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Recovery heroes from the past: Charles Dickens (1859:2003): “it was the best of times it was the worst of times”

Gail Longworth (Department of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)
Jerome Carson (Department of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




The purpose of this paper is to provide a profile of the novelist Charles Dickens.


Several biographies and articles about the life of Charles Dickens were examined, to see if there was evidence that he experienced mental health problems.


While Dickens has been acclaimed for his ability to authentically portray the living conditions of the poor in the nineteenth-century Britain, there is comparatively little historical record of the fact that he may have experienced bipolar disorder. This paper suggests that he displayed many of the characteristic symptoms of bipolar.

Research limitations/implications

The story of Dickens’ own childhood is an amazing example of personal resilience. It no doubt enhanced the quality of his writing, but it may also have “sown the seeds” of a later mental illness.

Practical implications

So much attention has been focused on the colourful characters from Dickens’ novels, but little on the problems of the man himself.

Social implications

The story of Charles Dickens is as fascinating as any of the fictional characters he created, if not even more intriguing. His story confirms the link between writers, creativity and mood disorders.


Given the huge attention and worldwide acclaim paid to the books of Charles Dickens, which have inspired numerous films as well as musicals, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the author himself and his struggles with mental illness.



Longworth, G. and Carson, J. (2018), "Recovery heroes from the past: Charles Dickens (1859:2003): “it was the best of times it was the worst of times”", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 78-84.



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