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Creativity and mental illness

 
 
JPB
 
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 09:30 am
Quote:
The research of Verhaeghen and colleagues shows when people are in a reflective mode, they may become more creative, depressed, or both. Previous research shows that when people are in a ruminating mode, they are more likely to be depressed, he said.

"If you think about stuff in your life and you start thinking about it again, and again, and again, and you kind of spiral away in this continuous rumination about what's happening to you and to the world -- people who do that are at risk for depression," he said.

Verhaeghen, who is also a novelist and describes himself as a "somewhat mood disordered person," had a particular interest in the connection between creativity and this ruminating state of mind.

"One of the things I do is think about something over and over and over again, and that's when I start writing," he said.

Sensitivity to one's surroundings is also associated with both creativity and depression, according to some experts.

Creative people in the arts must develop a deep sensitivity to their surroundings -- colors, sounds, and emotions, says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Such hypersensitivity can lead people to worry about things that other people don't worry about as much, he said, and can lead to depression. <more> http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/10/07/creativity.depression/index.html



I find this interesting. Mr B and daughter K are both highly creative individuals and both struggle with episodes of depression, particularly seasonal depression. The article discusses the emotional downside of ruminations and hypersensitivities to one's environment. K ruminates with the best of them and Mr B is highly sensitive to the environment (grocery stores send him into sensory overload, for instance).

The correlation between creativity and depression/bi-polar disorder has been linked in over 20 studies so this isn't a ground-breaking discovery but I find it interesting since it hits so close to home.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 16 • Views: 7,730 • Replies: 61
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Gargamel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:11 am
@JPB,
What's up?!

While it may not be a groundbreaking discovery, I've never considered reflecting, or sensitivity to one's environment as actually contributing to depression, rather than as an effect. But it makes sense.

Have you read this book by Kay Jamison? http://www.amazon.com/Unquiet-Mind-Memoir-Moods-Madness/dp/0679763309/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223395575&sr=1-1

If you like memoir, it's basically her personal account not only of the horrors of severe BPD, but of its relationship with creativity and art.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:19 am
@Gargamel,
Hey, G!

No, I've never heard of it. Sounds interesting.

From the Editorial Reviews -
Quote:
This is one of the best scientific autobiographies ever written, a combination of clarity, truth, and insight into human character. "We are all, as Byron put it, differently organized," Jamison writes. "We each move within the restraints of our temperament and live up only partially to its possibilities." Jamison's ability to live fully within her limitations is an inspiration to her fellow mortals, whatever our particular burdens may be. --Mary Ellen Curtin
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:20 am
I tend to agree with Gargamel about it being an effect of depression.

But I've been treating my depression for so long and I think I'm still pretty creative...... so, I guess I just don't know.....

I do know that when I'm in a depressed state that I shut down -- quit talking and get very still so I do notice a lot more and since photography is all about noticing things I'm better at it when I'm depressed.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:29 am
@boomerang,
K has gotten to the shut-down point as well. Her art and music are generally her coping mechanism or physical outlet to her emotions - until a certain point that she withdraws from them rather than look to them.
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:40 am
@JPB,
In extreme cases, Schumann, Van Gogh, and Tchaikovsky are perfect examples. I don't have clinical depression, but I have "down" moments, especially when my son is not doing well, and I write poetry.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:48 am
@Letty,
Good morning, Miss Letty!

As someone who is highly analytical and left to enjoy the creative outlets of others, I enjoy your poetry, boomer's photography, G's writing (when he's given us a good glimpse), K's music and art, Mr B's efforts, along with those of other creative people I know.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 10:58 am
@JPB,
Good topic. I have always (for most of my adult life) thought that people with creative minds were also very intelligent. That there is a relationship between creativity and mental illness seems to be a given in so many different studies of bipolar patients. Our younger son is bipolar, and we have been involved with so many different mental health issues since his mid-twenties. Many of the parents who we have met during the course of almost 20-years have been those in the professions and most of their children were well educated. Our son earned his psychology degree cum laude. He plays the piano, marimba, clarinet, and is now learning to play guitar. Our son now lives at home.

Look forward to reading more about this topic.
Cliff Hanger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:01 am
@JPB,
Oh, I don't know-- I don't think it's so productive reading about extreme cases of mental illness, such as the article you've posted or reading Kay Jamieson's book.

I think it's more important to strive for as much balance as possible without squleching the creativity. In other words-- the basics--do they excersise? do they have a good diet? have you sought any kind of counseling for them?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:03 am
@Cliff Hanger,
As parents, we have done "those things" and much, much, more.
Cliff Hanger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:04 am
@cicerone imposter,
The good news about BiPolar is it's treatable. Did your son's symptoms start in his mid 20's or earlier?
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:15 am
@Cliff Hanger,
Depression and anxiety are also "treatable". The point here is the correlation between creativity and depression, which doesn't attempt to show a cause-and-effect relationship but one of temperament and coping skills which, in many cases, can become livelihoods and "talents" for those who struggle with depression.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:15 am
@Cliff Hanger,
No. We didn't understand anything about mental illness in his mid-twenties, but he did things that didn't make any sense back then. His actions became worse in the thirties, and it got to the point when I had to call the police to take him to the hospital. They held him for less than 24-hours, and told us to come and pick him up, because he was not a danger to others or himself. We tried to find an institution to take him, but could find nothing for the longest time. He once spent about three weeks in a mental hospital in Fremont (*where we once lived in the sixties). When he acted up again, we took him to another hospital where my wife once worked. We sat in the waiting room for over three hours. As luck would have it, a nurse working at the hospital recognized my wife, and she promised to get him admitted to their psych ward. They held him for two weeks, and another week a few months later. With meds and follow ups with psychiatrists, he has now stabilized for the past two years, but my wife continues to remind him about taking his meds. We also applied for public housing for him, but the waiting list is over two years.

Cliff Hanger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:28 am
@JPB,
But in the instance of these being treatable the question is how much of the creativity will the treatment take away.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:38 am
@Cliff Hanger,
I think it would depend somewhat on the treatment and the depth of the depression. Pharmaceuticals can certainly affect any number of personal expressions. Other treatment avenues would have different effects. There are many variables, including time of year for those of us who live in the north.
0 Replies
 
Cliff Hanger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:38 am
@cicerone imposter,
I know, I know, I'm reducing it to a few practical items that make it sound as if he'll be fine if he does them.

I come from a long-line of depressives and Bi Polars-- where they self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.

The trouble with being on medication, is they miss the ups and downs and everything becomes even.

Cliff Hanger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:41 am
@JPB,
The people I know with the creative temperments who have been able to make a living are the ones who have a huge support network.

There are lots of people behind the success of the creative person.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 11:54 am
@Cliff Hanger,
Our son also drinks beer by the case. He always has about four cases of beer in his room. I will allow him to drink, but not if it disturbs anyone. If he gets caught with DUI, he losses his car, and he knows it.
0 Replies
 
SYNRON
 
  -4  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 12:30 pm
@cicerone imposter,
There is a strong hereditary component in Bi Polar disease!
0 Replies
 
SYNRON
 
  -3  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 12:37 pm
@Cliff Hanger,
Do some research on the connection between depression and a strong religious faith. In our secular world, materialism reigns and without religious faith we face what Woody Allen calls "The Abyss." That alone is a major source of depression.
 

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