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Creativity and mental illness

Creativity and mental illness

The concept of a link between creativity and mental illness has been extensively discussed by psychologists and other researchers. Parallels can be drawn to connect to major mental disorders including: bipolar disorder , schizophrenia , major depressive disorder , anxiety disorder , and ADHD . For example, many studies have shown correlations between creative occupations and people living with mental illness. There are cases that support the idea that mental illness can help in creativity, but it is also agreed that mental illness does not exist for creativity.


It has been proposed that there is a link between creativity and mental illness (eg, bipolar disorder , major depressive disorder appears to be more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists). [3] Association between mental illness and creativity first appeared in the 1970s, but the idea of ​​a link between “madness” and “genius” is much older, dating back to least to the time of Aristotle. In order to understand the connection between “madness” and “genius” correlate, first understand that there are different types of geniuses: literary geniuses, creative geniuses, scholarly geniuses, and “all around” geniuses. Since there are many different categories, this means that the average person can be more or less excel in one subject. [4] The Ancient Greeks believed in creativity from the gods, in particular the Muses (the mythical personifications of the arts and sciences, the nine daughters of Zeus). In the Aristotelian tradition, conversely, genius was viewed from a physiologicalstandpoint, and it was believed that the same human quality is [5] Romantic writers had similar ideals, with Lord Byron having pleasantly expressed, “We are some of the most affected, some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy.

Individuals with mental illness are said to be able to see the world; literally, to see things that others can not. [6]


For many years, the creative arts have been used in the recovery of mental illness or addiction. [7]

A study by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence and psychoticism . [8]

Another study found in schizotypal more than schizophrenic patients. While divergent thinking Was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex , schizotypal Individuals were found to-have much Greater activation of Their right prefrontal cortex. [9] This study hypothesizes that these individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate. In agreement with this hypothesis, ambidexterity is also associated with schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals.

Three recent studies by Mark Batey and Adrian Furnham have demonstrated the relationship between schizotypal [10] [11] and hypomanic personality [12] and several different measures of creativity.

Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders , particularly manic-depressive disorder (aka bipolar disorder ) and depressive disorder (aka unipolar disorder ). In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament , Kay Jamison Redfield summarizes studies of mood-disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She explored aussi That research identified mood disorders in Such famous artists and writers as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after- electroconvulsive treatment ), Virginia Woolf(who drowned herself when she felt depressive episode coming on), compose Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo .

A study looking at 300,000 persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar depression, and their related, found overrepresentation in creative professions for those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There was no overall overrepresentation, but overrepresentation for artistic occupations, among those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There was no association for those with unipolar depression or their relatives. [13]

A study involving more than one million people, conducted by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, reported a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse , and were almost as likely to generalize to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder. [14]

However, a group, those in the creative professions were more likely to experience psychiatric disorders than other people, they were more likely to have a relationship with a disorder, including anorexia, and some extent, autism , the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports. [14]

Research in this area is usually constrained to cross-section data-sets. One of the few exceptions is an economic study of the well-being and creative output of three famous music composers over their entire lifetime. [15] The emotional indicators are Obtained from letters written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt , and the results indicate indication That negative emotions Had a causal impact on the creative output of the artists Studied.

According to Robert Epstein psychologist, creativity can be obstructed through stress. [16]

A 2005 study at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study showed for a second time that a sample of children at high risk for bipolar disorder tends to be dislike simple or symmetric symbols more. Children with bipolar parents who were not bipolar also scored higher dislike scores. [17]

Positive mood does not inhibit creativity

Mood-creativity research reveals that they are most creative when they are in a positive mood [18] [19] and that mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia actually decrease creativity. [20] [21] People who have worked in the field of poverty, persecution, social alienation , psychological trauma , substance abuse , high stress [22]and other such environmental factors which are associated with developing and causing mental illness. It is so likely that when it is itself, it is associated with positive moods, happiness, and mental health, and can be linked to stressful living environment and income. Other factors such as the centuries-old stereotype of the suffering of a “mad artist” help to fuel the link by putting expectations on an artist should act, or possibly making the field more attractive to those with mental illness. In addition, the environment may be affected by the influence of the environment, the spacial capacity to expand further growth.

