Science is now proving what we have long suspected – there is a huge link between mental health and the creative arts. We all know tales of iconic artists, authors and creatives who have struggled with various conditions, often to the enhancement of their creative output – Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Laurence Olivier and countless others. Those internal demons can often be the driving force behind some of the most incredible and moving artistic output, creating extraordinary meaning through their chosen medium. Indeed, something about the very nature of art itself seems to inspire a type of mania – an obsession to create, whatever the personal cost, and to put art above personal wellbeing and other earthly comforts. It is quite frequently the rejection of the physical and the real in favour of higher realms and ethereal moments, where the act of creation becomes a transcendence.
Even among those who use their creative talents to run a business, this way of thinking aids them in solving everyday problems, such as attracting business investment or even finding the right Managed IT Services – their creativity is an essential part of their business leadership. There is also the traditional polarities of artistic sensibility versus commercial gain, and a desire to reject any notion of being directed by profit or material gain in favour of ideals which somehow seem purer or more convincing when accompanied with a measure of suffering.
Mental Health As Identity
So entrenched is the concept of the ‘tortured artist’ in our collective psyche that, in some cases, mental health issues can become a part of someone’s identity. In such cases, art has the potential to be a destructive force, as it can become an obstacle in the way of healing. Creative types may actively resist the idea of treatment or getting better if they feel it compromises their artistic objectives, or even challenges their sense of self. Sometimes, a mental illness like depression becomes so all-consuming, we struggle to imagine who we might be outside of it’s embrace. It becomes inextricably bound up with our creative powers, and we fear we will no longer be able to create anything of worth if we are more ‘normal’. Indeed, a 2015 study from the Office of National Statistics showed that people who worked in arts-related jobs were four times more likely to take their own lives, while other studies have linked creative professions with an increased likelihood of disorders such as bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia and substance abuse.
The Body Clock Theory
Could the answer to the link between depression and creativity be as simple as a question of circadian rhythms? Other studies have demonstrated a link between the hours we keep and our levels of creativity, with night owls being more creative than early birds. With society being primarily set up for daylight hours, there is often an unavoidable sense of disconnect and isolation for those who don’t fit this pattern. Moulding your life into hours which don’t naturally fit also means you are permanently under the effects of sleep deprivation, which can have serious effects on the psyche. Night owls naturally want to work during the hours when most people are asleep, and often find it to be their most creative and productive time. Being awake when the world is sleeping gives an acute sense of melancholy which can flavour artistic output. The liminal state between waking and sleep is intensely creative. The prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for attributes such as impulse control is at rest, and the visual lobe is highly active – meaning freerer thoughts and vivid dreams. The brain is processing through all the junk and input of the day and regenerating itself. Staying up instead of resting during this period can disrupt those processes and cause chemical havoc in the synapses – so the late night creative lifestyle could be an symbiotic part of many mood-based mental disorders.
Even though it appears as though there is a definite link between creative tendencies and mental imbalance, many wouldn’t trade it for the world. Both are part of their personalities, and they feel that become ‘normal’ would rob them of something important.
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