Professor James Potash discusses evidence from a number of studies that individuals with mood disorders are more likely to be highly creative.
There have been a number of studies that have shown elevated rates of mood disorders (depression and manic depression) among artists and creative people. Kay Jamison in our Johns Hopkins psychiatry faculty has written a book about this called ‘Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament’ where she summaries a lot of the research that has been done. It does seem like it’s an astonishing number of very high level creative people who do have the illness, and it’s not hard to imagine how that might happen. Certainly the increased speed of thought and the increased level of energy that comes with these mild highs (hypomanias) can very clearly be conducive to a high level of creativity. The more connections you make and the faster you make them, the more creative you are going to be. It’s also possible that the range of emotion the people experience in manic depression can create a kind of depth of experience that creative people can draw on.