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49% of US Presidents suffered mental illness in Duke study
The Chronicle ^ | February, 2006 | Haley Hoffman

Posted on 04/20/2006 10:05:20 PM PDT by Torie

23/02/2006 - Duke: Duke study posits presidents had mental illness

U-Wire via NewsEdge Corporation :

By Haley Hoffman, The Chronicle (Duke)

DURHAM, N.C. -- No one would ever expect the general who led the Union army to victory in the Civil War to have a debilitating fear of blood.

But Ulysses S. Grant was among the 49 percent of former U.S. presidents afflicted by mental illness, according to an article published recently by psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center.

Jonathan Davidson, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program, has a particular interest in history, especially U.S. presidents.

After culling data from presidential biographies, Davidson was joined by Kathryn Connor, associate professor of psychiatry, and Marvin Swartz, professor and head of the social and community division of psychiatry, to analyze the information. Together, they diagnosed the commander-in-chiefs from 1776 to 1974.

According to the study, published in January in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, of the 37 presidents researched, 18 were found to suffer a mental illness of some form. Depression was the most prevalent disorder among presidents, occurring at a rate of 24 percent.

The researchers wrote that the 49 percent rate mirrored national mental illness statistics, but the rate of depression was high for a male population.

"A fairly high number of people have mental disease at some level, so it would be surprising if presidents didn't," said John Aldrich, professor of political science. "Certain things, like depression, are associated with artistic accomplishment."

Other diagnoses included anxiety, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and social phobia. Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

At least 10 presidents were affected by episodes while in office, and the study found evidence that symptoms interfered with their performance in almost all cases.

To make their diagnoses, the researchers used the criteria of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual all psychiatrists use to treat patients. They examined the data to identify symptoms, determine if they were persistent and caused dysfunction and then establish their own levels of confidence that mental illness existed.

Such remote diagnosis through secondary research, however, can be problematic.

"Using biographical materials may be an imperfect way to gauge mental illness," Aldrich said.

Swartz explained that detailed analysis of primary sources, while ideal, was outside of the scope of the study but that the published article elaborated on its own relevance and weaknesses.

"You have to rely on what historians reported based on their research," he said. Still, Swartz estimated that their sources erred on the side of undercounting illness among presidents.

The troubles of certain presidents are already very well known. Abraham Lincoln famously suffered from symptoms of depression, though he triumphed politically more than Franklin Pierce, whose more modest legacy the study attributed greatly to his illness.

Having witnessed the violent death of his son in a railway accident just before he assumed office, Pierce suffered from symptoms indicating depression or post-traumatic stress during his term. The study noted that his associates accused Pierce of being a different person than the one who had energetically campaigned for office.

While personal tragedy and the weight of the presidency may have incited the problems of some presidents, others were apparently afflicted long before they moved into the White House.

According to the article, contemporaries of Grant, James Madison, Rutherford Hayes and Woodrow Wilson who watched them as young men would have thought that these men would do very little with their lives based on their seeming mental problems or deficiencies.

Whether they were suffering from an illness before they entered the White House or not, presidents' afflictions raise questions about their ability to do the executive job.

"The extensiveness of Richard Nixon's alcohol abuse was pretty remarkable and alarming, given the authority he had," Swartz said.

Though Calvin Coolidge's hypochondria may not have had the most profound effect on affairs of state, Coolidge, Grant and Thomas Jefferson were diagnosed with social phobia by Davidson and his associates.

"Social phobia is kind of remarkable in a president. It meant he was shy and avoided social circumstances, and yet he was president," Swartz said.

The study noted among its implications that no national calamities seem to have been a result of presidential mental illness.

It also considered the possibility that knowledge of these afflictions might lessen the stigma of psychological treatment. But there remains a question about the public's right, and need, to know the psychological state of the president, in an age of increased psychological vigilance.

"It's obviously about as stressful and physically demanding a job as there is for mature adults, so it has to at least exacerbate any [already existing] problems," Aldrich said. "You know, the president is not a person, he's an institution.... There are a lot of checks and redundancies to make sure he doesn't do anything foolish."

##30##

((Distributed on bahalf of U-Wire via M2 Communications Ltd - http://www.m2.com)) ((U-Wire - http://www.uwire.com))


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bs; mentalillness; presidents
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Michael Medved mentioned this on his radio talk show today, and I did a Google, and found this. Medved said the Duke shrinks diagnosed Coolidge, Grant, and Lincoln as ill. Medved said that the only politician around today he thought was really nuts was Gore. And so it goes.
1 posted on 04/20/2006 10:05:23 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie

Does Clinton count twice for being a pathological liar AND a sexual deviant?


