Study Says Creative People Are A Little Crazy
“Creative” people are more likely to be mentally ill, so says a Swedish study of more than 1 million people that was published last year.
According to the BBC’s summary of the study, “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.
Hooray for being a writer! No wonder we hate rejection!
The dancers and photographers in the study were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
Well that’s encouraging. But it really isn’t shocking. I’m wondering if the level of talent somehow increases the level of mental instability—see, Hemingway, Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Malcolm Lowry, and so on.
It’s a trade off to some degree, says the lead researcher, as some of the qualities of these mental illnesses can actually have a beneficial effect. For instance, “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.”
Was Picasso a little crazy?
Another researcher comments, “It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses.”
Preach it. That’s such a Hollywood sham—the whole writer as a tortured genius bit.
I’m even guilty of this. When I posted about Hunter S. Thompson’s daily routine, the temptation is to say “Wow. That guy is superhuman.” But, really, he must have lived an extraordinarily sad life to resort to that much medication and alcohol.
So why are “creatives”–which is such a broad term, by the way–more prone to mental illness? Your thoughts?
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)