PTSD – 30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 1

30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 1 - Politicians, Civil Rights Leaders, Athletes, Singers, and Musicians. These survivors of trauma are famous despite, rather than because of, their traumatic experiences, and many of these names and traumas may surprise you. All of these people are known to have lived through significant trauma

Some have disclosed that they have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and some have not. Some experienced trauma prior to 1980, the year that PTSD first became a diagnosis, before this it was recognized using trends such as ‘shell shock’, ‘combat fatigue’ or ‘traumatic neuorsis’, ‘battered woman syndrome’ and ‘rape trauma syndrome’ but often symptoms were ignored.

Politicians and Civil Rights Leaders

1 Martin Luther-King
Civil rights leader.
Harrassed, frequently beaten and sent death threats prior to his murder.

2 Nelson Mandela
Former president of South Africa.
A political prisoner for 27 years, he was jailed for ‘terrorism’, treated brutality and experienced near-starvation during the apartheid years in South Africa. Mandela was against violence and became the first black president of South Africa.

3 Bill Clinton
Former US President.
Child abuse, violent and alcoholic uncle. Secondary domestic violence.

4 Abraham Lincoln
Former US President.
Almost drowned at age seven, his mother died 2 years later, his older sister another 10 years later, and his first love died before they could marry. Three of his four children died in childhood, and he is described as experiencing long-term clinical depression and PTSD before his murder in 1956.


5 Joe Simpson
Climber and author.
Simpson was a world-class climber when a climbing accident almost killed him. Seriously injured, with no emergency rescue available, and his climbing partner believing he was dead, Simpson somehow crawled down the mountain and survived. His book Touching the Void was the first of five climbing books he has written.

6 Monica Seles
Tennis player.
Seles was stabbed in the back by a rival’s fan during a match in 1993, at the height of her career. Her autobiography describes how her PTSD left her afraid to go back on the court with her back to the crowd, and how her injury affected her ability to play. Her attacker was not jailed so she also remained in fear of further attacks. She regained her health and athletic form, and overcame her PTSD avoidance enough to play professionally again.

7 Sheldon Kennedy
Ice hockey player in NHL.
Canadian athlete Sheldon Kennedy never fully reached his potential and remained silent until his autobiography Why I Didn’t Say Anything (2011), which revealed his coach’s frequent child sexual abuse. Kennedy raised $1 million for Canadian Red Cross sexual abuse programs.

Comedians, Artists and Musicians

8 Axl Rose
Musician, Guns N Roses.
Child sexual abuse.

9 Billy Connoly
Child sexual abuse (incest).

10 Marilyn Manson
Child sexual abuse, his album and single “Smells Like Children” reflects this theme.
Lyrics may be triggering.

PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living, p205. A. E. Huppert (2014).
The Everything Guide to Overcoming PTSD: Simple, Effective Techniques for Healing and Recovery, p91-94. Romeo Vitelli (2014).
Monica: From Fear to Victory. Monica Seles and Nancy Ann Richardson (1996).

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8 thoughts on “PTSD – 30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 1

  1. Pingback: PTSD – 30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 2 | Trauma and Dissociation

  2. Pingback: PTSD – 30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 3 | Trauma and Dissociation

  3. Are we now going to see PTSD diagnosed for every person or famous person who suffers a loss like the death of a loved one? What happened to loss and grieving? Both quite common amongst humans and survivable through the usual grieving processes.


    • Hi, PTSD can’t be diagnosed for a normal loss, only a sudden loss (often in violent circumstances) counts, and even then symptoms must be more than depression or avoidance. They need to include flashbacks or repeated, involuntary and distressing thoughts for instance. It’s unclear whether Mick Jagger found his girlfriend’s body in their home for instance. Violent deaths been witnessed on common in traumatized veterans – often in addition to highly stressful events before and after that.


  4. Pingback: Complex PTSD as an official diagnosis | Trauma and Dissociation

  5. Pingback: Emotional Shock: What You Should Know After Trauma

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