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Bipolar and Creativity

  

87 members have voted

  1. 1. Has bipolar disorder influenced your creative drive in a significant way?

    • Yes, bipolar I
      33
    • Yes, bipolar II
      28
    • Yes, schizoaffective (bipolar type)
      2
    • Kinda
      14
    • No
      10


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For the third time, BAWS does not carry much credibility.

I apologise for not reading your comment on BAWS before I posted.

What I'm uncertain of is the level of cumulative evidence needed before you can trust scientists' conclusions. For example not every test can be perfectly reflective of a trait as dynamic as creativity. There are plenty tests out there such as the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire, Adjective Check List Creative Personality Scale, Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness Personality Inventory (NEO) and the Figural and Verbal Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to name just a few. You trust the questionably robust psychological tests which box you as ‘mentally ill’ so why not trust other tests under a similar psychological paradigm?

Also the moodiness of artists has been qualified. Personality/temperament may be measured by NEO (Srivastave and Ketter 2010) and I'm sure there a more tests out there. There are examples too numerous in history to list - as you mentioned - not just the well-known ones such as V.G. (see Goethe case study below). Perhaps giving them the credence they merit is warrented. It’s the abundance of studies and case studies with similar conclusions which are persuasive.

Scientifically the link is actually accepted. The current research accepts the legitimacy of the existence of a link and focuses on why it exists and what (neural pathways, etc.) underlie the relationship (eg: Srivastave and Ketter 2010). ‘Clinical implications of the high rates of creativity within bipolar disorder (BD) have not been explored.’ (Murray Johnson 2010). This refers to the relative novelty of such studies.

I having checked PubMed but will take your word for the scarcity of studies on it. A search on Scopus database reveals 153 studies for the combined search terms “bipolar” and “creativity”. The break-down is as follows:

1960s - 1

1970s - 10

1980s - 17

1990s - 31

2000s - 94

Of course not every study is entirely relevant and this is just one database - and not even the best one for psychological studies (I just happen to use this one frequently for my studies). However the number of studies is basically exponentially increasing every decade. I’m glad that the scientific community has acknowledged the link between creativity and mental illness (e.g. forms of BP). From a personal perspective I can easily relate to the link, both in myself and in close friends and family members. However lets stick to the evidence…

Literature reviews:

- ‘extensive literature supports connections between bipolar disorder and creativity’ (Srivastave and Ketter 2010)

- 'Bipolar disorder is associated with the positive psychological traits of spirituality, empathy, creativity, realism, and resilience.’ [Literature review of 81 papers] – (Galvez et al. In press)

An empirical study by Nelson (2010)

- ‘A total of 100 artists from a range of disciplines completed the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire and measures of "positive" schizotypy, affective disturbance, mental boundaries, and normal personality. The sample of artists was found to be elevated on "positive" schizotypy, unipolar affective disturbance, thin boundaries, and the personality dimensions of Openness to Experience and Neuroticism, compared with norm data. Schizotypy was found to be the strongest predictor of a range of creative experience scales (Distinct Experience, Anxiety, Absorption, Power/Pleasure), suggesting a strong overlap of schizotypal and creative experience.’

‘Anecdotes’ or CASE STUDIES:

- ‘In Goethe's life poetic incubation, illumination and elaboration seemed to be associated with psychic labilisation and dysthymia, sometimes with depressive episodes in a clinical sense. Thus, creative work was on the one hand triggered by depressive and dysthymic moods and served on the other hand to cope with depressive moods as well as with suicidal tendencies. In line with modern empirical results Goethe's scientific and social activities and achievements were associated with personal well-being, but also with lack of poetic inspiration.’ (Holm-Hadulla et al. In press)

‘Despite its sceptics, it is now generally accepted that the link is empirically grounded.’ (Glazer 2009).

The evidence is compelling. There is plenty more of it - I have just brushed the surface. Perhaps all that your disbelief reflects is an inability to be compelled. BTW my background in psychology is at University level (Stage III) and I am a scientist. I am also very creative ;P. I can give you the full refs if you are interested.

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For the third time, BAWS does not carry much credibility.

I apologise for not reading your comment on BAWS before I posted.

What I'm uncertain of is the level of cumulative evidence needed before you can trust scientists' conclusions. For example not every test can be perfectly reflective of a trait as dynamic as creativity. There are plenty tests out there such as the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire, Adjective Check List Creative Personality Scale, Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness Personality Inventory (NEO) and the Figural and Verbal Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to name just a few. You trust the questionably robust psychological tests which box you as ‘mentally ill’ so why not trust other tests under a similar psychological paradigm?

