By 1990, Nash—by now a regular presence at Princeton seminars—is beginning to meet with math professors for long discussions, demonstrating that he is still capable of original, innovative thought. Nash is now in remission from his illness, though it is unclear if he has fully “recovered”: Nash would later note that regaining rationality was a “constant, conscious struggle,” not unlike dieting, and that he had to make an effort to “police his thoughts,” separating delusion from reality.
Nasar explains that though Nash attributes his recovery to the “constant, conscious struggle” of changing his own pattern of thought, it is possible that several other factors contributed to his remission, too.
Recent psychiatrist studies have shown that while schizophrenics can recover from their illnesses, only about 8% of sufferers can be considered “well” 30 years after the onset of schizophrenia. Nash may have had a better chance at recovery because of his high IQ, his record of high achievement, and the relatively late onset of the illness; additionally, by refusing to take antipsychotic drugs in the 1970s, he may have also avoided some of the negative side effects associated with these drugs. Nash would describe his remission as a “natural” process—one that involved consciously changing the pattern of his thoughts.
This passage reveals that those with high IQs and records of achievement, among other qualities, are more likely than others to experience remission from schizophrenia. Ultimately, Nash’s recovery seems to be a result of both his own rational thinking and other factors outside of his control.
In the late 1980s, Nash’s name has begun to appear in the titles of articles published in leading economics journals: his work on game theory is becoming influential once again. Yet Nash himself “remained in obscurity,” assumed to be dead by many young researchers. In 1989, Nash’s name is submitted to be nominated as a Fellow in the prestigious Econometric Society, a decision that attracts significant controversy: some Society scholars complain that Nash has no recent publications, claiming that he is not fit to be an active member. As a result, his nomination is blocked. It takes another two years for Nash to receive another nomination.
As Nash’s career slowly begins to gain traction again, and he regains the status he once had in the mathematics community, other mathematicians cast doubt on his return to academia: Nash is still seen as unstable and undeserving of praise, given his decades-long hiatus from mathematics. Nasar suggests that prejudicial attitudes toward those who suffer from mental illness are pervasive in academia, as in other fields; in fact, given academia’s emphasis on mental abilities, this prejudice may be even more pronounced.