Lessons from computational psychology

Simulations by Stephen Thaler of limbo-thalamocortical loops in the invention, discovery, and artistic endeavors reveal a critical link between various psychopathologies and creativity. Artificial neural contemplative These systems exploit the computational equivalent of volume-released neurotransmitters derived, namely random, hopping disturbances applied to connection weights in a process tantamount to neuromodulation , the molecular diffusive infiltration of the brain’s synapses. [23] [24] [25] These disturbances seed the formation of the neural activation patterns necessary for creativity. [26] [27] [25] [24]Close observation of such artificial neural systems as they engage in creative problem solving tasks reveals a cyclic or ‘tidal’ variation in synaptic chaos. At higher disturbance levels, ideas as memories and confabulationsmultiple neural modules weakly couple into transient, subliminal notions that go unnoticed by neural modules incapacitated by the synaptic chaos. As disturbance levels subside, some neural modules may lucidly perceive novelty, utility, or value to these oftentimes half-baked notions that then perfect themselves, consolidating into full-blown ideas coupled with accompanying affective responses. Extending these computational findings to human cognition, creativity can not be attributed to any given brain state or mood. Instead, it is a hysteretic effect brought about by multiple transits through chaotic and quiescent phases. The hallucinations, confusion, confusion,[26] In addition to providing a transparent artificial neural system by which to study creative cognition, such brain simulations provide an assessment of metrics for originality and utility that are quantitative rather than subjective. [27]

Bipolar disorder

Main article: Bipolar disorder

There is a range of types of bipolar disorder. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder experience severe episodes of mania and depression with periods of wellness between episodes. The severity of the manic episodes can be said to be very difficult to express. Individuals with Bipolar II Disorder experience milder periods of hypomania during which the flight of ideas, faster thought processes and ability to take over the art, poetry or design. [28]


Main article: Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia live with positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. Positive symptoms: hallucinations, delusions, thought & movement disorders. Negative symptoms: “flat affect”, Anhedonia, reserved. Cognitive symptoms: problems with “executive functioning”, attention, and memory. [29] One artist known for his schizophrenia was the Frenchman Antonin Artaud , founder of the Theater of Cruelty movement. In Madness and Modernism(1992), clinical psychologist Louis A. SassNoted That Many common features of schizophrenia – Especially fragmentation, defiance of authority, and multiple viewpoints – aussi happen to be defining features of modern art . [30]

Arguments that support link

In a 2002 talk with Christopher Langan , educational psychologist Arthur Jensen Stated que la relationship entre creativity and mental disorder “has been well Researched and is proven to be a fact”, writing That schizothymiccharacteristics are Somewhat more frequent in philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists than in the general population. [31] In a 2015 study, Iceland scientists found that they are more likely to have genotype variants that increase the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia , with deCODE Genetics co-founder Kári Stefánssonsaying, “Often, when people are creating something new, they end up straddling between sanity and insanity.” I think these results support the concept of the mad genius. ” [32]


Many famous historical figures gifted with creative talents may have been affected by bipolar disorder. Ludwig van Beethoven , Virginia Woolf , Ernest Hemingway , Isaac Newton , Judy Garland and Robert Schumann are some people whose lives have been researched to discover signs of mood disorder. [33] In many instances, such as a tendency for ” thinking outside the box “, “flights of ideas,” speeding up of thoughts and heightened perception of visual, auditory and somatic stimuli.

It has-been found que la brains of creative people are more open to environmental stimuli due to smaller water equivalent of latent inhibition , an individual’s unconscious capacity to ignore unimportant stimuli. While the absence of this ability is associated with psychosis, it has also been found to contribute to original thinking. [34]


Many people with bipolar disorder can feel powerful depressive and manic phases, potentially aiding in creativity. [35] Because (hypo) mania decreases social inhibition, performers are often daring and bold. As a result, creators commonly exhibited features associated with mental illness. The frequency and intensity of these symptoms appear to vary according to the magnitude and domain of creative achievement. At the same time, these symptoms are not equivalent to the full-blown psychopathology of a clinical manic episode which, by definition, entails significant impairment. [36]

Posthumous diagnosis

Some people have been posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder or bipolar disorder based on biographies, letters, correspondence, contemporaneous accounts, or other anecdotal material, most notably in Kay Redfield Jamison’s book Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament . [37] Touched With Fire presents the argument That bipolar disorder, affective disorders and more Generally, [38] May be found in a disproportionation number of people in creative professions Such As actors , artists , comedians , musicians , authors ,performers and poets .

