Call It Disorder or Gift

A review article by Janka Zoltan (2004) looks at the pattern of psychological disorders in a few celebrated artists, and it finds that there is a large prevalence of bipolar disorders in these artists. Bipolar mood disorder is largely defined by having phases of mania and depression. The manic phase is characterized by inflated self-esteem, less need for sleep, being talkative, irritable, having racing thoughts, greater activity (both positive and negative), and distractibility. The article suggests that the hypomania of bipolar disease could contribute to prolificness and creativity of great artists. Though it is not a novel concept, it is nevertheless an intriguing, perhaps poetic, idea that painful neurological disorder can very well have beautiful products.

About the author

Ian Park

Ian graduated from Wesleyan University in May 2011 with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. In that same year, he was Director of Photography of a senior documentary thesis film at Wesleyan, which won first place. He recently acted as Director of Photography on a Clinique commercial for a competition--it won honorable mentions. He is currently working as a producer/director/editor of video and other digital content in Soho, NY, as well as working on a soon-to-be-released web series, "Postponed."

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  • I have not read the article referenced above, but here is a contrast which argues that the quantity is increased by hypomanic states, but the quality is not influenced by hypomania vs depressive episodes, based on an evaluation of Schumann’s work :

    Genius and Madness?: A Quasi-Experimental Test of the Hypothesis That Manic-Depression Increases Creativity
    Robert W. Weisberg
    doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1994.tb00286.x
    Psychological Science November 1, 1994 vol. 5 no. 6 p 361-367

    Of course, looking at one artist is insufficient to sway opinion either way, and quality is far from objective, but it does provide fuel for the debate. (also this article is available in English, whereas I can only find the cited article in Hungarian, which I unfortunately cannot read.)

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