John Lennon’s mental illness(+5 tips)

In this article, it will be discussed how John Lennon, The Beatles lead singer, lived with mental health issues, what were the behavior signs he might have had a mental health condition. 

The article will also show how a person dealing with them can be creative and be in the biggest band of all time. What was the role that art and creativity had to him, what type of mental illness he had and how one can cope with that same mental illness.

Who was John Lennon?

John Lennon was the frontman of the band The Beatles. He was born on 9 of October of 1940, in Liverpool, England. He started The Beatles in 1960, a time when people were questioning authorities, and wanting to proclaim the power of love. 

John Lennon was a very creative person, he wrote books, songs, and sketches. He left the music industry to take care of his son. He went back to it in 1980 in a collaboration with his wife Yoko Ono. In December of 1980 he was killed in New York he was murdered in front of his house by Mark Chapman, a fan of The Beatles.

What was John Lennon’s mental illness?

When reading his biography, a researcher established that according to the behavior depicted in it, John Lennon might have had Borderline Personality Disorder. He showed himself to be a person with many insecurities, that experienced many traumas in his life.

Aside from that, the artist had drug and alcohol abuse problems, and history of self-medication as a way to escape from his painful reality. Besides that, it shows intense mood swings that could go from violent outbursts to an intense feeling of remorse.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

All personality disorders change people’s personality traits in a way that can cause problems. Borderline Personality Disorder can happen to men and women, though it seems that women are more susceptible to it. 

There can be many reasons why a person develops a Borderline Personality Disorder. It can happen because of genetics, or because of brain chemicals. It seems that people with the disorder have an imbalance in their serotonin levels. They can also be people that have stressful childhoods, having experienced sexual or physical abuse.

Aside from that, the brain development of the person with it might be different. According to studies, when a person has Borderline Personality Disorder they can have either smaller brain or more active parts of the brain, which can influence a person’s behavior, self-control and also affect their ability to plan and make decisions.

The disorder can also make the person behave in an unstable way, sometimes putting themselves in danger, and can also go through other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or eating disorder. 

People with Borderline Personality Disorder may have many symptoms. Not everyone will have all of them, but the most common symptoms are:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Exposure to risky behavior
  • Intense mood swings
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Excessive attempt to control your emotions
  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Suicidal thoughts being that people with the disorder tend to attempt it
  • Paranoia
  • Delusional behavior
  • Intense but unstable relationships
  • Dissociation means that the person can be disconnected from themselves or the world.
  • Identity confusion means the person loses sense of who they are.

What shows that John Lennon had Borderline Personality Disorder?

There are many indicators when analyzing his biography, that shows John Lennon had symptoms similar to the ones a person with Borderline Personality Disorder goes through. Let’s go through some of them.

A constant fear of real or imagined abandonment

John had a rough childhood, he had a distant relationship with his father, and his mother, who lived a bohemian lifestyle, left him to be raised by his aunt and uncle.  Until she died in a car crash. The very strict way his aunt raised him, even after his uncle died, was another mark in history with affection lacking.

As a grown-up he established insecure relationships, being scared people might leave him all the time he had to always be close to the ones he loved. This shows up in the relationship with his bandmates. They usually did everything together.

The pattern of intense and unstable relationships

He seemed to have picked up from his relationship with his aunt a type of relationship that goes from idealization to devaluation. It shows in the book that to other people his aunt would give nothing but praises about him, but in private she would constantly diminish him.

He brought this pattern to his other relationships. He would change rapidly how he treated the person. The behavior could change because he feared the person would abandon him. He would treat the person as perfect, realizing them, but go to diminish them in a sudden change.

Identity confusion

Although it was not an affectionate relationship, his relationship with his aunt gave him a sense of structure, and he spent his whole life looking for people who could do that. It could be a friend, his wife, being that Yoko Ono was known to could many roles in his life.

When he became famous, having this structure was hard, and he was also named in many roles, from a rocker to a sensitive poet-artist. For someone like him, that craved approval and fear abandonment, to try to establish an identity and a sense of self in the middle of all that, was hard work.