Also the moodiness of artists has been qualified. Personality/temperament may be measured by NEO (Srivastave and Ketter 2010) and I'm sure there a more tests out there. There are examples too numerous in history to list - as you mentioned - not just the well-known ones such as V.G. (see Goethe case study below). Perhaps giving them the credence they merit is warrented. It’s the abundance of studies and case studies with similar conclusions which are persuasive.

Scientifically the link is actually accepted. The current research accepts the legitimacy of the existence of a link and focuses on why it exists and what (neural pathways, etc.) underlie the relationship (eg: Srivastave and Ketter 2010). ‘Clinical implications of the high rates of creativity within bipolar disorder (BD) have not been explored.’ (Murray Johnson 2010). This refers to the relative novelty of such studies.

I having checked PubMed but will take your word for the scarcity of studies on it. A search on Scopus database reveals 153 studies for the combined search terms “bipolar” and “creativity”. The break-down is as follows:

1960s - 1

1970s - 10

1980s - 17

1990s - 31

2000s - 94

Of course not every study is entirely relevant and this is just one database - and not even the best one for psychological studies (I just happen to use this one frequently for my studies). However the number of studies is basically exponentially increasing every decade. I’m glad that the scientific community has acknowledged the link between creativity and mental illness (e.g. forms of BP). From a personal perspective I can easily relate to the link, both in myself and in close friends and family members. However lets stick to the evidence…

Literature reviews:

- ‘extensive literature supports connections between bipolar disorder and creativity’ (Srivastave and Ketter 2010)

- 'Bipolar disorder is associated with the positive psychological traits of spirituality, empathy, creativity, realism, and resilience.’ [Literature review of 81 papers] – (Galvez et al. In press)

An empirical study by Nelson (2010)

- ‘A total of 100 artists from a range of disciplines completed the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire and measures of "positive" schizotypy, affective disturbance, mental boundaries, and normal personality. The sample of artists was found to be elevated on "positive" schizotypy, unipolar affective disturbance, thin boundaries, and the personality dimensions of Openness to Experience and Neuroticism, compared with norm data. Schizotypy was found to be the strongest predictor of a range of creative experience scales (Distinct Experience, Anxiety, Absorption, Power/Pleasure), suggesting a strong overlap of schizotypal and creative experience.’

‘Anecdotes’ or CASE STUDIES:

- ‘In Goethe's life poetic incubation, illumination and elaboration seemed to be associated with psychic labilisation and dysthymia, sometimes with depressive episodes in a clinical sense. Thus, creative work was on the one hand triggered by depressive and dysthymic moods and served on the other hand to cope with depressive moods as well as with suicidal tendencies. In line with modern empirical results Goethe's scientific and social activities and achievements were associated with personal well-being, but also with lack of poetic inspiration.’ (Holm-Hadulla et al. In press)

‘Despite its sceptics, it is now generally accepted that the link is empirically grounded.’ (Glazer 2009).

The evidence is compelling. There is plenty more of it - I have just brushed the surface. Perhaps all that your disbelief reflects is an inability to be compelled. BTW my background in psychology is at University level (Stage III) and I am a scientist. I am also very creative ;P. I can give you the full refs if you are interested.

Thank you, very interesting :)

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I have bipolar 2 and have a great passion for art. When I'm manic it takes over my life. I spend most of the manic creating some great masterpiece and have done some amazing work. But in the "real" world of medication I still have creativity, admittily not as much as I would like at times but my doctors are aware of how art is important in my world.

This started for me when I was a teenager and I started having bipolar symptoms that were not diagnosed for a few years. I had always been creative and art was my outlet and I do think bipolar is apart of that.

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yellowbutterflies:

Does any of the research you've found suggest a causal relationship between any mental illness and creativity? There seems to be a demonstrated correlation between the two, but nothing saying that the one causes the other. Obviously one can be creative without suffering MI, and one can suffer from MI without being creative. There doesn't seem to be anything ruling out, say, a difference in upbringing, life experience, or some other trait the researchers didn't control for. It's difficult to draw any firm conclusions based only on a correlation.

I'd also like the full refs, to the PubMed entry if possible. It's not easy to judge what you're saying without that. See above about controls, for instance.

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Hi yellowbutterflies. You write well and put together a good case. Some thoughts are below.

What I'm uncertain of is the level of cumulative evidence needed before you can trust scientists' conclusions. For example not every test can be perfectly reflective of a trait as dynamic as creativity.

