Video: Madness and Greatness

According to Dr. Ghaemi, “Most of our heroes are seen as superheroes. We don’t really know the human beings who were Lincoln and Churchill and King and Gandhi, or even Hitler. They are icons, or devils.” In this lecture, he will examine who they were psychologically, focusing on their moods: did they have depression or bipolar illness? He will show evidence for such mood diseases or traits in their lives, and how those moods actually helped them in their abilities as crisis leaders, or how they sometimes harmed them, especially in non-crisis periods. He will argue that many of their greatest strengths grew out of their weaknesses and that depression and manic symptoms can have positive aspects – that, indeed, those positive aspects are beneficial for crisis leadership.

Nassir Ghaemi is an academic psychiatrist specializing in mood illnesses, especially bipolar disorder. Born in Tehran, he immigrated to the US at the age of five with his family and was raised in McLean, Virginia. He received a B.A. in History from George Mason University and received his medical training from the Medical College of Virginia/VCU. He subsequently also earned an M.A. in Philosophy from Tufts University and a MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. He trained and has worked mostly in the Boston area, mainly in Harvard-affiliated hospitals, and has also worked at George Washington University and Emory University. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where he directs the Mood Disorders Program. His clinical work and research have focused on depression and manic-depressive illness. In this area, he has published over 100 scientific articles, more than 30 scientific book chapters, and has written or edited a number of books. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.