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The Relationship Between Mental Illness and Creativity

Updated on February 4, 2021
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Rosemary is author of six books on mental health and inspirational poetry. She is a motivational speaker and a volunteer peer advocate.

The correlation between mental illness and creativity by the evolutionary process is a very interesting piece of information that explains how mental illness goes hand in hand with high intelligence and creativity. Just read my hub on Famous People Who Have Mental Illness and How They Contributed To Society.

The following website ( )

Illustrates the fact that “Most studies show that there is a link between creative ability and the risk of mental disorder: in fact the prevalence of mental problems among creatively gifted people is significantly higher than in the general population.” It also states, “In the majority of studies disorders with an affective (mood) component, in particular those characterized by melancholy (severe depression), were associated with creative achievement, just as the author of the Problemata XXX asserted.”

Have you heard of the relation between mental illness and creativity before?

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Just by those statements alone, my theory and recent realization that much genius is related to schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression is true. I was spurred on the write this article as I was recently interested in looking up the history of how mentally ill people were treated in past history and centuries. For example, In the Victorian Era 1837-1901, A bit of a breakthrough came about. Asylums where mental patients were chained to their beds at night were inspected and the conditions improved. Doctors believed that people became insane due to lack of good diet and bleak surroundings. I found this very interesting and during my research, I came upon the correlation between mental illness and creativity.

I often wonder why so many people suffer from ailments such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar, just to name a few. But recently, I came across an article on the internet of how, in the evolutionary process, and the development of the brain, that it is necessary for the brain to sort of allow these disorders in order for it to evolve and make room for greater intelligence and creativity.

I think of so many great talents such as the artist Van Gogh, President Abraham Lincoln who suffered suicidal depressions and helped abolish slavery, Albert Einstein who was a mathematical genius and bipolar, and comedians Jim Carrey and Robin Williams who have bipolar, as well as singers Axl Rose from “Guns and Roses”, Sting, and the lead singer from Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, who all were diagnosed bipolar, I really can’t think of too many genius talents that don’t have mental illness..

To me, it’s sort of like one part of the brain in these cases, surpasses the rest by concentrating on the talent while having the illness coexists; or in other cases the illness prevails.

I met a woman very recently who has autism, and if given my birthdate including the year, could tell me immediately the day of the week I was born on, (Which is a Thursday.) My niece who also has autism loves animals very much. Perhaps there is something to learn from everyone; we all have individual and unique talents to share. Even those who are born with mental retardation or very severe birth defects can teach us much. So many of people with mental retardation, I’ve noticed, are so often smiling, and have such an innocent and kind heart; something I think many of us adults are lacking!

Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs, who overcame his feelings of self pity and feeling suicidal graduated from college with a double major in business and is now a world renowned motivational speaker. This man is amazing and inspires me so much, I was in tears watching a video on him. He is an inspiration to all and shares his testimony of amazing faith as well. He is always smiling!

I feel that many people who are considered “normal” and more fortunate are not when they have hearts with no peace, which are filled with envy, pride and anger. Like a child is naturally born humble and unbiased, before he often learns of the corruptive ways of the world, so are many who mentally disabled rich are in a youthful innocence. I meet and talk with many of these types of people who genuinely care for other human beings to such an admirable degree and their demeanor is so refreshing. I’ve always said that God does not make mistakes and uses every human being for some divinely inspired reason.


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