|Singer Phyllis Hyman|
Psychologists have been fascinated by the link between creativity and mental
illness. The earliest and most rudimentary studies examined eminent people across fields including literature and the arts. These studies found that creatives had an unusually high number of mood disorders. Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill all appeared to suffer from clinical depression. So too did Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf. Sylvia Plath famously took her own life by sticking her head in an oven while her two children slept.
Research has found that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people. Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. They also found that people in creative professions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia and autism. Artistic women such as Janet Jackson, Halle Berry, and Beverly Johnson dealt with depression. Phyllis Hyman was also known to suffer from manic depression and ultimately committed suicide.
Mary Rocamora, who counsels gifted people and heads a Los Angeles school that attracts gifted and talented adults, says those "who are passionately engaged with their talent,but are constantly separated from the creative experience by relentless self-criticism, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority often suffer from depression and the periodic shutting down of their spontaneous creative impulses. "The drive to express their inner creativity is heightened in many gifted individuals, and when the drive to create meets the wall of shame, it implodes into numbness, rage, depression, and hopelessness."
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