Creativity and depression

Whether artists and creative types are more prone to depression is an often explored topic. Towards the end of “The Age of Insight” author Kandel looks into this issue.

[Author] Jamison also cites the work of Nancy Andreasen, who examined creativity and writers and found that they are four times as likely to have manic depressive disorder and three times as likely to have depression as people who are not creative. In a parallel psychiatric interview with 20 award-winning European writers, painters, and sculptors, Hagop Akiskal found that nearly two thirds of them had manic-depressive tendencies and more than half of them had suffered a major depressive episode.

Of course they’re depressed. They’re European! HAWHAWHAWHAWHAWHAW!

I am, of course, brilliantly creative. I’ve never really considered myself manic-depressive, however. I’ve certainly had bouts of soul decimating depression, especially my 20s, but never experienced what I would consider manic highs. But the book continues…

Jamison found that, much of the time, people with manic-depressive illness do not have symptoms, and as they swing from depression to mania, they experience an exhilarating feeling of energy and a capability for formulating ideas that dramatically enhance artistic creativity.

I am familiar with that state — a period where you just have a constant flow of seemingly great ideas. All engines seem to be running. But it’s not really pure ecstatic bliss, it’s a feeling of hyper functionality.

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