How Creativity and Mental Illness Are Linked

Some scientists have suggested that there is a link between talent and mental illness. An indeed, there were so many brilliant minds in the past to whom can be assigned some type of mental illness. There were many studies that showed that creative people have higher susceptibility to mental illness. But what is the nature of this connection?

How Creativity and Mental Illness Are Linked

One of the first studies on this topic was conducted in 1974, and it included 15 writers from the University of Iowa and 15 regular participants of the same demographic characteristics. After an interview by psychologist, prevalence of mood disorders, bipolar disorders, and alcohol abuse. In another study conducted in 1994, 59 female writers turned out to have higher prevalence of depression, panic attacks, mania, anxiety disorders, and drug abuse.

Divergent Thinking

The reason may be in different approach to solving ordinary, everyday problems and problems in the creativity world. While ordinary people are tending to take actions and apply effort in order to accomplish their goals, because it seems like the only possible way to do it, great artists and brilliant scientists are aware that any action is futile if there is no inspiration. In other words, a painter could struggle to make a wonderful painting, but they know the results of it will not be satisfying without inspiration.

Frustration Causes Mental Illness

The problem seems to be that talented persons, like all the other people, cannot always be inspired and detached from the problems of daily life, so they can completely engage in their creative work. Awareness that they are not able to focus even they are supposed to, creates frustration. If the frustration is overwhelming and repeating, it can lead to different mental disorders, especially depression.

This is only one of the theories, although there are many assumptions not yes supported by evidences. It is only clear that persons who tent to have creative approach, more commonly have mood swings. During their periods of high inspiration, they are capable of producing miraculous results that almost no one else can achieve, but in their times of despair, they show symptoms of mental disorders.

Although many studies have confirmed these findings, causative factors still remain unexplored, and revealing these patterns of behavior would tell us so much about possibilities to explore our own hidden talents.


Nancy C. Andreasen . (2008). The relationship between creativity and mood disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 10(2): 251–255.

Kyaga S, Landén M, Boman M. (2013). Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-year prospective total population study. J Psychiatr Res. 47(1):83-90.

Jamison KR. (1989). Mood disorders and patterns of creativity in British writers and artists. Psychiatry. 52(2):125-34.

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