Mental illness and creativity

Over the years, after reading about creative types like Vincent Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf, it is easy to come to the assumption that there is a link between mental illness and creativity. However, there is much debate over whether or not this is true.

PsychCentral (www.psychcentral.com) reports that it is well-established that, “people with affective disorders tend to be over represented in the creative artist population.” (Katherine P. Rankin, Ph.,D.) Any search on the internet provides lists of famous people with mental illness and the majority of them are creative.

Many patients report feeling most creative when they are well, rather than on fast speed with mania or experiencing depression. There is a certain romance associated with the struggling angst-filled artist. Often people don’t want to take their medication for fear it will deaden creative feelings.

This creativity could also be due to temperament, and besides, advanced mania in bipolar people can lead to chaos rather than art. It may just be that those with mental illness are more sensitive and therefore are in touch with parts of themselves or the world in which others are not. That doesn’t guarantee however that if you are bipolar you will necessarily be creative.

Albert Rothenberg, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University does not see the link at all. In 2014 he published a book entitled, “Flight of Wonder: An investigation of Scientific Creativity”, where he interviewed 45 science Nobel laureates about their creative strategies. He found no evidence of mental illness in any of them, and rather attributed their creativity to just an interest in creative endeavours.

Whether there really is a correlation or not, the fact remains that art can be used as therapy for anyone, mentally ill or otherwise.

So pick up your paintbrush and go!

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About the Author

Keri-Lynn is a married mother of four children and two "step-men" and has been in the print industry for 20 years. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 11 years ago and has a keen interest in sharing her wellness strategies with others.

Contact Keri-Lynn by email:  [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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