There is a connection between artists and mental illness. So many of the greatest creative minds of our world have been afflicted with some kind of mental condition. You can see it in their work, through the stories they tell, the songs they sing, and the pictures they paint. Lead singer of the band, Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, committed suicide in 2017, beloved comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, and these are just a couple of our best creative minds who we have found to have suffered from mental illness.
A History of Diagnoses
It goes farther back than this decade, though; Michelangelo, Emily Dickinson, van Gogh, and so many more artists, whose works have prevailed through centuries, have all had their own battles with their demons. It is not a coincidence that creative minds are more susceptible to mental illness. When you have these many people who have struggled, it is a pattern.
Aristotle once said, “No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.” You can just look at an artist’s works to see what kind of things they struggle with. Looking into a musician’s songs can give you a glimpse of how their emotions are afflicting them. But you can also look at those with mental illness, and see where their creativity comes from. Studies have shown this to be true, and have proven that depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder diagnoses are greater among creative people.
One study screened 700,000 Swedish teens for intelligence and found that those who were exceptionally creative were also four times more likely to develop bipolar disorder. This could be due to the fact that when a person is exiting a depressive state, their frontal lobe is experiencing a state of heightened activity, such as when they are focusing on a creative endeavor. It can also just be contributed to the sheer amount of thoughts and ideas that enter a person’s brain when they are in a depressive, bipolar, or anxious state. As many of us who struggle with any of these things know, you are faced with an onslaught of mental images, thoughts, and ideas. We are flooded with these things, filling us to the brim. With so many thoughts being created and ideas coming to creation, the odds of a creative one coming through are heightened. We have less of a mental filter, which allows the truly unique thoughts to come through. Think about it, we are experiencing such heightened emotions in those moments, so it is only natural for us to be able to express those emotions through something creative because of it. We are seeing a form of emotion that not everyone can experience, which makes us want to share it all the more.
Is It in the Genes?
There are some who believe the connection to be a genetic one, with a study carried out in Iceland. This study showed that creative people had a higher polygenic risk score. Polygenes are those that are too small to have any sort of influence over a person on their own, but when working together, they can create variations. This means that they can have a heightened sense of creativity. Of course, this study is not proof nor does it confirm that the connection is a genetic one. Even if it were, it begs the question of does it matter? If there were to be a cure for these mental illnesses if we were able to find a gene in us that could be manipulated to rid ourselves of the condition, would it be worth it to possibly take away a creative spirit?
Creativity and mental illness may not have a tangible, physical connection, but there is no doubt that they are often in existence with each other. So many of our brightest, most creative minds are also plagued with some kind of illness. This adds to the importance of our creations, our art, for our expressions and coping. Art is something that we can pour ourselves into and share our story, our message. It is a platform for us to reach out to people, to connect with others, and to make the world a safer place for us who are struggling. If you are needing an outlet to get your emotions out, turning to a creative pursuit could be what helps you. We, along with millions of others, are ready to hear your story.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528.