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Mental Health Use this forum to share your mental health concerns and to seek advice.

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Michy_Blackrose Offline
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Question Mental Illness and Creativity - May 23rd 2012, 11:13 AM

Hey guys, so i was just wondering from those of you who have diagnosed illnesses and those who have no diagnosis at all. Also those who perhaps feel a diagnosis is necessary!

The link between Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) and creativity is proven with strong evidence. Many artists through different Art forms who suffer from this illness are known; Van Gogh, Andy Warhol and Emilie Autumn (to name very few).

However - poets, writers in general, other painters and musicians, can also be accredited with immense creative talent due to their own mental disorders, such as Clinical or Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder (though most often comorbid with a mood disorder, e.g. Depression) and Psychoses linked with other disorders (debatably Autism).

What are your thoughts?

Is genius, or rather creative genius, the 'flipside' to 'madness', or is the greatest factor simply being an individual who expresses their inner thoughts and visions of the world, without any diagnosis being a necessary prerequisite?

Personally, i believe both are possible; not every madman or woman, is a genius, and not every genius is a madman or madwoman. However, the way that we individually see and define the world, is pretty different for each person, 'sane' or 'insane' and there will never be enough labels for each of those ways of viewing the world, or for the expressions of what is in our minds. I believe it's perfectly possible, as someone afflicted with mental disorders and very creative simultaneously, that people suffering with such afflictions are in tune with different 'frequencies' of the world at different times, depending on their state, and can therefore access a greater understanding and emit greater, more vivid expression in those states, than perhaps someone 'unafflicted' may be able.

That in no way means that those with no mental health diagnoses or issues, cannot and are not immensely creative. However, it is my belief, that those afflicted with mental disorders, are potentially 'closer' and more open to creative expression (which can also be mathematically!) than those who are not.


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Last edited by Michy_Blackrose; May 23rd 2012 at 11:33 AM.
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Re: Mental Illness and Creativity - May 24th 2012, 03:48 AM

Nah, I don't really think so.

My reasoning: bell curves. (Naturally). Among the mentally ill population you will find people placed as expected on the bell curve with regards to intelligence - that is, the large majority sitting within average then less towards the below average and above average ends - and the same applies for creative aptitude. It appears the same way a bell-curve would appear across a population not affected by mental illness.

Although there are strong links between certain mental illnesses and creativity, this by no means indicates that the mental illness causes the creativity. Remember Stats 101: Correlation does not imply causation. (Although as Randall Munroe, author of XKCD, has said, it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and say "look over there".)

I went to art school, place was brimful or creative geniuses. Of about 90 first year students, maybe 5 suffered from a mental illness. This would fit within how much of a general population suffers from a mental illness of some description. I would like to point out, however, that in my year, there was a ridiculously large amount of females - we had (when we counted them) eight male first year students. But that was just the anomaly of our particular year group, other years have not had that. I mention this because although generally mental illness affects males and females equally, there are certain illnesses that for some reason affect one sex more than the other - for example Borderline Personality Disorder, which affects a large amount more females than males, and they're not really sure why.

Handedness has been linked to creativity, and has some (minor) effects on brain structure that may be the cause of this - for example, Psych 109 taught me that a large majority of left-handed people process auditory signals in a different area of the brain to right-handed people, this was evidenced using fMRI.
And of my year group, just under half were left-handed - much, much higher than you would expect to see in a general population.

So, although certain mental illnesses have been satisfactorily linked with increased creativity levels, I do not feel that being mentally ill makes people more creative - for the most part I think it's far more likely that the people are creative in the first place, and through becoming mentally ill discover a need to express themselves that may not have occurred otherwise.
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Re: Mental Illness and Creativity - May 26th 2012, 02:54 PM

This is a topic that I have always found interesting.
In my opinion, whether those with mental illness are scientifically more likely to be creative or not, I don't know, but I think those with mental illness may seek ways to escape their inner turmoil, so they turn to things such as art, literature and music. And when they repetitively turn to artistic things to escape, they become better at them.
Very interesting thread Michy

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Re: Mental Illness and Creativity - May 28th 2012, 04:46 AM

Honestly, as someone who is mentally ill, and creative (and knowing other mentally-ill people who are creative, or sometimes not so much), my personal reasoning for it is a combination of what I love (being Art) and expressing myself. Others I know, it's the same way for them (Art being heavily influenced by emotion).

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