Magazine article Science News

Mood Swings and Creativity: New Clues

Magazine article Science News

Mood Swings and Creativity: New Clues

Article excerpt

Mood swings and creativity: New clues

For centuries there has been speculation that creativity is somehow linked to "insanity' or mental illness, although scientific studies of the suspected connection are sparse. Nancy C. Andreasen of the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City now reports that, at least among a small group of creative writers, there is a close association between creativity and "affective disorders' such as depression and manic depression.

Reasons for this relationship remain unclear. "Nevertheless,' says Andreasen in the October AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY, "affective disorder may produce some cultural advantages for society as a whole, in spite of the individual pain and suffering that it also causes.'

During the past 15 years, Andreasen interviewed 30 faculty members at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, one of the best-known creative writing programs in the country. She also interviewed 30 control subjects of comparable age, sex and education, whose occupations included hospital administration, law and social work.

Andreasen found that 80 percent of the writers had had an episode of either severe depression or manic depression --either with a pronounced mania characterized by euphoria, increased energy and poor judgment, or a milder "hypomania'--at some time in their lives. Schizophrenia, marked by severe thought disorders, was absent in the sample, but 30 percent of the writers were diagnosed as alcoholic. Depression or manic depression occurred among 30 percent of the controls, and 7 percent were alcoholic. None of the controls was schizophrenic.

The writers also reported significantly more first-degree relatives with creative achievements in a variety of fields, including literature, art and music. The breadth of creativity in these families suggests that a "general factor' predisposing to creative success may be genetically transmitted, says Andreasen. …

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