Is There a Connection Between Creativity and Mental Illness?

July 30, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

I could present you with thousands of research papers on this topic. All of them usually mention artists such as Van Gogh and writers like Sylvia Plath.

Creativity and mental illness connectionAll of them conclude that these people, masters of their respective craft, lived with a mental illness. What they neglect to mention is that Van Gogh cut off his left ear. Sylvia Plath put her head in an oven and that was it. I have never understood the need to use examples like this. Some positivity might be kind of nice, right?

And then we have Kurt Cobain. Apparently, he had bipolar disorder. Another great example. A gun shot.

But that isn't what this post is about: I have just given you examples. The social and academic propaganda I learned in bias art history classes.

Let's move on...

Using Myself as an Example

Is actually really narcissistic and lacking in creativity. But stick with me. I have a point. I think. I write for a living and this means a couple of things: I cannot buy everything I want (like, for example, a new pair of shoes) and I am "creative"! Ah, yes! I spin words like silk and publish poetry! I write books and sometimes people read them!

But sometimes, well, I am not creative at all. Creating words is akin to pulling teeth--not that I have done this--it is difficult. When my mental illness decides to invade my life, I am creative no longer. I am, instead, grasping at straws. And these straws are void of color; they are ugly and black and certainly not creative (that metaphor is sort of creative, right?)

The Impact of Emotions on Creativity

Are people with bipolar disorder more creative?Am I more creative because of my mental illness? Yes and no. And this is often the case for many of us living with a mental illness. Bipolar disorder is connected to creativity more so than any other mental illness. Yes, argue that point, I agree with you. But that seems to be the focus.

I do believe that emotions impact creativity. But this depends on how you define creativity. Creativity can be baking, gardening, writing and trying something new. You don't need to paint a rendition of the damn Mona Lisa to mark your creative territory.

Example A: You are depressed. You might be in bed or you might be in bed with some lined paper, a journal, some sketching supplies. You might create or write something indicative of your mood. And this is creativity and yes in this case it is fueled by your mood.

Example B: You are manic or flying a little high. You decide it's a GREAT IDEA to paint your kitchen walls a different color. You pick nice colors, brighter ones than you would usually, and it turns out beautifully. Is this, partly, a result of your mood? Yes, it probably is. I don't usually have the energy to stand on a ladder.

Creativity Connected to Stability

When I was an addict, depressed or manic, I was unable to write. It terrified me. I have always written. But I was too sick. My mind was all over the place. I wasn't about to put my head into an oven or anything, but I certainly was not painting, playing my guitar or writing poetry.

My life was stagnant. Creativity? I forgot what it was. I just knew something was missing.

Here are my thoughts and please challenge them (constructive arguing is creative): Mental illness is connected to creativity but this does not mean that a person who has a mental illness is creative. Nor does it mean that you cannot be creative if you do not have a mental illness (I'm pretty sure that woman who wrote Harry Potter is fairly stable).

It's a messy topic. It's sort of like an abstract painting: a bunch of colors and brush strokes that really make no sense. Trying to figure out the connection between mental illness and creativity is futile.

Instead, make creativity part of self-care. As mentioned, when you feel down take a pen to paper. If your a little manic go for a run or walk (don't paint your walls please).

In conclusion, the connection between creativity and mental illness exists, but whether or not it is accurate, I don't think we will ever know.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, July 30). Is There a Connection Between Creativity and Mental Illness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Jim Gibson
June, 25 2018 at 5:34 am

I think you have a point. People are generally creative. Mental illness can affect the side of the human concepts.

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