Thanet Writers Research Depression and Creativity
There’s an undeniable way that we, sometimes, view creative people. We see an isolated, depressed person who uses their art as a vehicle to expel their pain. Without this internal pain and anguish, their art suffers. There are anecdotal accounts of artists putting themselves through painful experiences so that they can continue their creative endeavours. But, with that in mind, is there actually any link between creativity and depression?
Yes and no. There have been quite a lot of studies that have shown that creative folk are more likely to experience mood disorders, such as depression. However, people with mood disorders are no more likely to be creative than those without. But, why is that?
There are a lot of theories but it’s something that people are still studying, and we don’t have an answer yet. One theory is that being depressed does actually have a benefit to your creativity, but the negatives outweigh and mask these benefits – this would make it hard to quantify any boon to creativity. Another thought is that the moving between high and low mood – as with something like bipolar or non-persistent depression – allows for more of a creative process. The lows give us a reflective view of the world and of ourselves, and then higher moods give us the motivation to use that new view and turn it into something creative.
Another theory is that creativity mirrors many of the clinical signs of mood disorders. It’s hard to quantify our feelings or the creative process and that difficulty could lead to clinicians and people completing these studies to view the creative process as a mood disorder. It’s easy to see why this theory exists, if I’m being honest. Looking at some of my own writing habits over the years; sacrificing sleep, food, drink, family, friends, obsessive thoughts about the project and it taking over my thoughts to name a few, would probably be enough to get me a diagnosis if I went to a doctor without context.
My personal favourite theory about this connection, however, is that the creative process is what causes the mood disorder. If we look at how we are creative; the isolation, the lack of financial stability, the constant rejection that we’re likely to face. All of these things can be a not insignificant factor in the decline of our moods.
So, there is no definitive answer as to why there is a link between creativity and depression, but there is definitely some kind of link. By being aware of this link, however, maybe there’s something that we can do about that. Numerous studies have shown that being happy helps people to be more creative and more productive, maybe by eschewing from the stereotypical image of that depressed and isolated writer who has to suffer for their art, we could find that we become more creative and more productive and we could maybe be in a better place, emotionally. I know it’s difficult right now to not be isolated, we’re isolated by government decree at the moment, but we still need to be maintaining those social connections, in whatever way the restrictions allow.
© 2020 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.