2 posted on 04/20/2006 10:09:32 PM PDT by DemforBush
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To: Torie

Are they now going to say Bush is crazy?


3 posted on 04/20/2006 10:10:35 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Torie

I don't know about the rest.

But I think that any fair reading of Lincoln's life (and I've read more than a few biographies) would likely suggest that he was clinically depressed. Coolidge also seems to have suffered from severe depression as a result of the death of his son while he was in office.


4 posted on 04/20/2006 10:13:01 PM PDT by furquhart (Time for a New Crusade - Deus lo Volt!)
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To: Torie
Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

That's a mental ilness?

5 posted on 04/20/2006 10:14:35 PM PDT by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for Sgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: Torie

Doctor's offices are littered with depression literature, being sick doesn't exactly lead to gaiety; the archetypal fool is the madman of the past, today's nut case is so sad he's as serious as a heart attack.

Projection is the refuge of the self-absorbed.


6 posted on 04/20/2006 10:15:06 PM PDT by Old Professer (The critic writes with rapier pen, dips it twice, and writes again.)
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To: furquhart

Abe had his ups and downs. But he did not allow his downs to interfere when it really mattered. It was a triumph of the will. Abe's worst down happened before he became famous.


7 posted on 04/20/2006 10:15:37 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie
Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea a mental illness or was that just a filler sentence?

8 posted on 04/20/2006 10:16:03 PM PDT by conservative cat
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To: Graybeard58
That's a mental ilness?

Guess I was slow to post! My question, too.

9 posted on 04/20/2006 10:17:01 PM PDT by conservative cat
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To: conservative cat

Taft suffered from the "mental illness" of gluttony.


10 posted on 04/20/2006 10:17:28 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie


Good grief.


11 posted on 04/20/2006 10:17:35 PM PDT by onyx (It's easier to indict a ham sandwich or Tom DeLay than it is to indict a Democrat.)
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To: Torie
Junk science.

Sleep apnea is mental illness? And social phobia - Isn't that just shyness? If it's so bad they are truly phobic, I doubt they could get through a campaign.

Now people may have a tendency towards certain problems, but who doesn't?
12 posted on 04/20/2006 10:17:35 PM PDT by I still care ("Remember... for it is the doom of men that they forget" - Merlin, from Excalibur)
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To: Torie
"Social phobia is kind of remarkable in a president. It meant he was shy and avoided social circumstances, and yet he was president," Swartz said.

Shyness is a mental disorder? Duke psychiatrists: proving once again why psychiatry is a useless field of study.

13 posted on 04/20/2006 10:18:16 PM PDT by BostonianRightist (I probably haven't read the entire article, or checked my html.)
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To: Torie

Half of the Presidents have been liberals. Liberalism is a mental disorder.


14 posted on 04/20/2006 10:18:44 PM PDT by hawkeye101 (There's room in Hell for everybody.)
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To: I still care
I take it you are not sold on the notion that half of our presidents, including some of the leading lights, were nutters? Is that a fair synopsis of your opinion?

By the way, where is LBJ on the list?

15 posted on 04/20/2006 10:19:51 PM PDT by Torie
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To: DemforBush

And a very thoroughgoing narcissist.


16 posted on 04/20/2006 10:20:02 PM PDT by SAJ
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To: conservative cat

According to the article, just about anything is mental illness.


17 posted on 04/20/2006 10:20:58 PM PDT by Moonman62 (Federal creed: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. If it stops moving subsidize it)
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To: Torie

I know one recent President who was a psychopathic liar and a serial sexual offender.


18 posted on 04/20/2006 10:21:31 PM PDT by ozzymandus
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To: Howlin
Funny you asked the question. A couple days ago, made the mistake of listening to Randi Rhodes on Air Amerika. (There wasn't much on during my lunch break)

She had on some shrink, he said Pres. Bush was mental ill.

Can't remember everything, but a lot had to do with his sister that died, had no funeral and the family never talked about it.
19 posted on 04/20/2006 10:21:49 PM PDT by Springman
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To: Springman

Never talked about it? What the heck does that mean? They talk about Robin all the time.

What a crock.


20 posted on 04/20/2006 10:22:56 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin

IIRC, from what was said on the show, the family never talked about, at the time.

