Buzz Aldrin, Ph.D. (Colonel, USAF, Ret.) - Not Really Bipolar

Buzz Aldrin not bipolar but a survivor of depression and alcoholism

Buzz Aldrin photo
Did Buzz Aldrin suffer from bipolar disorder?. Archive Photos - Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Did Buzz Aldrin really suffer from bipolar disorder as claimed by some at one time, or is this another untruth in the lives of the rich and famous? Why would Aldrin's name appear on multiple lists of celebrities who have lived with bipolar disorder, and why can he be considered a hero not only in his career but in the world of mental health?

Buzz, Aldrin, PhD

Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. (aka Buzz) was born in Montclair, New Jersey on January 20, 1930, to Marion Moon & Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Sr.

He has been married three times: Joan Archer, Beverly Zile, and he married his current wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, on Valentine's Day in 1988. He has three children of his own—James, Janice, and Andrew—with an extended family of three additional children from his third marriage. He is also a grandfather.

Education

Aldrin received his BA from West Point Military Academy in 1951. He received his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 1962.

Career Highlights

  • He flew 66 combat missions during the Korean War.
  • He developed the Manned Space Rendezvous techniques still used by NASA today.
  • Aldrin was one of the earliest astronauts accepted in the NASA program.
  • On the Gemini 12 mission, he broke the record for extravehicular activity by sending 5 ½ hours outside the craft.
  • He and Neil Armstrong were the first two humans to walk on the moon.
  • In 1993, Buzz received a patent for his design of a permanent space station.

    Literature

    • Reaching for the Moon with Wendell Minor (Harper Collins, June 2005)
    • The Return with John Barnes (Forge Books, 2000)
    • Encounter with Tiber with John Barnes (Warner Books, 1996)
    • Men from Earth with Malcolm McConnell (Bantam Books,1989)
    • Return to Earth with Wayne Warga (Bantam Books, 1973)

    Fun Fact

    MTV’s Video Music Award "Moonman" as well as their original station identification were based on images of Buzz from his moon landing.

    Awards

    • Presidential Medal of Freedom
    • Robert J. Collier Trophy
    • Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy
    • Harmon International Trophy
    • Presidential appointee on the Commission on the Future of the US Aerospace Industry
    • And more than 50 others

    Did Buzz Aldrin Have Bipolar Disorder?

    The name of Buzz Aldrin appears on one list after another of celebrities with bipolar disorder. However, in reviewing actual interviews and biographies on the topic of his struggles with mental illness, Buzz only specifically addresses depression and alcoholism.

    Dr. Robert Epstein interviewed Buzz Aldrin for an article in Psychology Today. During this discussion, Buzz told Dr. Epstein that “What I felt was depression. There were also family situations developing at that time. My life was moving in one direction, and my family was going in the other. That eventually led to a divorce and the split up of the family. But there was another trait that had been hidden. Everyone was drinking, and I was too.”

    In an article entitled “Three Voyagers to the Moon: Life After Making History on TV” for the July 17, 1994, edition of the New York Times, John Noble Wilford addressed Buzz Aldrin’s emotional difficulties that developed after his historic space flights.

    Wilford wrote, “Mr. Aldrin’s problems began almost immediately as he struggled to adjust to life in the limelight. This made him increasingly uncomfortable, which led to erratic behavior and eventually depression and alcoholism … In any event, he was hospitalized for severe depression."

    Not Bipolar, but a True Hero and Example for Those Coping with Mental Health Disorders

    Of significant note is the fact that Aldrin is a true hero, a fantastic example of perseverance and achievement. “Buzz Aldrin accomplished an even bigger feat than walking on the moon—overcoming alcoholism and depression” (Epstein, 2001).

    Of this success Aldrin states, “Recovery was not easy. Perhaps the most challenging turnaround was accepting the need for assistance and help. Looking back at it now—with over 22 years of sobriety—this was probably one of my greatest challenges. But it has also been one of the most satisfying because it has given me a sense of comfort and ease with where I am now” (Epstein, 2001).

    Recognizing Depression

    For anyone who has coped with clinical depression, or is wondering if he or she may be coping with clinical depression, Buzz Aldrin is an example of how treatment—even if it requires hospitalization—can make a major difference in the long term. It can be very hard for those who are caught in the throes of depression to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Recognizing that many people with severe depression, including Buzz Aldrin, can bring hope to those who still see only the dark.

    Addressing Alcoholism

    The same can be said of alcoholism as of depression. Though Buzz Aldrin did not suffer from bipolar disorder, he is a striking example of how people can overcome an addiction to alcohol, even when combined with depression and go on to live productive and fulfilling lives.

    Bipolar Disorder

    While Buzz Aldrin did not suffer from bipolar disorder—and we've attempted to set that straight, it does not mean that there isn't hope for those with bipolar disorder as there is for those with depression and alcoholism. In contrast, treatment can and does make a huge difference in the life of people living with the disorder and recovery, just as with other mental health conditions, is possible. Learn about five celebrities currently living with bipolar disorder.

    Bottom Line on the Rumor About Buzz Aldrin and Bipolar Disorder

    As we've noted, Buzz Aldrin did not suffer from bipolar disorder despite his name appearing on lists of famous people with the disorder. Perhaps this rumor originated from his struggles with depression and alcoholism, which can lend themselves to behaviors which map overlap. One way or another, Aldrin is a hero in our book for being a living example of how addressing depression and alcoholism can make a difference.

    Sources:

    Murray, G., Leitan, N., Thomas, N. et al. Toward Recovery-Oriented Psychosocial Interventions for Bipolar Disorder: Quality of Life Outcomes, Stage-Sensitive Treatments, and Mindfulness Mechanisms. Clinical Psychology Review. 2017. 52:148-163.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Biographical Data. Buzz Aldrin, PhD. https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/aldrin-b.html

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