He has been described as one of the smallest and frailest of our presidents, his weight rarely exceeding a hundred pounds. Madison's progressive doctor prescribed physical exercise including horseback riding and walking, rather than bloodletting, the prominent treatment of the time. Maybe he would have recommended the PYM Total Reset kit too if it had existed back then 😜

The death of his college roommate and best friend deepened his depression. Following his friend's death he wrote to a friend: "As to myself, I am too dull and infirm now to look out for any extraordinary things in this world, for I think my sensations for many months have intimated to me not to expect a long or a healthy life . . . therefore have little spirit or elasticity to set about anything that is difficult in acquiring, and useless in possessing after one has exchanged time for eternity." Modern-day translation… “I’m too sick and depressed to enjoy life, what’s the point in striving for anything.”

Somehow, despite this, James Madison wrote the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers and sponsored the Bill of Rights. 

Woodrow Wilson

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the only president to have a Ph.D., Woodrow Wilson, lived with generalized anxiety disorder. His presidency was during a time of great historical importance, World War I, which helped cause his anxiety to skyrocket. His coping mechanisms for his anxiety were overworking (modern-day workaholic!) and overeating to the point of becoming obese, which in turn led to obstructive sleep apnea. His anxiety was also worsened by the loss of his wife during his time in the White House.

Thomas Jefferson

It was Jefferson who penned that all men are born with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also believed in the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, and thought that “without health, there is no happiness.” He fought to reduce disparities in health amongst Americans, and was also passionate about everyone receiving an education.

Though he valued a healthy lifestyle, he still experienced what we would call clinical depression today. Jefferson suffered from physical ailments such as back problems and headaches, common symptoms of depression. Financial woes and personal loss deepened his depression. His wife Martha died after her last pregnancy at the early age of 33.

What this shows us is that people can still accomplish great things despite depression, and that depression knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, or even the president; grief, loss, and mental illness can happen to anyone. It’s important to take care of yourself, seek support, and don’t give up! 

It’s a shame these presidents didn’t have access to the PYM Total Reset kit to support their mental wellness, but you do! This mood-boosting kit includes Mood B Complete Methylated B vitamins for mental clarity and energy, amino acid-infused Mood Magnesium for sleep and stress support, Mood Biotics to boost serotonin production and improve gut health, and Mood Omega Fatty acids for brain fog and cognition. Get an extra 40% OFF your first month to celebrate this President’s Day! It's our best deal yet! 🥳

*Always consult a mental health professional if you are suffering from mood disorders, chronic stress, loss of interest, or any other medical condition before starting new treatment options.

 

Sources

Haenel T. Zur Geschichte der Depressionsbehandlung [Historical notes on the therapy of depression]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1986 Nov 22;116(47):1652-9. German. PMID: 3541174.

Trends in U.S Depression Prevalence from 2015 to 2020. Published September 19, 2022 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine: https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(22)00333-6/fulltext

Mental Illness in U.S. Presidents between 1776 and 1974: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jonathan-Davidson/publication/7310931_Mental_Illness_In_US_Presidents_Between_1776_and_1974_A_Review_of_Biographical_Sources/links/5a4509f2458515f6b054639e/Mental-Illness-In-US-Presidents-Between-1776-and-1974-A-Review-of-Biographical-Sources.pdf 

The Atlantic October 2005 issue, Lincoln’s Great Depression: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/