Psychiatry professor Nassir Ghaemi has written about the mental health of political leaders, concluding that sanity is over-rated. Ghaemi argues that many of the world’s greatest leaders had some mental illness, and that’s what made them great:
I think if most people knew that their leaders were making important decisions, like, say, about the debt ceiling, while going through a manic phase, they would be concerned.
It’s important to get out of this all-or-nothing thinking. It’s not that you’re either completely normal or in control or completely manic or out of control. Mental illness can come in many degrees of severity; it can be mild, moderate or really severe. When people are mildly to moderately manic they have what are called racing thoughts, going down different tangents that a person normally wouldn’t, and this often produces creative links that most people would not make. Those lead to judgments that lead to decisions that often end up being correct and helpful and would otherwise not happen. Manic people, especially when their symptoms are mild or moderate, can make much better decisions than mentally healthy people who often make very poor decisions.