Depression and Creativity – Are They Connected?

The Van Gogh Blues

Mood disorders often impact creative expression. About one percent of the general population suffer from manic-depression (bipolar disorder) and five percent from major depression during their lifetime. As many as a quarter of American women have a history of depression. 

According to an Allhealth site article, “The risk of depression among teen girls is high, and this risk lasts into early adulthood, US researchers report. A study of young women living in Los Angeles found that 47% had at least one episode of major depression within 5 years after high school graduation.” [“Young Women at High Risk for Depression” –] 

Kay Redfield JamisonKay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and herself a person with bipolar depression, notes in her book “Touched with Fire..” that the majority of people suffering from mood disorder do not possess extraordinary imagination, and most accomplished artists do not suffer from recurring mood swings. 

She writes, “To assume, then, that such diseases usually promote artistic talent wrongly reinforces simplistic notions of the ‘mad genius.’ 

“Worse yet, such a generalization trivializes a very serious medical condition and, to some degree, discredits individuality in the arts as well… All the same, recent studies indicate that a high number of established artists – far more than could be expected by chance – meet the diagnostic criteria for manic-depression or major depression… 

“In fact, it seems that these diseases can sometimes enhance or otherwise contribute to creativity in some people… Biographical studies of earlier generations of artists and writers also show consistently high rates of suicide, depression and manic-depression.” 

> Continued in article: Depression and Creativity.



The image at the top is from Eric Maisel, PhD. The Van Gogh Blues – The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression

Patty Duke. A Brilliant Madness  [on her experiences with bipolar disorder] 

Dennis Greenberger, Christine A. Padesky. Mind Over Mood

D. Jablow Hershman. Manic Depression and Creativity

Kay Redfield Jamison. Touched With Fire – Manic Depressive Illnes & the Artistic Temperament


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