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Creativity and mental illness: Does it have a connection?

Oct 17, 2012 13:40 IST

#author   #bipolar disorder   #Creativity   #Mental health   #painter   #ToWhatEffect  

London: Authors, please note! People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a link between writing and schizophrenia, according to a new study.

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden in a large-scale study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level.

The study incorporated much of the Swedish population from the most recent decades.

The results showed that certain mental illness - bipolar disorder - is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors.

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Authors also specifically were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Further, the researchers observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism.

According to Simon Kyaga, Consultant in psychiatry and Doctoral Student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.

"If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment," he said in a statement.

"In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavour to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid," he added.

Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more common amongst families where bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is present, compared to the population at large.

They subsequently expanded their study to many more psychiatric diagnoses - such as schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anorexia nervosa and suicide.

PTI