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The "Psychic Economics" of Creativity and Depression
Rick Moody is a postmodern novelist, who has published four novels and a number of non-fiction books and short story collection. Best known for his book "The Ice Storm," which was adapted into a hit movie in 1997, his other books include "Demonology," "Purple America," "The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven," and "Garden State." He is a past recipient of the Addison Metcalf Award and a Guggenheim fellowship. His latest novel, "The Four Fingers of Death," was published in July, 2010.
Question: Why is there such a marked connection between creative people and depression?
Rick Moody: I think it’s in "Mourning and Melancholia" that Freud said something about melancholics having a unique perspective on civilization, but at what cost? You know? And that’s sort of my experience too... that the unhappier parts of my career enabled me to say the more trenchant things perhaps, but I’m not satisfied with the sort of psychic economics of that because if I’m not happy enough to finish the book or too miserable to be able to want to do my job, it doesn’t matter what truths I’m capable of scaring up in my brain at that time.
I don’t know why it is exactly that creativity and depression go hand in hand, but I’m sort of happy that they do insofar that there has to be someone who is able to stand enough outside of civilization to comment on it. Maybe it’s just a kind of exile. You know, when Joyce says, “Silence, exile and cunning are the ways to become great artists,” in "Portrait of the Artist as the Young Man"... I take the exile part to heart. You need to be able to sit outside a little bit, to look clearly at what’s happening, but that also presupposes that you’re not in society and thus not part of its happy throngs.
Question: Have anti-depressant medications hurt our culture's creativity?
Rick Moody: I was talking to Mary Gaitskill about this, the novelist Mary Gaitskill, and we were particularly discussing the suppression of libido in contemporary anti-depressant medication. And her theory was that, you had to be sad a little bit in order to have great sex. So the two go hand in hand. As you suppress the sadness, you also suppress the sexual impulse in some way and you sort of go contentedly along in life incapable of the most passionate moments, you know? And it’s possible that something similar happens to art. If you sort of have everybody operating at this contented mean, you don’t enable the sorts of outrage or the kinds of passionate enthusiasm that make important art happen.
I mean I suspect, I’ve never been on Prozac or any of those kinds of medications, but I suspect that people who are still enjoy great art and are perfectly capable of liking a great novel no matter how challenging it is, you know? And they would say it’s not... that their medication is not interruptive of that experience. But then how does it work for the people who make it, you know?
David Wallace is perhaps an example. You know, I think his depression enabled him to be the great artist that he was. It also was perhaps the thing that killed him, you know? But it’s also true that he was unable to finish a novel after "Infinite Jest," and he was on medication for awhile. So who knows, maybe there is some connection there.
Recorded July 28, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman
"The unhappier parts of my career enabled me to say the more trenchant things," says the novelist. But "if I’m not happy enough to finish the book ... it doesn’t matter what truths I’m capable of scaring up."
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".