Mental Health and Creativity

Mental health and creativity are two separate and diverse topics, but recent studies have revealed some fascinating connections between them.  Scientists have found a correlation between people living with a mental illness and their creative occupations, with evidence, and a number of cases, supporting the idea that mental illness aids creativity.


No one can deny the fact that a number of well-cited and popular people, especially in the arts, have been affected with some form of mental illness. People such as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Robert Schuman, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh are some well-known, creative individuals that are reported to have struggled with mental health issues during their lives. 


Scientists in Iceland have published a large study and their findings show that certain genetic factors, which substantially increase the chances of Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are more frequent in people with creative professions. Dancers, writers, musicians and painters were on average 25% more likely to carry these gene factors, while professions termed as less creative, such as salespeople, manual laborers and farmers, were less likely to carry them.

The scientists drew on medical and genetic information from 86,000 local residents to find a correlation between the genetic variants. Among the 86,000 people, 35,000 were deemed to be more creative than their counterparts and thus it was found that 25% of this creative pool were carrying the mental disorder variants. The scientists then concluded that there is a stronger association between people affected by mental health issues and having a higher creativity level. Stefansson (a scientist from the Icelandic research team) stated that, people with mental issues are more likely to reflect a capacity to see the world in an original and novel way and to see the world or experience things that others cannot. 

Mood, Creativity and Mental Illness:

Many researchers believe that people are more likely to be more creative, or become more creative, when they are in a positive mood, and therefore mental issues such as stress, schizophrenia and other conditions are actually detrimental to creativity levels. This seems like a strong position to take, yet it is also a baseless myth; most people who have worked in the fields of art have faced financial issues, psychological trauma, depression, substance abuse, addictions, persecution to name a few, but when they present their artwork to the world they are made a celebrity. 

Facts about Mental Health and Creativity:

Creative art is used by many professionals and therapists to treat people who are suffering or recovering from addiction or mental health problems, while it is also used as a medium to cure stress and anxiety. So, in this way, those who are not convinced that mental health aids creativity, may be tempted to shift their opinion from a NO to a YES.

Creativity may also be connected with the brain’s structure and chemistry. Usually when you pass a road or a garden you may not feel anything extraordinary, however if a writer, painter, poet or philosopher came across the same road or garden they may surely receive an external stimulus, and thus begin to process the phenomenon differently to their non-creative kin. This is due to their attempts to see everything from a different point of view. Several studies show that creative minded people approach situations with their perception set to a wide variety of angles. By creating spaces in the original perspective, they are able to elevate their thinking and build their own inventive process.