Is There A Link Between Depression and Creativity?


Ever since the beginning of time and the first recognition of artists, there has always been some type of link made between people who are creative geniuses but have some type of mental disorder. A lot of the greatest creative minds in history and through the times have been individuals who have been labeled as being mad or tormented or depressed.

Van Gogh cut off his ear – do you think a mentally sane person would have done that? But he was one of the greatest painters ever. In fact, name just about any famous writer, poet, musician or artists, and they probably had some type of mood disorder or another.

Hemingway, Tolstoy, Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky – all of them had some type of mood disorder. So this question needs to be accessed, because it has been proven to be true in the cases of many greats – and so we ask, is there some type of link between depression and superior levels of creativity?

Links According to Studies

There was a study performed at the University of Kentucky Medical Center which included the analysis of over 1,000 people over the course of ten years. All of these people were exceptional in their professions, whether it was music, science, business or sports.

The study showed that a pretty large percent of the artists who were a part of the study suffered from some kind of mental illness or another. In fact, the study showed that in between 60 and 80 percent of the people in this group who were writers, painters, musicians or poets, had some type of mental illness.

As far as the other successful professionals were concerned, the ones who were not artistic, only in between 20 and 30 percent of them had mental problems.

In these studies, it was shown that many of these people who were most creative suffered either from depression or bipolar disorder. Therefore, the main question to be asked is whether individuals who are creative have brains that are more susceptible to these types of mental health problems, or do these mental disorders enhance the creative capabilities and talents of these people?

The best place to start is with bipolar disorders. As most people know, there are manic states and depressive states in bipolar disorders.

Furthermore, there are clear links between the manic state and the creative process. The emotions and behaviors that a person goes through when they are experiencing the manic state is very similar to what goes on when a person is being creative.

While the manic parts of the disorder will most likely enhance creativity, the depressive moment can also help to provide the art with more depth.

During the depressive phase of a bipolar disorder, the person will likely stay away from contact with other people and will be deeply involved with introspection and psychological pain.

These periods can often give more meaning to the artistic endeavors once the person goes back into manic mode and begins creating once again.

The solitude that it sometimes takes to be creative is also something that people who are depressed have a lot more of, compared to people who enjoy good mental health.