Of course I thought that was BS, even I had heard about her, just could remember her name.

I didn't listen very long, sure they came up w/more stuff.

Hey the President's bon again, that would be enough for the Rats.


21 posted on 04/20/2006 10:29:08 PM PDT by Springman
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To: Torie

How many psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center suffer from mental illness?


22 posted on 04/20/2006 10:31:27 PM PDT by Berlin_Freeper (ETERNAL SHAME on the Treasonous and Immoral Democrats!)
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To: I still care

I dare say these shrinks could/would determine nearly anyone has a tendency to "mental illness". Aometimes the diagnosis is all "in the eye of the beholder".

How come they haven't used their lacrosse team as subjects? I think they might be good objects of a study.


23 posted on 04/20/2006 10:34:25 PM PDT by singfreedom ("Victory at all costs,.......for without victory there is no survival."--Churchill--that's "Winston")
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To: onyx
Good grief.

My thought exactly. There's nothing like defaming the dead to grab headlines.

24 posted on 04/20/2006 10:35:38 PM PDT by hsalaw
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To: Berlin_Freeper
How many psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center suffer from mental illness?

The researchers wrote that the 49 percent rate mirrored national mental illness statistics,

49%?

25 posted on 04/20/2006 10:36:00 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Springman
I didn't listen very long

That's probably a good idea; you never can tell what might happen to you if you listen too long.

26 posted on 04/20/2006 10:36:26 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: singfreedom
Should read "Sometimes". Sorry.
27 posted on 04/20/2006 10:37:51 PM PDT by singfreedom ("Victory at all costs,.......for without victory there is no survival."--Churchill--that's "Winston")
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To: Torie
It looks like they have a hard time separating mental from physical conditions, or illnesses from vices or moods. Of course, when you want to know what Washington or Lincoln was like, you don't turn to these guys. You go to a good biography that can tell you more than a long distance diagnosis.

I have to wonder about the "Captain Queeg" factor, though. If a candidate really does have some sort of neurosis or disorder, it would be a good idea not to elect him. The long campaigns we have may do something to weed out candidates who have some mental problems -- though some disorders may actually work to a politician's advantage, at least until they get elected.

Some conditions, though, may not show up until a crisis happens. The idea that you can separate out those the determined from overly rigid, or the easy-going from the spinless before hand is a delusion, since those who write such long-distance analyses are usually influenced more by their own prejudices than by actual objective data.

28 posted on 04/20/2006 10:39:19 PM PDT by x
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To: Torie; nicollo
Taft suffered from the "mental illness" of gluttony.

That's ironic, right.

29 posted on 04/20/2006 10:40:22 PM PDT by x
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To: Howlin
Notice I have to turn up radio volume when I listen!!!!! However I don't hear the neighbors dog that much any more!!

Time for bed, good night.
30 posted on 04/20/2006 10:42:46 PM PDT by Springman
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To: Torie
That's really not suprising at all. I'm certain that every modern President (and any national leader for that matter) has to be neurotic at least (and we all are to some extent). How can anybody live in he fishbowl known as the U.S. Presidency? What do they know about reality? I believe it was Nixon who somehow slipped out of his room at some hotel somewhere. The Secret Service was horrified to discover that he was missing. They finally found him in the cafeteria sitting at a table and talking to some guy while both were munching hamburgers.
31 posted on 04/20/2006 10:45:07 PM PDT by raygun
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To: Torie

Carter was and is definitely mentally ill...but even more so are the people who idolize him.


32 posted on 04/20/2006 10:46:42 PM PDT by WestVirginiaRebel (Common sense will do to liberalism what the atomic bomb did to Nagasaki-Rush Limbaugh)
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To: Torie
Luckily those Presidents didn't have any self declared geniuses around telling them how sick they were, or they may have perished from hypochrondia before their time.
33 posted on 04/20/2006 10:48:24 PM PDT by F.J. Mitchell (The tree never falls far from the apple.)
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To: Graybeard58
Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

That's a mental ilness?

Aren't these the same people who think *homophobia* is a mental disorder? That should about settle the question.

34 posted on 04/20/2006 10:52:29 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: BostonianRightist
"Social phobia is kind of remarkable in a president. It meant he was shy and avoided social circumstances, and yet he was president," Swartz said.

Shyness is a mental disorder? Duke psychiatrists: proving once again why psychiatry is a useless field of study.

