• Thanushree Anil

First-Rate Madness: A Review

Updated: Sep 27

By Nassir Ghaemi

Nassir Ghaemi an academic psychiatrist, author, and Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston has opened a new po rtal regarding mental illness. Nassir Ghaemi contributed to the world which considers mental illness as a liability and an incompetent feature in a human's mind to be an absolute necessity in the minds of whom we loop up to.


A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, a book of Prof. Nassir Ghaemi has explored how the world-famous leaders have faced battles of their mind and gave us the line, “In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones”.


Nassir Ghaemi

Prof.Nassir Ghaemi took the cases of eight legendary leaders all around the world and connected how mentally healthy people are actually unfit for leading.

W. T. Sherman and Ted Turner for their bipolar disorder, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. for their depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy for mild manic.


The professor strongly connects mental illness with leadership qualities, he states that when a person suffers from mild manic they see the world more realistically, qualities of empathy instil in their minds.

In his book, each leader had contributed to an understanding of the mental illness, also to their area of leadership with perfect evidence form documentaries. As mentioned above the professor opens the reader's eyes leadership in the link of depression causes a consequence of realism and empathy whereas mania consequences to creativity and resiliency.


"Indeed, it is the abnormality of the moods that defines the mental disorders in these cases, not their ability to intellectually stay in touch with the surrounding reality." says John Grys in his review of the book.


We consider an unstable mind a huge problem, we consider that the mind wouldn't be capable. Even before Professor Nassir Ghaemi, Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso gave us as a simple equation: insanity = genius and even before him centuries ago Aristotle speculated about madness and geniuses.


Aristotle's quote

The professor talks about an Inverse Laws of Sanity as he further explains the law as, when the world is at peace it is better to live under the guidance of a mentally healthy person and at the time of crisis it is better to have a leader who has battled some mental illness.


Depression adds to the sadness, their interest in life, and activities decline, suicide can be on the thought only in mind for days, energy is lost, no sleep, fatigue and so many more physical and mental symptoms. Contrary to those another theory is arising: the depressive realism hypothesis. This theory claims that people aren't depressed because they are seeing reality in a different way rather they see reality in a more clear way.


The professor further explains unexplored visions that make people see another version of depression and mania. Depression causes people to not sleep, so while the rest of the world is sleeping, one’s energy level is as high as it might be at 11 a. m. Why not clean the entire house at 3 a. m.? says the professor in his book. For someone who is paranoid or having mania they only think about the next second, the next move, the next moment, and how to survive if any threat may come their way. They would think in all the angles possible.

As Freud said mania could improve the id, or completely the opposite. (Also read what Freud's id, ego and superego are)


Nassir Ghaemi's Book

Towards the end of the book the professor states

" We will see that our greatest crisis leaders toil in sadness when society is happy, seeking help from friends and family and doctors. Sometimes they’re up, sometimes they’re down, but they’re never quite well. Yet when calamity occurs, if they are in a position to act, they can lift up the rest of us; they can give us the courage we may have temporarily lost, the fortitude that steadies us. Their weakness is, in short, the secret of their strength."



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