Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psikiyatrist

Creativity and Bipolar Disorder

The prevalence rate of mood disorders observed in artists for years has made us think about the relation between these disorders and creativity. The studies made on different artist groups (authors, musicians, painters, etc.) support the correlation between bipolar disorder and creativity.

Although some studies analyzed depression, schizophrenia and other psychological disorder, but did not encounter any creativity as higher as it was bipolar disorder. The association of bipolar disorder and creativity provides these patients with an advantage in terms of stigmatization.

The studies concerning environmental factors determined the tendency of the family members, whose family history includes bipolar disorder, towards artistic professions. This, in turn, brings up the possibility of heading for artistic branches in order to tolerate stigma. The studies analyzing this relation in neurological respect revealed that there is a meaningful relation between the middle prefrontal cortex of the brain, and positive creative thinking and establishing distant relations in bipolar patients. That’s to say, environmental factors may not be the only factors being effective.

In a comprehensive study carried out over the Swedish population, it was reported that the participants with high creativity had high prevalence rate of bipolar disorder, too. In other words, it was observed that there wasn’t any unilateral relation between bipolar disorder and creativity.

There are some unanswered questions about bipolar disorder and creativity. Initially, there are no standardized scales observed in bipolar patients and measuring the lifelong creativity. Therefore, creativity has been measured as per different points of view and has become open to interpretation.

Although bipolar patients speak of the positive effect mania has over creativity, it is not conclusive yet. It is observed that the patients experiencing the mania symptoms in a denser manner have a lower level of creativity compared to those who experience the same in a milder way. This may be caused by the manic patient’s inability to channel his/her impulsive and irregular thoughts and behaviors into a specific target.

While some studies mention the inhibition of creativity by mood regulators and or lithium, some show that they enhance it. There are no currently absolute results regarding the positive/negative effects of mood-related drugs on creativity.

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