My roommate has social phobia. It's more than just shyness - you almost have to put a gun to his head to get him to get him to leave the house. It's kind of like agoraphobia (sp?) but he's not afraid of open spaces, he's afraid of people.

That said, I don't disagree with you - the conclusion in the OP is bunk. I seriously doubt that anyone who had this condition could aspire to be the town dogcatcher - let alone the President.

35 posted on 04/20/2006 10:56:46 PM PDT by Ursine_East_Facing_North
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To: Torie

"The researchers wrote that the 49 percent rate mirrored national mental illness statistics,"


Didn't Bush get 51% of the vote against Kerry's 49%?

That right there proves who would have been the next mental President.


36 posted on 04/20/2006 10:57:07 PM PDT by Berlin_Freeper (ETERNAL SHAME on the Treasonous and Immoral Democrats!)
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To: DemforBush
"Does Clinton count twice for being a pathological liar AND a sexual deviant?"
Nah. For a politician it is normal - about par for the course. Abnormal politicians would be those closer to the common norm of a normal person, for being a politician is in itself a form of mental disease. And having to deal with the rest of that crowd could drive almost anyone to alcoholism and depression. Luckily for the Republic, they have not gone postal, at least not yet.
37 posted on 04/20/2006 11:04:04 PM PDT by GSlob
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To: Howlin

Breaking :

Only 4 % of Crazy People approve of George W Bush. Its the lowest approval number so far in his 6 years in office ...Lower even than yesterday when 5 % of Crazy People approved of George W Bush.


38 posted on 04/20/2006 11:06:11 PM PDT by woofie
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To: Ursine_East_Facing_North
My roommate has social phobia. It's more than just shyness - you almost have to put a gun to his head to get him to get him to leave the house. It's kind of like agoraphobia (sp?) but he's not afraid of open spaces, he's afraid of people.

These presidents did NOT have that kind of social phobia, they simply were shy, and Jefferson wasn't even that, he was just an elitist.

You can not run, nor serve as President, if you can't meet and talk to people and the examples given (like Coolidge) do not fit the bill.

They have taken true terms, but expanded the definations so far out that everyone could reasonably fit in.

39 posted on 04/20/2006 11:06:58 PM PDT by Sonny M ("oderint dum metuant")
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To: WestVirginiaRebel

Carter thought his mother was a peanut


40 posted on 04/20/2006 11:07:13 PM PDT by woofie
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To: Torie
49%?

That means that 21.07%

The real debate is which president was 0.07% mentally ill.

41 posted on 04/20/2006 11:10:46 PM PDT by uglybiker (Don't blame me. I didn't make you stupid.)
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To: Torie

Psycho-history is lame. But it's sure a heck of a lot better than socio-cultural history.


42 posted on 04/20/2006 11:20:15 PM PDT by Cyclopean Squid (History is a work in progress)
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To: Torie


43 posted on 04/20/2006 11:29:51 PM PDT by M. Espinola (Freedom is never free)
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To: Old Professer

Well said, Professer!


44 posted on 04/21/2006 12:16:09 AM PDT by spyone
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To: Sonny M

Thom Jefferson spent all his time thinking ... reading, writing, inventing, planning, creating ... who can do that with a bunch of people around wanting to party?


45 posted on 04/21/2006 12:42:52 AM PDT by Rte66
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To: Torie
49% of US Presidents suffered mental illness in Duke study

100% of LIBERALS are nuts.

46 posted on 04/21/2006 2:18:02 AM PDT by beyond the sea (Oh, for the days when "disrespect" was just a noun.)
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To: DemforBush
Does Clinton count twice for being a pathological liar AND a sexual deviant? ---

****

LOL

47 posted on 04/21/2006 2:18:42 AM PDT by beyond the sea (Oh, for the days when "disrespect" was just a noun.)
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To: BostonianRightist
proving once again why psychiatry is a useless field of study

agreed

48 posted on 04/21/2006 2:21:37 AM PDT by beyond the sea (Oh, for the days when "disrespect" was just a noun.)
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To: Torie

Elect Hillary and get an even 50%.


49 posted on 04/21/2006 3:16:23 AM PDT by thoughtomator (That new ring around Uranus is courtesy of the IRS)
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To: Old Professer
Projection is the refuge of the self-absorbed Liberals

There. I fixed it. But, very well put!

50 posted on 04/21/2006 3:43:40 AM PDT by rlmorel ("Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does." Whittaker Chambers)
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