Ernest Hemingway: Stereotype of an Alcoholic

Ernest Hemingway writing

Ernest Hemingway

You often hear of the stereotype of the tortured genius writer. This person can write brilliantly but often battles with severe problems that can include alcohol abuse or mental illness.

It sounds like Ernest Hemingway conformed to this stereotype. Maybe he’s the basis for this stereotype.

Hemingway wrote a number of literary classics and won the Nobel Prize for literature. He was renowned for his love of danger, including traveling to war zones and his interest in bullfighting.
He was also known for his personal life, including his problems with alcohol. He committed suicide in 1961.

Suicides ran in Hemingway’s family. His father had committed suicide and five or six members of the Hemingway family have taken their own lives. It appears that severe depression might run in the family.

One psychiatrist has written that he believed that Hemingway suffered from a dependence on alcohol, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and brain injuries. He says that such problems explained Hemingway’s desire to project an extremely masculine image, his love of danger, and the frequent injuries he suffered.

Alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder often go hand in hand. In fact, there’s even a name for it. When a person has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder and a substance abuse problem, he or she has something called a dual diagnosis.

Dual diagnoses influence each other. That is, a person who abuses alcohol can heighten the effects of their bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder might abuse alcohol as a way to try to treat their mental illnesses.

Based on all this evidence, it wouldn’t be surprising if Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder or depression. Combined with his known problems with alcohol, it proved to be a deadly combination for Hemingway.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, dual diagnoses are complicated because they consist of multiple conditions. But effective treatment can treat both conditions properly and prevent pain and tragedy.