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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PTSD – 30 Famous Trauma Survivors – Part 2

Only some of these people have disclosed a PTSD diagnosis, but all lived through significant trauma. Some were traumatized before the official recognition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980.

Comedians and Musicians

11 Mick Jagger
Diagnosed with PTSD after his girlfriend, model L’Wren Scott, committed suicide in their home. Sudden and traumatic death of a loved one is a known cause of PTSD.

12 Spike Milligan
British comedian.
Traumatized in World War II, he fought in numerous campaigns in Italy and was wounded in the war. He was demoted after an officer refused to acknowledge he was suffering PTSD. After the war he developed bipolar disorder and had many breakdowns.

13 Tina Turner
Tina Turner experienced Domestic Violence including rape at the hands of her husband, Ike, and child abuse. She become more famous after leaving Ike and becoming a solo artist. Her past is described in her autobiography and the film What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Interview with Ike and Tina Turner about the domestic violence she described

14 Tori Amos
Singer/Musician, Co-founded the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN).
Tori Amos is well known as a survivor of sexual abuse (rape), a theme which is present in many of her songs. Her music and history inspired the name of sexual assault forum Pandora’s Aquarium, named after one of her songs.

Tori Amos Little Earthquakes album cover

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes

Authors and Journalists

15 Alice Sebold.
Sebold is a rape survivor, and best known as author of the best-selling book Lovely Bones. She was raised in a dysfunctional family, and her memoir Lucky describes her brutal rape, which she was told she was lucky to survive.

16 David H. Hackworth
Author and journalist at Newsweek.
Hackworth was awarded eight purple hearts, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army at fifteen years old, and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. His books on military themes include The Price of Honor (1999) and Hazardous Duty (1997).

17 Jackie Onasis
U.S. First Lady, 1961-1963.
Jackie Kennedy, later known as Jackie Onasis, witnessed the fatal shooting of her husband, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, by a sniper while she was sat next to him in an open-top car. She reacted by trying to grab his shattered head and prevent anything further coming out. She could easily have been murdered or shot by the same person. Later she remarried, and became an editor after her second husband died.

18 Stephen King
Stephen King is best known for his horror novels, including Carrie, The Shining, The Green Mile, and Misery. King was 4 years old when he witnessed another child being killed by a train, which he does not remember. He was seriously injured and nearly died in 1999 after being hit by a van while out walking. He almost lost his right leg.

19 Rudyard Kipling
Author and poet.
Child physical abuse including torture by his caregivers. Kipling is author of The Jungle Book, and Kim.

20 Victor Frankl
Psychiatrist, neurologist, and author.
Frankl, born in Austria, was director of the Neurological Department of Rothschild Hospital immediately before the Holocaust. He spent 3 years in concentration camps, and his wife died in the Bergen-Belsen camp. His best known book “Man’s Search for Meaning” sold over nine million copies on the U.S. He was awarded 29 honor degrees and lectured on 5 continents.

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).
The Everything Guide to Overcoming PTSD: Simple, Effective Techniques for Healing and Recovery, p91-94. Romeo Vitelli (2014).
Stephen King. Michael Gray Baughan (2009).
Brave Miss World (documentary).
Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story. Barbarism Leaming (2014).

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Book Review: A Coloring Book of Healing Images for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

Coloring and healing book released by Dr Ellen Lacter

Ritual Abuse

You can read the introduction and order the book through

The year ends on a high note for wonderful RA/MC books!!!

This book was a good five years in the making and it is absolutely gorgeous. The paper is really heavy, so you can use watercolor pencils or pastels as well as crayons and colored pencils. That’s inviting for adult and teens parts as well as child parts, who usually get to do all the coloring. (Not fair!)

The book is designed for all survivors of child abuse, but there are many sections that speak directly to multiplicity and ritual abuse. It’s hoped that it will tap into the immense inner strength and wisdom that survivors possess and to help make these resources recognized at a deeper level, cherished, and celebrated in all aspects of life and self.

There are seventeen chapters, each organized around a theme like safety…

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Surviving the Holidays: Making a List

Surviving the holidays – how important are all those “jobs”?

So, I was making a list and checking it twice. Wanted to find out if there’s a Psychiatrist willing to prescribe emergency Xanax and trying not to hyperventilate. Seriously at this time of the year the list gets a little long and out of control, right? Last time I sat down to do my holiday to-do list, I got to page 3.5 and burst out into tears.

But after I blew my nose and medicated myself with a small amount of premium dark chocolate, I was able to address the list again. And I realized something. I really didn’t NEED to do everything on the list. The list was more a wish list than a highly prioritized, realistic list of the most important stuff I absolutely needed to get done. So I took my list and put it through triage. I sorted out the stuff that MUST get done, from…

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Over-Responsibility and Self-Blame

 The powerlessness of trauma had left me without a sense of autonomy. For too long I had mindlessly enacted the relational templates of my upbringing, unable to choose when to say yes and when to say no, and enmeshed in a destructive morass of compulsive care-giving alongside chronic self-neglect. I said yes to everyone else, andno to myself. Other people mattered; I did not. And so, breakdown.

Carolyn Spring, Boundaries

Responsibility and Overresponsibility

Responsibility and blame can be tricky for people who have experienced traumatic experiences, especially in childhood. A neglected child may grow up having to take responsibility for caring for themselves, and possibly other siblings or a parent. The basic emotional and practical needs include regular food, clean clothing, medical care, being shown how to manage their own emotions and being comforted when hurt or sad. Adults responsibilities are pushed onto a neglected child; instead of being gradually learning small responsibilities in an age-appropriate way. Accepting responsibility for too many things can then become automatic, and saying “no” to things becomes very difficult.


Many children (and adults) who have been abused also feel a lot of self-blame, and shame. An abuser (or abusers) may compound the effect of abuse with statements blaming their victim, such as “it was your fault”, “you made me do it”. Others who are told about or become aware of the abuse may struggle to accept it, and engage in “victim-blaming“. The only person responsible for the abuse (or another poor behavior) is the person who carried it out.

Trauma victims commonly blame themselves. Blaming oneself for the shame of being a victim is recognized by trauma specialists as a defense against the extreme powerlessness we feel in the wake of a traumatic event. Self-blame continues the illusion of control shock destroys, but prevents us from the necessary working through of the traumatic feelings and memories to heal and recover.”
Sandra Lee Dennis

Posttraumatic stress disorder’s diagnostic criteria also recognizes that trauma can cause distorted thinking (cognitive distortions) which result in inappropriate self-blame. Working towards facing the self-blame means facing the very painful reality of being totally powerless during the time of the trauma(s). But it is often recognized that challenging and working through feelings of inappropriate self-blame allow survivors of trauma to heal.