Contact Us Today

Mental Illness and Creativity: Is There a Connection?

artistic expressions

A great many creative people – artists, poets, musicians, even philosophers – have been thought to be mad since ancient times. Some cultures honored their eccentrics, the “different” ones, but others often had them put in asylums or even executed as witches. Obviously times have changed since then and society has become much more open minded about mental illnesses. Psychological studies have shown that there is, in fact, a connection between mental illness and creativity. While mental illness does not necessarily equal creativity, and vice versa, there have been found many cases of links between the two.

 

For many people who live with mental illnesses, it provides them with an opportunity for a unique perspective on life, coming at reality from an oblique angle. Couple that with creative talent and intelligence, and an artistic genius can be born. People with serious mental illnesses such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders exist with their sensory volume turned way up. It is harder for them to filter out information for the purposes of focus, and so they take in much more than most people do. While this may cause a lot of inner turmoil and suffering, it also gives them the ability to form connections out of seemingly disconnected things, feelings, and ideas.

 

William Lee Adams, who writes for CNN, said in his article The dark side of creativity: Depression + anxiety x madness =genius?, “Celebrated Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s life was fraught with anxiety and hallucinations” But, he goes on to write, “The painting (The Scream) is thought to represent the angst of modern man which Munch experienced deeply throughout his life, but saw as an indispensable driver of his art. He wrote in his diary, ‘My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art’.”

 

Psychologists, having been almost enraptured with this question, conducted early studies of well-known artists who worked in a variety of media, and the conclusion was that many highly creative people suffer from mood disorders. Clinical depression plagued people like Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Jackson Pollack, and Anne Sexton.

 

Many of these studies rely on anecdotal evidence and have been harshly criticized. But neuroscientist Andreas Fink of the University of Graz in Austria published a study in which he compared brains of creative people to those with schizotypy, which is a milder form of schizophrenia.

 

Adams writes that the psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who also writes for Scientific American “has summed up the results (of this study) this way. ‘It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the floodgates, and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas’.”

 

While creativity remains somewhat elusive, the answer to the question posed in the title of this article is “Yes”. There is a connection between mental suffering and creative expression. The depth required to probe the human condition through art of any kind, sometimes takes a special vision and sensitivity that the “normal” person often escapes. Is creativity a curse? Modern pharmacology has made it less so. But people need to want to be helped and many artists hold the sentiments of Edvard Munch – that without their illness, their art wouldn’t exist.

Rethinking Mental Illness

Mental Health and mental illness | Hope Counseling

 

All throughout history, individuals with mental illnesses have been marginalized, if not brutalized and shunned. In ancient times, the mentally ill were often seen as possessed by demons, or in league with the devil, and as a result, were put to death. It is a sad commentary on world perception, that the mentally ill are still stigmatized, living as the outsiders among us, considered to be not “normal”, and sometimes dangerous.

 

People tend to fear what they don’t understand, and unfortunately, the mentally ill are still all too often misunderstood, and thought to be people to avoid. They are considered to be “strange”, “weird” and “crazy”. As a result, their lives are often lived in secret, and they seek no help or support. Even people who are well-educated have many misconceptions about mental illness, and frequently, it is up to the mentally ill to teach the rest of us what it’s really about.

 

That mental illness is physiological, that there is frequently medication involved in treatment, and there is a “diagnosis”, a label placed on the mentally ill person, that label oftentimes follows that person all her life. People say of the mentally ill, “She is a schizophrenic”, and instead of the schizophrenic saying “I have schizophrenia”, she will tell others, “I am schizophrenic”, thus identifying the totality of who she is with her illness. She takes societal stigma and judgment and places it on herself. Society’s stereotype becomes her own. She has become her illness. It is so counter-intuitive to her potential wellness.

 

The truth is that the those who live with mental illnesses are us. They often continue to live lives that are full and meaningful. They want to love and be loved and accepted, and to feel useful – that they matter. They want to be seen as more than just one part of who they are. They can be intelligent and creative and productive. And they walk this earth, not as outsiders or ghosts, but as human beings, the just the same as regular people. They only need the chance to become as fully realized as they can be. For that chance, it is up to us to educate ourselves and in doing so, to eradicate the terrible stigma that has followed people with mental illness for too long.

 

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and several other mental illnesses are difficult to live with, but can also be overcome. For those that suffer these illnesses, it’s possible to live a completely normal life, without revealing that the illness is present. On one hand, this is great because it allows the person to live without prejudice. On the other hand, it forces them to be underground about their symptoms.

 

The solution is to allow change the way we think about mental illness. It can be scary and unpredictable. But at the root, it can be simply another hurdle for us to overcome. Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders is paramount.

How to Indetify Learning Disabilities in Children

Identifying learning disabilities in children

Counseling for Adhd Dyslexia and other learning disabilitiesLearning disabilities in children often go unnoticed. Many people, even good parents and teachers, can miss a few signs, as they are often cloaked under what most consider “poor behavior”. Adults expect a certain level of attention and success out of a child, based on his or her peers, and when a child does not perform up-to par, people often assume that he or she simply isn’t trying. Not only is that very far from the truth, but it’s offensive to the child, making them feel frustrated and alone. Identifying learning disabilities early on helps a child accept that he or she learns differently, and it can help their confidence.

Children with learning disabilities often struggle with self-esteem and loneliness, which can actually kill their mood and exacerbate their disorders. Take ADHD for example, kids with ADHD often do things in a unconventional way, which frustrates others.

The key to helping a child with a learning disability is an understanding that they are not lazy or unmotivated.

Watch for problems with motor skills. If your child struggles with putting letters or numbers in order, it may coincide with his or her inability to organize toys and clothes. Poor coordination while walking, talking, or writing is a big sign of motor skill problems.

You can also look for developmental delays. If your child appears to do many things slower than his or her peers do, he or she could have a developmental delay, or your kid may be struggling with only one thing that holds everything back. This is why communication is important with your child, you have to be able to identify what the setback is.

Watch your child’s interaction with schoolwork. If he or she never touches it, your child may be unmotivated or lazy. However, if you often see your son or daughter often start work but they never finish it, that’s a big sign of ADHD and other frustrating things.

Check their emotional levels. Does your child get angry when you mention his or her performance? Do you notice depressed or irritable moods for no particular reason? High peaks of mania and motivation, followed by low moods are also a big sign of learning disability.

Look for frequent confusion in your son or daughter. If he or she is always losing belongings or focus, it may be a learning disability.