Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Think You're Creative? No, You're Just Sick
I'm not sure this will come as a surprise but there's a link between creativity and mental illness. It's no coincidence that so many great comedians, for example, are or have been manic-depressives.
Now a study of more than a million subjects finds that creativity is often an actual part of mental illness.
Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.
They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.
The dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable.
For example, the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity.
Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece.
Dr Kyaga said: "If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment.
"In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavour to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid."
Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, said bipolar disorder personality traits could be beneficial to those in creative professions, but it may also be that people with bipolar disorder are more attracted to professions where they can use their creative skills.