Are creative people crazy? Well?yes.
Connie M. Strong of Stanford University has found that creative people share many personality traits with the mentally ill. Both creativity and manic depression, also called bipolar disorder, may exist due to the same genes. Bipolar disorder causes people to have extreme mood swings from happiness to despair. Some of these people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and they can become suicidal when in a depressed period. Depression is sometimes thought of as ?unipolar,? since depressed people never go into the ?up? cycle.
Together with Dr. Terence A. Ketter, Strong measured creativity and personality traits in 48 patients who have bipolar disorder, 25 patients with depression, 32 students who are especially creative and 47 healthy, fairly uncreative people. The researchers found that creative students and bipolar patients had some of the same personality traits. They were more open, more neurotic and more moody than the other people in the study. Open people are willing to try new experiences. They?re imaginative, curious and unconventional. Neurotic people are anxious and have low self-esteem and a lower tolerance for stress than other people. They may feel alienated, victimized and resentful.
Because they found similar traits in bipolar people and creative people, both creativity and the mental illness may come from similar genes. “Both bipolar disorder and creativity probably are genetically driven, and may be related to the same set of genetic predispositions,” Strong says.
Previous studies show a higher rate of bipolar disorder in creative people than in the population as a whole. This could be because the world seems to change for biopolars, depending on whether they?re ?up? or ?down.? Seeing different views of life may be one of the keys to creativity. Many people with this condition avoid taking medicine for it because they?re afraid it will dampen their creative impulses, but Strong finds that bipolar patients retain their creative abilities even when medicated.
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