Creativity and Mental Health: A Profile of Writers and Musicians

By Pavitra, K.; Chandrashekar, C. et al. | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January-March 2007 | Go to article overview

Creativity and Mental Health: A Profile of Writers and Musicians


Pavitra, K., Chandrashekar, C., Choudhury, Partha, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: K. Pavitra, C. Chandrashekar, Partha. Choudhury

Creativity and its link with mental health have always been much speculated about. However there have been a handful of methodologically sound studies to clearly establish the relationship between creativity and mental health. The objective of the study therefore was to examine the psychiatric morbidity stress profile, coping skills and personality profile in creative versus non-creative populations. Forty writers, 40 musicians and 40 controls chosen after randomization, who met the inclusion and exclusion criteria constituted the sample of the study. All the subjects were administered GHQ-28; SCAN for all GHQ positives (and 10% of GHQ-ves), Perceived stress scale and coping check list and NEO-FFI. Statistical analysis was done using SPSS 11.0 version. Pearson's correlation, Chi-square and ANOVA one-way tests were used. The present study corroborated the findings of earlier studies in 70's and 80's that there was no difference between creative and non-creative groups in terms of mental illness and stress profile. The writers differed significantly from the other two groups on religious and faith domain of coping skills. The two creative groups had similar personality characteristics and scored significantly high on all dimensions compared to the non-creative group.

Creative imagination, creative motives and creative products are unique to human beings and are the source of their cultural achievement. Creativity is an ability to make new combinations and it is one of the most highly valued of human qualities. Creativity may prove to be the key to success or failure in human beings' quest for knowledge, in their journey beyond the bounds of the sure and seen and in exploration of the unknown. A creative thinker is always trying to create something new and this involves a great amount of unconscious rearrangement of symbols. In general there is a great recognition in today's living across the globe to be creative in one's everyday activity.

Though creativity has been of interest over the years; there has been no universal acceptance of its definition or of methods for its measurement. There are many definitions of creativity. However the characteristics of creative thinking given by Goertzels[sup] [1] appear relevant here.

a. The product has novelty and value either for the thinker or the culture.

b. The thinking is unconventional.

c. It is highly motivated and persistent or of great intensity and

d. The problem was initially vague and undefined so that part of the task was to formulate the problem itself.

There have been 3 distinct stages in the conceptualization of creativity. From prehistory until well into the medival period, it was generally considered to be a mysterious, supernatural process - a gift from the gods or from God, depending on the religion or the culture (Greek, Hindu, Egyptian, Incan V/s Moslem, Jewish or Christian). As the Renaissance led to humanism, the concept of inherited genius took over. Gradually psychological and contextual influences received more recognition

Creative Individual

Since ancient times, the observation has been made that extremely creative individuals were unusual in many ways and it has been suggested that psychological processes akin to those observed in madness might be an important component of the special abilities of genius. In the research into the connection between creativity and psychopathology a theoretical connection has been drawn between creative functioning and unusual or regressed thinking processes,[sup] [2] affective symptoms,[sup] [3],[4] personality traits and values[sup] [2],[4] and behavioural characteristics. Almost any extraordinary performance or creative achievement, then - whether it is in writing, music, poetry, philosophy, dance, art, sculpture or intellectual discovery - could be said to be the variants of the belief that there can be "no great genius without some touch of madness". …

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