Brain Tumor Can Mimic as Anxiety

In the late 1930’s George Gershwin, the great American composer, complained of fatigue and pounding headaches. Normally even tempered, he suddenly seemed uncharacteristically moody and critical. Friends and family attributed his symptoms to mounting stress in the composer’s hectic life, including poor reviews of his Hollywood musical, Shall We Dance, and an affair with a woman considerably younger than himself with whom he contemplated marriage.

The symptoms progressively worsened and Gershwin went to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles where specialists subjected him to extensive medical testing. They found nothing and three and a half weeks later, he was discharged with the diagnosis of “most likely hysteria.”

New symptoms emerged. Light was so painful to his eyes (photophobia) that he drew the blinds to keep out sunlight. He became unsteady on his feet and on one occasion fell while walking along a sidewalk. Convinced his problems were in his head, one of the women accompanying commented, “Leave him there. All he wants is attention.” His brother Ira too felt that George suffered a “nervous disorder.”

Gershwin’s symptoms worsened. Headaches became unrelenting and he had trouble holding onto things. Readmitted to the hospital, he fell quickly into a coma. An x-ray revealed a mass compressing the right ventricle of the brain. Surgery was performed but the highly malignant tumor was inoperable. Gershwin died the following day at age 39.

Information taken from Anxiety: Hidden Causes .