Swedish researchers have just completed the most comprehensive study ever of mental illness in the lives of creative individuals. Using accountants as a control group, the researchers “gathered census data representing almost 1.2 million patients with schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa and suicide. Then they looked at their employment in the the arts and sciences: ‘creative’ occupations.” Bipolar disorder was found to occur more often in individuals who had taken a career in creative fields.
What’s the Big Idea?
Among all the artistic disciplines, writers were overrepresented among people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse problems. “Authors were also almost twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.” The implications of the research, however, are not that creative individuals are doomed to torment. Rather, scientists say that artistic production can be used as therapy in helping individuals to cope with psychological conditions. “Such thinking can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and, to some extent, be construed as empowering to patients.”