How Stuyding The Minds Of Cultural Icons May Combat Mental Illness Stigma

Marilyn Monroe lives in our cultural imagination as one of the most iconic actresses in Hollywood history. But underneath the famous blonde curls and sex-kitten voice, there’s a complex woman who likely suffered from borderline personality disorder, according to science journalist Claudia Kalb.

Biographers and commentators have long struggled to make sense of Monroe’s contradictory personality. The actress “yearned for love and stability,” and yet often lashed out at those she cared about.

“What is clear is that Monroe suffered from severe mental distress,” she writes in her stirring new book Andy Warhol Was A Hoarder. “Her symptoms included a feeling of emptiness, a split or confused identity, extreme emotional volatility, unstable relationships, and an impulsivity that drove her to drug addiction and suicide — all textbook characteristics of a condition called borderline personality disorder.”

In the book, published on Feb. 2, Kalb looks beyond the public images of famous historical figures, from Monroe and Warhol to Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, to offer a glimpse into each celebrity’s complex and fascinating inner lives, basing her assertions on extensive research.

HuffPost Science spoke with Kalb about the joys and challenges of dissecting historical and old medical records, Einstein’s possible Asperger’s Syndrome, whether Darwin had anxiety disorder, in order to combat the stigma around mental illness.

What’s the value of posthumously diagnosing mental illness?

My goal was to really put a human face on some of these conditions that we read about and hear about, which can be very complex. I wanted to humanize mental illness and explore it in a way that allows people who are interested — or thinking about family members or themselves — to learn more in an accessible way.

The exciting part of that is delving into —> Read More