Famous People with Tourette’s Syndrome or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Note: Although some web sites list Mozart as an individual who had Tourette’s and/or OCD, it’s not clear from the descriptions of his behavior that he actually had either. Similarly, although some web sites list Florence Nightingale as a famous person who had OCD, I found nothing online that described any behaviors that would be considered obsessive-compulsive. The following individuals are either actually diagnosed with TS and/or OCD or have histories that are strongly indicative of one or both conditions.

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

Dr. Johnson was a famous British poet, essayist, and lexicographer. He wrote the Dictionary of the English Language and The Lives of the Poets. Dr. Johnson’s unusual movements (most likely tics) and compulsive behaviors were observed by many of his peers at the time and described in such rich detail that there is little doubt that he had Tourette’s Syndrome with obsessive-compulsive features or even full-blown OCD. Dr. Johnson was also reported to suffer from depression throughout his life.

Jim Eisenreich (1959 – )

Jim is a retired major league baseball player who played with the 1993 National League Pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies and the 1997 World Series champions, the Florida Marlins. Although Jim had had Tourette’s since childhood, he wasn’t diagnosed until he was a baseball player. Jim donates much of his time to educating the public about Tourette’s and serves as a role model for many children.

Tim Howard (1979 – )

Tim is an American soccer player who plays as a goalkeeper for English club Everton and the United States national team. This talented athlete also played in the 2000 Olympics. Tim’s tics and compulsions were evident in elementary school, and school school was rough for him because his classmates teased him and his teachers viewed him as a discipline problem.

Howard Hughes (1905 – 1976)

Howard Hughes’ “eccentricities” were well-known, including a germ obsession that started in childhood and worsened throughout his adult years. That didn’t stop him, however, from being brilliantly successful in both Hollywood as a film director and producer and in aviation, where he owned a number of airlines, and at one point held a number of air speed records as an aviator.

Marc Summers (1951 – )

A popular tv host and entertainer, he had struggled since childhood from obsessions and compulsions, but didn’t know what he had until Dr. Eric Hollander came on his show as a guest. As Marc listened to him talk about OCD, he realized what he had. His book, Everything in its place, tells his amazing story.

Howie Mandel (1955 – )

Voted one of the 100 best stand-up comedians of all time, Howie Mandel first became known for his role in the tv series, “St. Elsewhere,” and later for “Bobby’s World.”  Plagued by a long-standing germ obsession, he avoids shaking hands with people and even built a second “sterile” house where he can retreat to if he fears catching germs from anyone — even his family.

Dan Ackroyd (1952 – )

It’s hard to know what accomplishment to mention first with Dan Ackroyd — his performance in The Blues Brothers, his role in Ghost Busters, his comedy in Saturday Night Live, or House of Blues, where people can hear great blues music. This talented actor, musician, screenwriter, and comedian grew up struggling with symptoms of Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndrome. You can hear Dan talking about how these conditions affected him in an interview he gave on NPR.

David Beckham (1975 – )

This talented soccer player (“footballer”) from the UK has publicly admitted that he struggles with his OCD:  “”I’ve got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs. I’ll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there’s one too many then I’ll put it in another cupboard somewhere. I’ll go into a hotel room and before I can relax, I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer. Everything has to be perfect.” (Source – The Independent Online, April 2, 2006).

James Durbin (1990 – )

James Durbin has been one of the breakout singers in the 2011 American Idol season. He talked openly about his Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s Disorder during his try-out and how his tics disappear when he is totally focused on his singing.