Written by: Beatrice Yamikani Chiphwanya is a Psychotherapist whose career spans over 7 years. She is currently pursuing a Master in Science in Psychology and working with New Beginnings as a Psychosocial and Lifeskills Department Lead.

The connection between mental health and creativity has been extensively studied by psychologists for centuries. Substantial conclusions have not been made but it has been discovered that parallels can be drawn to connect the ability to create to major mental disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, Attention Deficiency and Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). That is why a lot of creatives are usually people living with mental health conditions. For example, Adele has opened up about struggling with depression; Arianna Grande struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and Big Sean has opened up about struggling with depression and anxiety, just to mention a few.

It has been argued that mental health issues can aid in creativity, but it has also been argued that mental health issues don't have to be present for creativity to exist. A study in 2015 in Iceland found that people in creative professions are 25% more likely to be genetically wired to be at risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Kari Stefansson, Co-Founder of deCODE genetics, said, "Often when people are creating something new, they end up straddling between sanity and insanity. I think these results support the concept of the mad genius." It has been argued that the brains of creative people are more open to environmental stimuli due to smaller amounts of latent inhibition - a person’s unconscious capacity to ignore unimportant stimuli - and while this is associated with psychosis, it has also been found to contribute to original thinking. Mania has also been credited in creativity because when the speed of thinking increases, word associations form more freely as do flight of ideas because the manic mind is less inclined to filter details that in a normal state, would be dismissed as irrelevant.

On the flip side, there are also a majority of creative people now and throughout history who are living without mental disorders. That data simply becomes skewed because most people living with mental health issues try to work in the arts and literature industry, not because they are good at it, but because they are attracted to it. The challenge then remains, "What criteria should be accepted to label a person a creative?" 

It is important to note that creativity is a good thing and should not always be linked to mental disorders. Creativity can increase positive emotions, lessen depressive symptoms, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and improve the immune system. Typically, when people are creating something they tend to get lost in the activity. Creating requires focus and concentration and this is caused by changes in brain function as brain waves slow down and original thoughts are better able to form. Certain parts of the brain go quiet and this makes it easy to be more courageous, and an enormous cascade of neuro-chemistry together with large amounts of endorphins (i.e. feel-good hormones) are released, making creation a happy experience.

The biggest impact all this may have on a creative is really clear cut and it is based on:



This is how to know if you, as a creative, have taken it too far and need help:

If you experience this for over two weeks and these symptoms are starting to interfere with your life and creative process, then it may be a sign you need help. Reach out to a psychologist, a therapist like myself, or a psychiatrist. Working with a professional will help you understand your mental health and manage your symptoms.

You can also increase your self-care by taking some time off to focus on yourself. Create a support system for yourself and stay in touch with them. Never miss your therapy sessions and practice grounding exercises like meditation.