Two years ago I wrote a blog called He’s Nuts! No, He’s A Genius! about how creative minds mimic certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia. I think you might be interested to know that more research has been forthcoming on this tantalising topic. Specifically, a new large scale study has revealed a definite link between creativity and mental illness. Medical News Today puts it like this.
“Individuals who work in creative fields are diagnosed and treated with a mental illness more frequently than the general public, showing an important link between writing and schizophrenia… Analysis provided evidence for the researchers’ prior report, that bipolar disorder is more common in all individuals with artistic or scientific jobs, including researchers, dancers, photographers, and authors. The majority of the other psychiatric diseases, such as depression, anxiety syndrome, schizophrenia, and substance abuse, were more prevalent among authors in particular. They also had a 50% higher chance of committing suicide compared to the general public.”
This story originated in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The research paper was entitled, ‘Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-Year prospective total population study’. An abstract can be found and read here.
All this reminds me of three other concepts in which heightened mental power and mental health may meet.
Hypomania -Literally meaning ‘below mania’ this is the mildly elated state between lifeless apathy and crippling anxiety. People in this state are perceived as being energetic, euphoric, overflowing with new ideas, and sometimes highly confident. They might also seem immune to fear and doubt and have little social inhibition, talking to strangers easily, offer solutions to problems, and find pleasure in small activities.
Eustress – Literally Meaning ‘good stress’ this is a positive type of pressure in which we are finely balanced between distress of low arousal (‘boreout’) and the distress of too many demands (‘burnout’). Our ability to find this balance depends on whether we look at stressors as threats or challenges. When facing a challenge in the future, it can easily turn into anticipatory anxiety.
Hyperfocus – This not only means intense concentration on a narrow field of focus (somewhat similar to optimal experience or ‘flow’). It may also be related to a clinical condition in which a person finds it difficult to switch between tasks and activities.
So then, is he nuts or is he a genius? Both it seems, depending on the balance, the mood, the context. And maybe at the same time too.