Was Robin Williams Brain Injured?

I don’t want to dwell on this, but there’s been so much noise about this latest celebrity suicide I thought there should at least be some discussion, somewhere, that might be worthwhile.  At least for some people.

It’s just my opinion, of course – although it is perhaps a bit more informed than most – but I believe that any person who exhibits symptoms of  psychological or psychiatric disturbance should be neurologically evaluated for brain injury.

Brain injuries, as we are learning from things like former NFL players who commit suicide for no apparent reason, are extremely common.  Extremely.  Very extremely.  In fact, in my opinion a significant percentage of the people reading this post have at least some limited form of brain injury.  I may have a brain injury without knowing it, and so might you.  These are scary thoughts in a way, but it’s the truth.

What happens to people with brain injuries?  Well, read a pretty good summary here.  Compare the kinds of problems brain injured people have with problems associated with various kinds of mental illness.  There’s a good deal of overlap that can be discerned immediately, but things like depression, mania, lack of impulse control, Parkinson’s should jump right out at you.

Greenfield put up a good post about mental illness in relation to the Robin Williams suicide.  But nobody that I know of has mentioned the possibile role of an undiagnosed and unknown brain injury in many aspects of Robin Williams’ personality, including his suicide.

One reason I think it’s important to mention this is that in recent years some promising treatments for brain disorders have been developed, in particular neurofeedback therapy, where it’s possible that the brain can be re-trained to function better essentially through playing a kind of video game.   This is, of course, non-invasive and non-pharmacological. 

People might not be so tempted to make harsh moral judgments, as has apparently happened surrounding Robin Williams’ death, if they realized not just that there might have been psychological or psychiatric issues, but physical brain issues over which no one has any control.




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4 responses to “Was Robin Williams Brain Injured?

  1. You are perpetuating the stigma that those with psychological or psychiatric issues “have control” but those with brain injuries do not. Neither of those is an absolute truth. I have met many children and adults with mental health challenges who have no control over their symptoms, that is precisely why they are seeking treatment. And I have met many with brain injuries who have worked hard to achieve a measure of control over their issues. Your post supports the very attitude that the mental health community is trying to overcome. Psychological or psychiatric issues are every bit as real and compelling as physical ones. period.


    • This is a legitimate criticism. Maybe in my defense I could offer that the categorical statement “no one has any control” is more applicable to brain injuries than psychological or psychiatric conditions, but you would also be quite right that in neither situation is that absolutely true. Perhaps more in the one than in the other.

      Thank you for the rebuke it is well deserved.


  2. Many questions need answering.

    He will be greatly missed!


  3. information about brain injury,


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