Creativity is defined as the ability to create something novel, something new. The patent office has a very robust database of creative people. This seems a fairly objective measure. Are their studies on the incidence of bipolar disorder? I'd find something like that a little less subjective than the studies I've read.

There are plenty tests out there such as the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire, Adjective Check List Creative Personality Scale, Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness Personality Inventory (NEO) and the Figural and Verbal Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to name just a few. You trust the questionably robust psychological tests which box you as ‘mentally ill’ so why not trust other tests under a similar psychological paradigm?

These tests are subjective. Note, though, the Expression of Creativity Questionnaire should rule in patent holders. The others, idk, I'm not sure they matter. They are measuring personality type, not so much MI.

I actually tend to question the more subjective tests for MI. For example, I hold no faith in the ones you find online. I believe I have an MI because of my lived experience, not because I've been given a battery of tests or that anyone else has been tested.

A different standard is used for concluding one thing is present as opposed to when concluding that two things are present and there is a causitive link between the two different things.

Also the moodiness of artists has been qualified. Personality/temperament may be measured by NEO (Srivastave and Ketter 2010) and I'm sure there a more tests out there.

Moodiness does not mean one is mentally ill.

There are examples too numerous in history to list - as you mentioned - not just the well-known ones such as V.G. (see Goethe case study below). Perhaps giving them the credence they merit is warrented. It’s the abundance of studies and case studies with similar conclusions which are persuasive.

And there are many millions more who relax after work sketching, playing an instrument, writing fan fiction, creating the next engineering patent, etc who are not factored in studies focused on a the relatively few people who have achieved fame. Ten thousand creative people case reports is still a drop in the bucket to the world population of creative people.

Scientifically the link is actually accepted.

Could you post a study that demonstrates how this link is derived? The studies I’ve seen speak mostly to cyclothymic personality type or temperament being associated with creativity and associated with bipolar disorder. That generally is all the conclusions state. (My research is limited, so please refute as appropriate.) The reasoning one seems left to draw if so inclined is that since cyclothymia is associated with creativity, and since bipolar people tend to have a greater incidence of cyclothymic temperament, those with bipolar disorder, therefore, are more creative. This is a fallacious logic. There isn't a bipolar link. It's limited to personality type.

I have not seen anyone try to measure the sujectivity of "more creative," unless you want to count the BAWS which is all in the eye of the rater. I don't think that's what you are arguing, but I'm not totally certain.

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I didn't vote because I'm Bipolar NOS, so I didn't fit anywhere. My answer would be yes, but in a very negative way. I was a very creative child - although I was already symptomatic then - and even as an adolescent. I was a talented writer and had some artistic ability also. Since I've been an adult, progressively less so - I have half a manuscript sitting around I tried to write three years ago and I just couldn't make it go anywhere. What I really feel is that this disease and maybe also the meds to treat it have turned my brain to mush. Whatever creativity I had went to oatmeal with the rest of my it. I can remember in college being up late, hypomanic as anything, writing papers which really were damn good (I've read them since), but probably weren't as good as I thought at the time. For a relatively short time I did get that boost of creativity, but ending up the way I am now feels like a really high price to pay. I'm lucky if I can read a book, much less write one. Maybe this was because I didn't have a correct dx and correct meds until I was 35, or maybe this is just the natural history of the disease no matter what you do. All I know is I would really like to have some of my former abilities back.

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I certainly feel that being bipolar has a profound effect on my creativity

:)

I am a very creative individual who is passionate about my photography. As is the case with many notable creatives I have been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar, a mental health condition which means my life has been something of a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. It has been during the most manic phases of my illness that I have been at my most creative. For many years I managed to fly under the radar and only my family and closest friends had any inkling of my illness but as is often the case eventually as a consequence of my actions my antics eventually caught up with me. Full of grandiose ideas and thoughts of being the next greatest photographer since David Bailey in the past my condition has seen me go on reckless spending sprees and hopping on planes to exotic destinations all over the world in pursuit of my dream.

Who knows I might still achieve it yet !

Edited by LunaRufina
-Luna :)

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yellowbutterflies:

Does any of the research you've found suggest a causal relationship between any mental illness and creativity? There seems to be a demonstrated correlation between the two, but nothing saying that the one causes the other. Obviously one can be creative without suffering MI, and one can suffer from MI without being creative. There doesn't seem to be anything ruling out, say, a difference in upbringing, life experience, or some other trait the researchers didn't control for. It's difficult to draw any firm conclusions based only on a correlation.

I'd also like the full refs, to the PubMed entry if possible. It's not easy to judge what you're saying without that. See above about controls, for instance.

