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Virginia Woolf and Mental Illness

The English writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was plagued with mental illness throughout her life. Most of her contemporaries described her affliction as manic-depression. The term, while a popular description, is no longer used in the medical profession, but has been replaced by bipolar disorder. Paper Masters can compose a custom written research paper on Virginia Woolf that follows your own guidelines.

Virginia Woolf was believed to have suffered from:

  • Bipolar Disorder (Called Manic Depression during her lifetime)
  • Depression associated with Sexual Abuse
  • Nervous Disorders
  • Genetic factors that led to Bipolar Depression

Woolf's Younger Years

Mental Virginia Woolf Mental Illness


As a young girl, her older stepbrothers sexually molested Virginia Woolf, and most leading researchers believe that this abuse led to her mental illness. However, such correlation cannot be fully ascertained, as bipolar disorder does not always arise from environmental factors. Many leading researchers believe that her bipolar disorder was genetic, and that sexual abuse was merely another tragedy that compounded her life.

When she was thirteen, Virginia Woolf’s mother died. Two years later, her half-sister died and the proximity of these losses contributed towards the first her nervous breakdowns. After the death of her father in 1904, Virginia Woolf was hospitalized following another breakdown.

Woolf's Later Years


In the years 1910, 1912, and 1913, Virginia Woolf spent significant time at a private nursing facility for women with what was then called “nervous disorders.” It is said that her stream of consciousness style emerged out of her manic states. During a depressive period in 1941, she filled her coat pockets with rocks and walked into the River Ouse, drowning herself. In her suicide note to her husband she believed that she was going mad.

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