World

Florence Nightingale suffered from bipolar disorder

Florence Nightingale is believed to have suffered from a biplar disorder, a mental health expert said Friday.

The world's most famous nurse is believed to have suffered from a bipolar disorder, a mental health expert said Friday.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, once said God had called her to her work and that she heard voices.

Nightingale was 31 when she asked God in a letter why she couldn't be happy.

"Why, oh my God, can I not be satisfied with the life that satisfies so many people," she wrote.

"The conversation of all of these clever men ought to be enough for me? Why am I starving, desperate and diseased on it?"

Dr. Kathy Wisner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, cited the note as evidence that Nightingale suffered from a bipolar disorder that caused long periods of depression and remarkable bursts of productivity.

"Florence heard voices and experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20s symptoms consistent with the onset of bipolar disorder," Wisner said.

She cited the diary and letters that Nightingale wrote throughout her life as evidence. She said some of the writings also reveal the other side of the illness.

Nightingale was the subject of a conference Friday at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The annual conference has diagnosed the ills of historic figures since 1995.

Dr. Lesley Hall, an archivist and historian at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine in London, described the diagnosis as an interesting theory but said no one knows for sure.

"I think retrospectively diagnosing distinguished Victorian invalids is a positive parlor game," Hall said.