Sylvia Plath effect

Sylvia Plath effect

The Sylvia Plath effect is the phenomenon That poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. The term was coined in 2001 by psychologist James C. Kaufman . Although many studies (eg, Andreasen, 1987, Jamison, 1989, Ludwig, 1995) have demonstrated that creative writers are prone to experience mental illness, this relationship has not been examined in depth. This paper presents the results of the “Sylvia Plath effect”, and implications for future research. [1]Kaufman’s work is more important than female poets are more likely to experience mental illness than any other class of writers. In addition, female poets were more likely to be mentally ill than other eminent women, such as politicians, actresses, and artists. [1] [2]

The effect is named after Sylvia Plath , who committed suicide at the age of 30. On February 11, 1963, Plath was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in her kitchen after putting her head into the oven. She had sealed the rooms with towels and cloths.

Supporting evidence

In Study One, 1,629 writers were analyzed for signs of mental illness. Female poets were found to be more likely to experience mental illness than female fiction writers or male writers of any type. One of the most influential women (poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, visual artists, politicians, and actresses), and more likely to experience mental illness. [1]

In a study carried out by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, female writers were found to be more likely to suffer from generalized, drug abuse, and eating disorders. The rates of multiple mental disorders were also higher among these writers. Although it was not explored in depth, it was also possible to add to psychological issues in adulthood. The cumulative psychopathology scores of subjects, their reported exposure to abuse during childhood, the mental difficulties in their mothers, and the combined beliefs of parents of significant predictors of their illnesses. The high rates of certain emotional disorders in female writers suggest a direct relationship between creativity and psychopathology, but the relationship was not clear-cut. As the results of the predictive analysis indicated, family and environmental factors also appeared to play a role.[3]

Sylvia Plath

After several suicide attempts, Dr. John Horder (her close friend) felt that she was at risk of further harm and prescribing her antidepressant mothers days before Plath committed suicide. He also visited with her daily and made many attempts to have a hospital. Upon her refusal, he made arrangements for a live-in nurse. [4]

Some critics have argued that because they are anti-depressant, they usually require a prescription. [5] Others say that Plath’s American doctor had warned her never to take again the anti-depressant drug prescribed by Horder as it was found to be depression, but he supposedly prescribed it under a proprietary name which she did not recognize. [6]

Plath, on February 11, 1963, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in her kitchen. She sealed the rooms between the kitchen and her sleeping with wet towels and cloths.

Female writers

  • Sarah Kane quote needed ]
  • Alda Merini citation needed ]
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Anne Sexton citation needed ]
  • Sara Teasdale citation needed ]
  • Marina Tsvetayeva quote needed ]
  • Virginia Woolf citation needed ]

Male writers

  • John Berryman
  • Richard Brautigan citation needed ]
  • Hart Crane
  • Ernest Hemingway citation needed ]
  • Arthur Koestler
  • Ross Lockridge
  • John Kennedy Toole
  • David Foster Wallace

Sex differences

In Western societies, studies have shown that women have higher rates of mental illness than men. citation needed ] From early adolescence through adulthood, women are twice as likely to experience depression. [7]


Plath’s disease and suicide have been widely reported in scientific journals, but they have all been focused on psychodynamic and clinical outcomes. With premature death, a strict censor, one can speculate that, at some point, she might have developed a manic psychosis. citation needed ] Undeniably, the view has been broadly proliferated that was a typical manic-depressive illness. [8]

See also

  • Creativity and mental illness


  1. ^ Jump up to:c Kaufman, JC (2011). “The sylvia plath effect: Mental illness in eminent creative writers”. The Journal of Creative Behavior . 35 (1): 37-50. doi : 10.1002 / j.2162-6057.2001.tb01220.x .
  2. Jump up^ Lee, FR (April 24, 2004). Going early into that good night. New York Times, Arts p, 1, 4.
  3. Jump up^ Ludwig, A (1994). “Mental illness and creative activity in female writers (1994)”. Am J Psychiatry . 151 (11): 1650-6. doi : 10.1176 / ajp.151.11.1650 . PMID  7943456 .
  4. Jump up^ “Rhyme, reason and depression”. (February 16, 1993). The Guardian. Accessed 2010-07-09.
  5. Jump up^ “Rhyme, reason and depression”. (February 16, 1993). The Guardian. Accessed 2013-04-16.
  6. Jump up^ Guardian Article. 18 August 2001.Hughes letter reveals his Plath reconciliation hope Accessed 2013-04-16
  7. Jump up^ Nolen-Hoeksema, S (2001). “Gender differences in depression”. Current Directions in Psychological Science . 10 (5): 173-176. doi : 10.1111 / 1467-8721.00142 .
  8. Jump up^ Cooper, Brian (2003 June). Sylvia Plath and the depression continuum. JR Soc Med. 96 (6): 296-301. PMC 539515