Bipolar Disorder and Creativity seem to be linked.
What do Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, John Keats, Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Kurt Cobain have in common?
Aside from their prodigious and creative output in literature, music and art, all of them had mood disorders or manic depression.
Since the 1970s, several studies have shown a correlation between creative output in writers, musicians and artists and manic depression.In one study, 80% or writers were found to have experienced at least one episode of major depression, hypomania, or mania.
In another study manic-depressives were shown to have a greater percentage of creativity than the normal population.
The relationship between creativity and mood disorder has been established in a recent study done by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
For the first time, they have shown that children who either have or are at high risk for bipolar disorder score higher on the creativity index than normal, healthy children.
Comparing the scores of creativity tests performed by healthy children and children of bipolar parents, researchers found that the latter group, including those not exhibiting symptoms of manic depression, scored higher on these tests than the first group.
What accounts for the link between bipolar disorder and creativity?
Scientists have suggested several reasons that could account for the direct link between mood disorders and originality.
They feel that mania causes imaginative activity because the energy of manic depression drives the victims to look for solutions--which often become creative expressions. Others suggest that the sustained energy of the hypomanic state leads to prodigious and original output.
Researchers also point out that creativity and bipolar symptoms could be transmitted through genes.Studies are just beginning to investigate this link.
In fact, new research suggests that there is genetic evidence linking a particular brain protein called neureguilin 1 with a higher risk of schizophrenia and creativity.
Neuregulin 1 is involved in brain development in the womb. Researchers have discovered that a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein is associated with a higher risk for the development of schizophrenia.
They also found that the more copies of the mutation in people, the higher their creativity scores. Szaboics Keri at Semmelweiss University in Hungary suggests that the mutation might act as a damper on the brain's prefrontal cortex, allowing emotions and moods to emerge as creativity or delusions. (Young, Emma. "Picking Our Brains: Can Mental Illness Make You Creative?" New Scientist Magazine. Issue 2754. p.31)
Abraham Lincoln, suffered from severe clinical depression and suicidal thoughts.
Vincent Van Gogh was well known for his irascible temperament and depression. He was treated at an asylum before he committed suicide.
Ludwig Van Beethoven was documented as having suffered from manic depression.
John Keats was tormented by depression and mental illness.
Ernest Hemingway experienced bouts of depression before committing suicide.
Sylvia Plath had a lifelong struggle with depression. She also committed suicide.
Winston Churchill, suffered from manic depression--even though his speeches were known for their measured and inspirational force during the war.