Which papers in particular? I don't know which PubMed entry you refer to - I used Scopus as I said. I don't have time to go through the whole lot, I've been real busy with a exams and a new job, hence the late reply.

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Hi yellowbutterflies. You write well and put together a good case. Some thoughts are below.

What I'm uncertain of is the level of cumulative evidence needed before you can trust scientists' conclusions. For example not every test can be perfectly reflective of a trait as dynamic as creativity.

Creativity is defined as the ability to create something novel, something new. The patent office has a very robust database of creative people. This seems a fairly objective measure. Are their studies on the incidence of bipolar disorder? I'd find something like that a little less subjective than the studies I've read.

There are plenty tests out there such as the Experience of Creativity Questionnaire, Adjective Check List Creative Personality Scale, Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness Personality Inventory (NEO) and the Figural and Verbal Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to name just a few. You trust the questionably robust psychological tests which box you as ‘mentally ill’ so why not trust other tests under a similar psychological paradigm?

These tests are subjective. Note, though, the Expression of Creativity Questionnaire should rule in patent holders. The others, idk, I'm not sure they matter. They are measuring personality type, not so much MI.

I actually tend to question the more subjective tests for MI. For example, I hold no faith in the ones you find online. I believe I have an MI because of my lived experience, not because I've been given a battery of tests or that anyone else has been tested.

A different standard is used for concluding one thing is present as opposed to when concluding that two things are present and there is a causitive link between the two different things.

Also the moodiness of artists has been qualified. Personality/temperament may be measured by NEO (Srivastave and Ketter 2010) and I'm sure there a more tests out there.

Moodiness does not mean one is mentally ill.

There are examples too numerous in history to list - as you mentioned - not just the well-known ones such as V.G. (see Goethe case study below). Perhaps giving them the credence they merit is warrented. It’s the abundance of studies and case studies with similar conclusions which are persuasive.

And there are many millions more who relax after work sketching, playing an instrument, writing fan fiction, creating the next engineering patent, etc who are not factored in studies focused on a the relatively few people who have achieved fame. Ten thousand creative people case reports is still a drop in the bucket to the world population of creative people.

Scientifically the link is actually accepted.

Could you post a study that demonstrates how this link is derived? The studies I’ve seen speak mostly to cyclothymic personality type or temperament being associated with creativity and associated with bipolar disorder. That generally is all the conclusions state. (My research is limited, so please refute as appropriate.) The reasoning one seems left to draw if so inclined is that since cyclothymia is associated with creativity, and since bipolar people tend to have a greater incidence of cyclothymic temperament, those with bipolar disorder, therefore, are more creative. This is a fallacious logic. There isn't a bipolar link. It's limited to personality type.

I have not seen anyone try to measure the sujectivity of "more creative," unless you want to count the BAWS which is all in the eye of the rater. I don't think that's what you are arguing, but I'm not totally certain.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, I have been busy with uni exams and a new job so I've been flat out and not able to reply.

I still hold that bipolar and creativity are linked. While the studies aren't as robust as we would like them to be it is hard to imagine that the accumulated evidence holds no significance. It is a difficult link to establish - the tests are constructed under paradigms which are uncertain in that the very causes of mental illness are still poorly understood. Therefore it is difficult to establish the link between mental illness and creativity.

I believe the arguments these neuro-psychologists present are to be taken seriously. An interesting question is are there any papers which refute the theory that you know of?

Another point to make is the level of scientific funding which goes into this area of research is less than that which goes into, say, the effect of medication on bipolar disorder. In this latter case the outcomes are relapse rates - it is much harder to measure outcomes of creativity, which are subjective. For example what is a creative painting and what is not? What is a creative piece of writing to one person may be rubbish to another. Hence the difficulties of measuring creativity hinder progress in testing this hypothesis.

Cheers,

YB

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Which papers in particular? I don't know which PubMed entry you refer to - I used Scopus as I said. I don't have time to go through the whole lot, I've been real busy with a exams and a new job, hence the late reply.

If Scopus gives you a full citation, you can just plug it into the Pubmed search engine to get the Pubmed record. Or you can just copy-paste it here and interested readers can search in whatever database they prefer. I was mainly concerned that your first post didn't have any full citations or links to citations, which makes it difficult for readers to find the studies you're using. It's also very odd, seeing as you had access to the author, the publication date, and the text of the articles you used while you were writing the post.

Your reply to Stacia's post admits that not only is the link between creativity and MI extremely flimsy, but that no objective test of creativity has been created so far. Your last paragraph raises questions about whether it's even possible to objectively measure creativity. I have to wonder now if the hypothesis is testable.