Impulsive behavior

People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to have impulsive behavior, related to sex, substance abuse and spending, reckless driving. John Lennon had a constant abuse of drugs and alcohol from a very young age.

He had a family history of alcohol abuse from his father’s side, and with time he started using drugs frequently, going from marijuana to LSD, to heroin. It also seems he could have had an impulsive behavior about sex, having many extramarital relationships.

Self-harm behavior and suicidal thought

In interviews given by him, he said that during his teenage years he contemplated suicide, although it never got to the point of planning or trying it, he frequently thought of dying.

Unstable mood 

He would go through intense mood swings. He could express intense sadness and put it all in his art. But being vulnerable, dealing with other people’s approval, could bring intense anxiety. He lived in this constant roller-coaster of emotions.

An intense feeling of emptiness

John Lennon had a constant sense of emptiness in his life may be related to the loss of his mother. Because of that, he spent his life trying to fill the void in his life with many other relationships. But at the same time distancing himself from people that loved him, showing self-sabotage behavior.

Difficulty controlling emotions

People never knew what to expect. His behavior could be affectionate and it could change to an aggressive outburst in a matter of seconds. The aggressive behavior could also be related to his life’s history, as he was also treated aggressively by his aunt.

Paranoid ideation and dissociation symptoms

Those episodes could come from a fear of abandonment, and many realized when he thought his telephones were being tapped, or that he was being followed.

How can one cope with having a Borderline Personality Disorder?

A person that suspects or was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder should look for a mental health professional to help in their treatment, especially if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts so you can start medication treatment.

They can also benefit from psychotherapy to learn strategies to cope with their condition, and figure out what triggers your change in behaviors. If you find it hard to talk about your feelings, art therapy can be a good option to express yourself in other forms.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ): What was John Lennon’s mental illness?

Did John have a codependent relationship with Yoko?

Yes, it seems that John and Yoko had a codependent relationship. It seems that his fear of abandonment made him extremely dependent on other people. In this kind of relationship, the person needs another one to establish their sense of self.

He was in constant need of her assurance and put her in many roles in his life. She wasn’t only his romantic partner, they had a working partnership, he lit her in an almost maternal role, in which she needed to take constant care of him.

Did John Lennon break emotionally after The Beatles split up?

It is said that, during that time, John was under a lot of pressure. It was the greatest band of all time, people were putting the responsibility of this split on his wife, and he already had an intense experience with abandonment.

The split of his band might have intensely struck him. Being I. That band was something that structured his identity, where he got an intense sense of approval. Once the band was over, he needed to fill this void in other ways.

Why do famous people suffer from mental illness?

Famous people can suffer from mental illness like any other person. It just seems that they are people that put their feelings and deal with them through. It might also be that they tend to develop mental illness and the hectic life of being a celebrity can cause the illness to manifest itself. 

How did other famous people deal with mental health?

Many famous people deal with mental illness, nowadays we just accompany through the media the battle Britney Spears went on to recover her rights after dealing for years with mental health and the abuse of her father. Aside from her, it is known that Vincent Van Gogh might have had Bipolar Disorder.

Other celebrities lived and go on living with Borderline Personality Disorder, such as Amy Winehouse, Jim Carrey, Robbie Willians, Brandon Marshall, and Darrell Hammond.

Did Elvis Presley have any mental illness?

He wasn’t known to have been diagnosed with any mental illness, but he had some emotional questions. It seemed he had an attachment issue, being that he was intensely attached to his mother, which impacted his relationship with women.


This article discussed who John Lennon was, how the frontman of The Beatles behaved in his life and how people now, understanding his behavior, established he might have suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.

Aside from that, the article also explained what is Borderline Personality Disorder, what are the signs to identify it and how can one cope with that diagnosis.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the space below.


Fade D. Exposing the voice of truth: A psychological profile of John Lennon.TCNJ Journal of Students Scholarship. Ap 2016: (18):1-7.

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