Creativity and mental illness
The association between bipolar disorder and creativity first appeared in literature in the 1970s, but the idea of a link between "madness" and "genius" is much older, dating back at least to the time of Aristotle. The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, and in particular the Muses, the mythical personifications of the arts and sciences, and the nine daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods. The idea of a complete work of art emerging without conscious thought or effort was reinforced by the views of the Romantic era. It has been proposed that there is a particular link between creativity and bipolar disorder, whereas major depressive disorder appears to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists.
Psychotic individuals are said to display a capacity to see the world in a novel and original way, literally, to see things that others cannot.
A study by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence and psychoticism. Another study found creativity to be greater in schizotypal than in either normal or schizophrenic individuals. While divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their right prefrontal cortex. This study hypothesizes that such individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate. In agreement with this hypothesis, ambidexterity is also associated with schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals. Three recent studies by Mark Batey and Adrian Furnham have demonstrated the relationships between schizotypal and hypomanic personality  and several different measures of creativity.
Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders, particularly manic-depressive disorder (a.k.a. bipolar disorder) and depressive disorder (a.k.a. unipolar disorder). In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay Redfield Jamison summarizes studies of mood-disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She also explores research that identifies mood disorders in such famous writers and artists as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after electroconvulsive treatment), Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself when she felt a depressive episode coming on), composer Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo.
A study looking at 300,000 persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar depression, and their relatives, found overrepresentation in creative professions for those with bipolar disorder as well as for undiagnosed siblings of those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There was no overall overrepresentation, but overrepresentation for artistic occupations, among those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There was no association for those with unipolar depression or their relatives. 
Another study involving more than one million people, conducted by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, reported a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, and were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
However, as a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people, although they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.
According to psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD, creativity can be obstructed through stress.
Mood-creativity research reveals that people are most creative when they are in a positive mood and that mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia actually decrease creativity. People who have worked in the field of arts throughout the history have had problems with poverty, persecution, social alienation, psychological trauma, substance abuse, high stress  and other such environmental factors which are associated with developing and perhaps causing mental illness. It is thus likely that when creativity itself is associated with positive moods, happiness, and mental health, pursuing a career in the arts may bring problems with stressful environment and income. Other factors such as the centuries-old stereotype of the suffering of a "mad artist" help to fuel the link by putting expectations on how an artist should act, or possibly making the field more attractive to those with mental illness.
There is a range of types of bipolar disorder. Individuals with Bipolar I Disorder experience severe episodes of mania and depression with periods of wellness between episodes. The severity of the manic episodes can mean that the person is seriously disabled and unable to express the heightened perceptions and flight of thoughts and ideas in a practical way. Individuals with Bipolar II Disorder experience milder periods of hypomania during which the flight of ideas, faster thought processes and ability to take in more information can be converted to art, poetry or design.
Many famous historical figures gifted with creative talents may have been affected by bipolar disorder. Ludwig van Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Newton, Judy Garland and Robert Schumann are some people whose lives have been researched to discover signs of mood disorder. In many instances, creativity and psychopathology share some common traits, such as a tendency for "thinking outside the box," flights of ideas, speeding up of thoughts and heightened perception of visual, auditory and somatic stimuli.
Many people with bipolar disorder may feel powerful emotions during both depressive and manic phases, potentially aiding in creativity. Because (hypo)mania decreases social inhibition, performers are often daring and bold. As a consequence, creators commonly exhibit characteristics often associated with mental illness. The frequency and intensity of these symptoms appear to vary according to the magnitude and domain of creative achievement. At the same time, these symptoms are not equivalent to the full-blown psychopathology of a clinical manic episode which, by definition, entails significant impairment.
Some creative people have been posthumously diagnosed as suffering from bipolar or unipolar disorder based on biographies, letters, correspondence, contemporaneous accounts, or other anecdotal material, most notably in Kay Redfield Jamison's book Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Touched With Fire presents the argument that bipolar disorder, and affective disorders more generally, may be found in a disproportionate number of people in creative professions such as actors, artists, comedians, musicians, authors, performers and poets.
Several recent clinical studies have also suggested that there is a positive correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder, although the relationship between the two is unclear. Temperament may be an intervening variable.
A 2005 study at the Stanford University School of Medicine measured creativity by showing children figures of varying complexity and symmetry and asking whether they like or dislike them. The study showed for the first time that a sample of children who either have or are at high risk for bipolar disorder tend to dislike simple or symmetric symbols more. Children with bipolar parents who were not bipolar themselves also scored higher dislike scores.
Modern cultural viewpoints
The 2012 book Tortured Artists, by the American arts journalist Christopher Zara, shows the universal nature of the tortured artist stereotype and how it applies to all of the creative disciplines, including film, theater, literature, music, and visual art. The artists profiled in the book have made major contributions to their respective mediums (Charles Schulz, Charlie Parker, Lenny Bruce, Michelangelo, Madonna, Andy Warhol, Amy Winehouse, and dozens of others). In each case, the author attempts to make a connection between the art and the artist's personal suffering.
James Joyce had a daughter with schizophrenia and had many schizotypal traits. Albert Einstein had a son with schizophrenia and was also somewhat schizotypal and eccentric. Bertrand Russell had many family members with schizophrenia or psychosis: his aunt, uncle, son and grand-daughter. Winston Churchill, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe are believed to have had bipolar disorder.
Joanne Greenberg's novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is an autobiographical account of her teenage years in Chestnut Lodge working with Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. At the time, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, although two psychiatrists who examined Greenberg's self-description in the book in 1981 concluded that she was not schizophrenic, but had extreme depression and somatization disorder. The narrative constantly puts difference between the protagonist's mental illness and her artistic ability. Greenberg is adamant that her creative skills flourished in spite of, not because of, her condition.
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- (Rushton, 1990)
- http://exploration.vanderbilt.edu/news/news_schizotypes.htm (Actual paper)
- Batey, M. Furnham, A. (2009). The relationship between creativity, schizotypy and intelligence. Individual Differences Research, 7, p.272-284.
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- Roberts, Michelle. Creativity 'closely entwined with mental illness'. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19959565. 16 October 2012.
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- Arnold M. Ludwig (1995) The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy ISBN 978-0-89862-839-5
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- Children Of Bipolar Parents Score Higher On Creativity Test, Stanford Study Finds
- Zara, Christopher (2012). Tortured Artists. Avon, Mass: Adams Media. p. 272. ISBN 1440530033.
- Sobel, Dava (February 17, 1981). "Schizophrenia In Popular Books: A Study Finds Too Much Hope". The New York Times.
- "I wrote [I Never Promised You a Rose Garden] as a way of describing mental illness without the romanticisation [sic] that it underwent in the sixties and seventies when people were taking LSD to simulate what they thought was a liberating experience. During those days, people often confused creativity with insanity. There is no creativity in madness; madness is the opposite of creativity, although people may be creative in spite of being mentally ill." This statement from Greenberg originally appeared on the page for Rose Garden at amazon.com and has been quoted in many places including Asylum: A Mid-Century Madhouse and Its Lessons About Our Mentally Ill Today, by Enoch Callaway, M.D. (Praeger, 2007), p. 82.
- The 'Sylvia Plath' effect by Deborah Smith Bailey from American Psychological Association
- The Myth of the Mentally Ill Creative blog entry about creativity and mental illness by a professor of psychology and creativity scientist Keith Sawyer
- A journey into chaos: Creativity and the unconscious by Nancy C Andreasen, Mens Sana Monographs, 2011, 9(1), p42-53.