The only empirical study you cited directly was Nelson's survey, which measures personality traits and not mental illness. Further, he only selected artists, which heavily biases his sample. In the other studies, you only quote single sentences from papers that claim that there's an accepted link without substantiating it. (Do you see why the lack of citations is problematic?) Glazer even refers to skeptics in the same sentence that he claims empirical grounding for the MI-creativity link. Who are these skeptics? And if there are enough of them that Glazer has to take them seriously, how is the link "generally accepted?"

It is a difficult link to establish - the tests are constructed under paradigms which are uncertain in that the very causes of mental illness are still poorly understood. Therefore it is difficult to establish the link between mental illness and creativity.

Knowing the cause of MI may be necessary to establish a causal link, but it's not necessary to establish a correlation. A study of diagnosed mentally ill people using an objective and reliable test of creativity may be enough to establish a link between the two. I have not seen any such studies.

An interesting question is are there any papers which refute the theory that you know of?

One need not explicitly refute a theory that doesn't hold water on its own.

Edited by Aurochs

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It would be interesting to see how ADHD compares to bipolar on stuff like this. I know the ADHD ability to freely associate, "think outside the box," and make novel connections greatly facilitates creativity in those who already have a creative drive.

It just takes us a hell of a lot longer to get anything done unless a burst of hyperfocus comes through.

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Yellowbutterflies, I'm with Aurochs. If you could just post the links to the studies you're talking about, that would be great. As it is, you haven't even given us anywhere near enough information to look them up ourselves, which is kind of the point of citations, isn't it?

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I think BP has made me less creative. Because of it, I spend most of my life depressed. When depressed, one is generally not creative. I think if I had no MI I would be confident and motivated to write more, draw more, play more music. Because of this disease I am too lethargic (mentally and physically) to really do anything creative at all. When hypo I don't have the patience for anything reflective or artistic.

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Does being a pretentious art snob count as creative? No? Then I am not creative.

I write a lot. A lot. And I have been published. But my one publication was during the one of the times I was doing *extremely* well, asymptomatic for the first time in years. Currently, I can't organize my thoughts: I can write great pages or paragraphs, but cannot put them together in a cohesive way.

But I received a great deal of training in writing. I assume I pursued training because I was inclined to write. But I don't really think of it as creative drive.

Of course, when I am hypo-manic, I *feel* more creative, and produce more, but it mostly is horrible, or at least in need of serious editing.

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I am far more creative, in both a good and bad way. The periods of depression leave me utterly without creative drive. The ADHD allows me to think outside the box (not always so good, ALWAYS) the wild mania allows creative juices to flow.

Stability allows me to combine these into a cohesive whole and do some neat stuff.

I like poetry, it's a nice sized creative form.

I'd like to write a book but I have no time. I have lots of half finished books in need of serious editing and finishing.

Anna

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I want to say I've been more creative since BP set in, but it hasn't resulted in any kind of creative output. I look at stuff differently, and I'll think "that'll make a good picture" or "that's an awesome idea for a short story", but it never results in anything. I have plenty of halfway-finished drawings, writings and aborted band projects.

It's kind of a chicken and egg situation. Part of me thinks if I never had MI I'd be much more productive in these areas, but the other wonders if I could've been inspired the same way without it. Hopefully when I get properly treated I can be a bit more productive and see things through.

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I'm a great writer. However, my best class in college, at the end, my instructor said "well your writing is about A or B level but you missed so many classes and didn't turn in your weekly assignments...what do you think, should I give you a D or an F?"

She gave me a D.

I dropped Creative Writing cuz I was getting an F and was on academic probation at the time. Seriously, writing is about more than being creative--think all you want, but you gotta tighten that shit up if you want to go somewhere. When I talked to the professor about dropping it I was honest--I said I just couldn't devote myself to the improvement I needed.

I got told for years I had talent. I got grades, here and there, to show it. But--a-ha!--the more manic I got, the more disorganized I got, and the worse I got, even though maybe I got more creative. Writing, at least, requires a high level of organization. So does good paining etc., at least in my opinion. Others, however, not so much...

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I guess I should consider myself fortunate - no art-fartness in me ever, so I never had to lose this whole creative ability BPs lose and lament.

Lucky me

:rolleyes:

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I think when a bipolar person is moody their senses can become more sensitive.

When a person with bipolar is - uh - "moody" they can become more sensitive... doesn't make them more creative in any way, shape, or form.

What I mean is, just because I'm hypomanic and my roommate's breathing is pissing me off, doesn't mean I'm gonna sit down and write the next best seller. Yanno?

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