Positive correlation

Several recent clinical studies have also suggested that there is a positive correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder, the relationship between the two is unclear. [39] [40] [41] Temperament may be an intervening variable . [40]Ambition has also been identified as being linked to creative output in people across the bipolar spectrum. [42]

Bottom-up psychology

Brain simulations built from artificial neural nets manifest the classic psychopathologies as they push themselves towards higher levels of creativity. [26]

Mental illness and divergent thinking

In 2017, Associate Professor of Psychiatry Gail Saltz stated that the increased production of divergent thoughts in people with mild-to-moderate mental illnesses leads to greater creative capacities. Saltz argued that the “wavering attention and day-dreamy state” of ADHD, for example, “is also a source of highly original thinking … […] CEOs of companies such as Ikea and Jetblue have ADHD. of-the-box thinking, high energy levels, and disinhibited manner could be a positive result of their negative affliction. ” [43] Mania aussi HAS-been credited with aiding in creativity because “When thinking of Speed Increases, word associations form more freely, as doflight of ideas , because the manic mind is less likely to be irrelevant. ” [30]

Arguments against a link

In The News Minute , Prateek Sharma wrote, “While acknowledging of legends like Sylvia Plath , Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edvard Munch confirms this connection of mental illnesses and the art that came along, a universal link relies only on subjective and anecdotal data .” [44] Albert Rothenberg of Psychology Today noted that the “list of mentally ill creators who were successful […] is dwarfed by the very large number of highly creative people both in modern times and throughout history without evidence of disorder”, which includes figures Such as William Shakespeare , Johann Sebastian Bach , andJane Austen . [45] Rothenberg Reported That When interviewing 45 Nobel science laureates for the book Flight from Wonder He Had found no evidence of mental illness in’any of ’em, and aussi Stated, “The problem is que la criteria for being white creative is never anything very creative Belonging to an artistic society, or working in art or literature, does not prove a person is creative But the fact is that many people have mental illness they are good at it, but because they’re attracted to it, and that can skew the data. ” [46]

Modern cultural viewpoints

The 2012 book Tortured Artists , by the American arts journalist Christopher Zara , shows the universal nature of the tortured artist stereotype and how it applies to all of the creative disciplines, including film, theater, literature, music, and visual art. The artists profiled in the book have made major contributions to their respective mediums ( Charles Schulz , Charlie Parker , Lenny Bruce , Michelangelo , Madonna , Andy Warhol , Amy Winehouse , and dozens of others). In each case, the author attempts to make a connection between the art and the artist’s personal suffering.[47]

Notable individuals

Albert Einstein had a schizophrenia and was also somewhat schizotypal and eccentric. [6]

Bertrand Russell had many family members who had schizophrenia or psychosis: his aunt, uncle, his granddaughter. [6]

Joanne Greenberg’s novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is an autobiographical account of her teenage years in Chestnut Lodge working with Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann . At the time She Was Diagnosed with schizophrenia, ALTHOUGH two psychiatrists Who Examined Greenberg’s self-description in the book in 1981 Concluded That She Did not-have schizophrenia, goal HAD extreme depression and somatization disorder . [48] The narrative is constantly changing between the protagonists and their mental ability. Greenberg is adamant that her creative skills flourished in spite of, not because of, her condition. [49]

Lizz Brady is a contemporary artist who has made work on her experiences with borderline personality disorder and is curator of the exhibition Broken Gray Wires that examines the relationship between contemporary art and mental health. [50]

The modernist and early feminist Woolf Virginia is speculated to have had bipolar disorder. [51]

David Foster Wallace was an American writer and professor of English and creative writing. He had psychiatric treatment for many of his life and several diagnoses. He believed that “atypical depression” most closely described his condition. He killed himself in 2008. [52]

Brian Wilson , founder of the American rock band Beach Boys , suffers from schizoaffective disorder . In 2002, he spoke of how the disorder affects his creativity, explaining: “I have not been able to write anything for … I think I need the demons in order to write, but the demons have gone. I have tried and tested, but I can not seem to find a melody. [53]

See also

  • Savant syndrome
  • Outsider art


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