Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Cognitive Psychology: Attention · Decision making · Learning · Judgement · Memory · Motivation · Perception · Reasoning · Thinking  - Cognitive processes Cognition - Outline Index

This article is in need of attention from a psychologist/academic expert on the subject.
Please help recruit one, or improve this page yourself if you are qualified.
This banner appears on articles that are weak and whose contents should be approached with academic caution


Mental disorders and creativity are often considered to be related, particularly in pop psychology.

There is anecdotal evidence for a relationship between creativity and psychosis, particularly schizophrenia. James Joyce had a daughter with schizophrenia and had many schizotypal traits. Albert Einstein had a son with schizophrenia and was also somewhat schizotypal and eccentric. Bertrand Russell had many family members with schizophrenia or psychosis: his aunt, uncle, son and grand-daughter. Psychotic individuals are said to display a capacity to see the world in a novel and original way, literally, to see things that others cannot.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

The association between bipolar disorder and creativity first appeared in literature in the 1970s, but the idea of a link between "madness" and "genius" is much older, dating back at least to the time of Aristotle. The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, and in particular the Muses: the nine daughters of Zeus, the god of arts and sciences. The idea of a complete work of art emerging without conscious thought or effort was reinforced by the views of the Romantic era.[2][3] It has been proposed that there is a particular link between creativity and bipolar disorder, whereas major depressive disorder appears to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists.[4]

Positive mood, mental illness and creativity[edit | edit source]

Mood-creativity research reveals that people are most creative when they are in a positive mood[5][6] and that mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia actually decrease creativity.[7][8] People who have worked in the field of arts throughout the history have had problems with poverty, persecution, social alienation, psychological trauma, substance abuse, high stress [9] and other such environmental factors which are associated with developing and perhaps causing mental illnesses. It is thus likely that when creativity itself is associated with positive moods, happiness, and mental health, pursuing a career in the arts may bring problems with stressful 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 how an artist should act. It also helps the field to be more attractive to those with mental disorders.

Creativity and bipolar disorder[edit | edit source]

Bipolar disorder[edit | edit source]

There is a range of types of bipolar disorder. Individuals with Bipolar I Disorder experience severe episodes of mania and depression with periods of wellness between episodes. The severity of the manic episodes can mean that the person is seriously disabled and unable to express the heightened perceptions and flight of thoughts and ideas in a practical way. Individuals with Bipolar II Disorder experience milder periods of hypomania during which the flight of ideas, faster thought processes and ability to take in more information can be converted to art, poetry or design.[10]

Creativity and psychopathology[edit | edit source]

Many famous historical figures gifted with creative talents may have been affected by bipolar disorder. Ludwig van Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway,Isaac Newton, and Robert Schumann are some people whose lives have been researched to discover signs of mood disorder.[11] In many instances, creativity and psychopathology share some common traits, 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.

Creativity and the emotions of bipolar disorder[edit | edit source]

Many people with bipolar disorder may feel powerful emotions during both depressive and manic phases, potentially aiding in creativity.[12] Because (hypo)mania decreases social inhibition, performers are often daring and bold. As a consequence, creators commonly exhibit characteristics often 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.[2]

Posthumous diagnosis[edit | edit source]

Some creative people have been posthumously diagnosed as suffering from bipolar or unipolar 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.[13] Touched With Fire presents the argument that bipolar disorder, and affective disorders more generally,[14] may be found in a disproportionate number of people in creative professions such as actors, artists, comedians, musicians, authors, performers and poets.

Positive correlation[edit | edit source]

Several recent clinical studies have also suggested that there is a positive correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder, although the relationship between the two is unclear.[15][16][17] Temperament may be an intervening variable.[16]

The 2005 Stanford study[edit | edit source]

A 2005 study at the Stanford University School of Medicine measured creativity by showing children figures of varying complexity and symmetry and asking whether they like or dislike them. The study showed for the first time that a sample of children who either have or are at high risk for bipolar disorder tend to dislike simple or symmetric symbols more. Children with bipolar parents who were not bipolar themselves also scored higher dislike scores.[18]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Andreasen, N.C. (2011), "A journey into chaos: Creativity and the unconscious", Mens Sana Monographs, 9:1, p42-53. Retrieved 2011-03-27
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dean Keith Simonton (2005). Are Genius and Madness Related? Contemporary Answers to an Ancient Question. Psychiatric Times. URL accessed on 2007-02-20.
  3. Beveridge A (November 2001). A disquieting feeling of strangeness?: the art of the mentally ill. J R Soc Med 94 (11): 595–9.
  4. Goodwin, F. and Jamison, K. R., Manic Depressive Illness, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1990), p. 353.
  5. Mark A. Davis (January 2009). Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 100 (1): 25–38.
  6. Baas, Matthijs; De Dreu, Carsten K. W.; Nijstad, Bernard A. (November 2008). A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: Hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus?. Psychological Bulletin 134 (6): 779–806.
  7. Takahiro Nemotoa,Ryoko Yamazawaa, Hiroyuki Kobayashia, Nobuharu Fujitaa, Bun Chinoa, Chiyo Fujiid, Haruo Kashimaa, Yuri Rassovskye, Michael F. Greenc and Masafumi Mizunof (November 2009). Cognitive training for divergent thinking in schizophrenia: A pilot study. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 33 (8): 1533–1536.
  8. Flaherty AW (2005). Frontotemporal and dopaminergic control of idea generation and creative drive. J Comp Neurol 493 (1): 147–53.
  9. Arnold M. Ludwig (1995) The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy ISBN 978-0898628395
  10. Parker, G., (ed.) "Bipolar II Disorder: modeling, measuring and managing", Cambridge University Press (Cambridge,2005).
  11. Goodnick,P.J.(ed.) Mania: clinical and research perspectives. American Psychiatric Press,Washington,1998.
  13. Kay Redfield Jamison (1996). Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Free Press.
  14. Jamison, K. R., Touched with Fire, Free Press (New York, 1993), pp 82 ff.
  15. Santosa CM, Strong CM, Nowakowska C, Wang PW, Rennicke CM, Ketter TA (June 2007). Enhanced creativity in bipolar disorder patients: a controlled study. J Affect Disord 100 (1-3): 31–9.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Rihmer Z, Gonda X, Rihmer A (2006). [Creativity and mental illness]. Psychiatr Hung 21 (4): 288–94.
  17. Nowakowska C, Strong CM, Santosa CM, Wang PW, Ketter TA (March 2005). Temperamental commonalities and differences in euthymic mood disorder patients, creative controls, and healthy controls. J Affect Disord 85 (1-2): 207–15.
  18. Children Of Bipolar Parents Score Higher On Creativity Test, Stanford Study Finds

External links[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.