Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder
Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities
Charles Darwin was a worrier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler, and Howard Hughes had OCD. Was Andy Warhol a hoarder or simply a collector? Was Albert Einstein autistic or just focused? And how do these and other personalities compare to the rest of us? You might be surprised at how similar their quirks and problems are to our own personality oddities.
In this excellent collection of mini biographies, Claudia Kalb looks at twelve famous personalities and explains their known or likely battles with mental illness. In her extensive research, she studied medical journals, interviewed mental health professionals, and consulted numerous scientists and academic researchers. In addition to a compassionate explanation of the problems these entertainers, artists, musicians, leaders, writers and groundbreakers suffered, Kalb wonders how many would have fared had they been accurately diagnosed and treated with modern methods. Some would have been better able to battle their conditions, but would others have lost their creative sparks?
Here’s a quick summary of the successes these famous people achieved and the problems they faced.
Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes and Andy Warhol
Marilyn Monroe was a sex icon, but she likely suffered from borderline personality disorder. An empty and lonely childhood left her feeling abandoned and, while she rose to superstar status, she never overcame these feelings. She sought help, but the treatment at the time did not necessarily help her. Modern therapy for this condition teaches patients how to move forward with their lives.
Howard Hughes made his millions in filmmaking and aerospace, but he was an obsessive worrier about germs. As an adult, Hughes became progressively obsessed with the rituals of germ avoidance and also became addicted to painkillers. Hughes would probably have benefited from modern treatment which includes behavioral therapy and mindfulness treatment.
Andy Warhol was fascinated with many things and could not throw them out. He believed and lived that more was better. Kalb writes, “Hoarding may provide comfort to those who feel neglected,” but would he have been able to create and become a famous pop artist if he’d received treatment?
Princess Diana, Abraham Lincoln, Christine Jorgensen
Princess Diana was always in the public eye and her marriage to Prince Charles was not the fairy tale we thought it would be. She dealt with these pressures in private and developed bulimia nervosa. To her credit, she went public with her battle and helped others by raising awareness about eating disorders.
Abraham Lincoln knew he was depressed and sought treatment, but many argue that the 16th President of the United States was a better leader during the Civil War because he was able to realistically view both sides of the battle. Lincoln was also known for his sense of humor. Perhaps he instinctively understood that laughter made him feel better.
Christine Jorgensen was born male, but from early on, she knew she was different. In 1950, she went to Sweden, had sex reassessment surgery and came back a woman. Kalb explores the many questions of gender identity and sexual orientation. In this case, Jorgensen took charge of her gender dysphoria and led a happy life.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Betty Ford, Charles Darwin
Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous architect, but he may also have had narcissistic personality disorder. He wasn’t much of a family man and was slippery with his facts; instead he focused on his building designs. Perhaps his creative mind would have dulled if he’d been treated.
Betty Ford was First Lady to President Gerald Ford, but she was also an alcoholic and addicted to painkillers. She made her battle public, and opened the Betty Ford Center to help others overcome addiction. Just like Princess Diana, telling the world of her struggles led to better understanding and treatment for others.
Charles Darwin suffered from anxiety, but he managed to develop the controversial theory of evolution. He had stomachaches, headaches and many other ailments, including panic attacks and was certain he would die of these conditions. Doctors were unable to find a cause.
George Gershwin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Einstein
George Gershwin was a prolific composer and he most likely had AD/HD. He ran wild as a boy, but music rescued him. It was his way of finding focus and was also his salvation. Would he have written “Rhapsody in Blue” if he’d been treated?
Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested for political crimes, was subjected to a mock execution and sent to Siberia for four years. He had a tumultuous personal life, was forever in debt and became a compulsive gambler, but he also wrote Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Idiot. Dostoevsky was determined to quit gambling and he did at age 49.
Albert Einstein had a larger than normal brain, preferred to be alone and was always disheveled. He also came up with the theory of relatively. Perhaps he was on the autism spectrum, but could he have envisioned his theories if he’d been treated?
The above summaries give you an idea of what these famous people faced, but Kalb goes into greater detail and helps you understand their conditions as they relate to the general population. I recommend Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder to readers who enjoy history, biographies and studies about mental health.
Images from Pixabay and Wikipedia
I read Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a book suggested by a librarian.
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Other books of interest:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – biography about Steve Jobs, his career and personality
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer reviewed by Austin Vitelli – great fiction about a 9-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome who loses his father in 9/11
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – romantic comedy about a guy on the autism spectrum and his search for a wife