If you have bipolar disorder, or love someone who’s been diagnosed, you already know it’s a difficult disease to manage. Between super high manic episodes and dark bipolar depression, it’s often difficult to stay balanced and healthy.
Yet, popular culture often glamorizes bipolar disorder when it comes to creativity. It depicts creative geniuses, tortured by their illness, yet creating beautiful pieces of art and poetry. But bipolar disorder isn’t glamorous. It’s devastating and dangerous when left out of control. In some cases, it’s even fatal.
So, is there a connection between bipolar disorder and creativity? Here’s what the research says.
Tendencies of Creative Types
Throughout the history of art and literature, creative types are often seen as eccentric individuals with tortured souls. Yet that’s not always the case. Just as all people with bipolar disorder are not creative, not all creative people follow in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath. Yet, it is common for those who create to experience intense emotions and moods both prior to and while engaging in the creative process.
Some artists and writers have changes in mood, behavior, and thinking. Others have increased enthusiasm, energy, and self-confidence. Most say that when they’re creating, they have a decreased need for sleep and devote huge amounts of time to the creative process.
Could It Be Hypomania?
These experiences and characteristics sound surprisingly similar to what people, including myself, experience during extended periods of hypomania. This mildly maintained “high” is exuberating and exciting, even though the results of hypomania can be life-altering.
I personally spent six years in hypomania due to a misdiagnosis and taking anti-depressants. During that time, I destroyed my marriage, lost my family, lost my friends and my fortune. Just because hypomania sounds good, doesn’t mean it is.
While some artists may be hypomanic, they also may not be. Some say that many creative people are more open and empathetic to others. They feel stronger emotions and therefore have deeper reactions and responses. When they’re creating, they become absorbed in the project, and it may have nothing to do with bipolar disorder.
The Artist’s Tortured Soul
While it is true that some of our greatest creators suffered from mental illness, they were by no means the majority. And even the most famous among the tortured did not create when they were unwell. From Virginia Woolf to Ernest Hemingway, those who we now believe had bipolar disorder were most creative and completed their best works when their mental health issues were in remission. During periods of extreme mania and depression, functions became so impaired that the creative process was no longer possible. There wasn’t enough focus or attention during the highs, nor enough motivation or drive during the lows.
Yet the psychological discomfort caused by bipolar disorder can still inspire and drive creativity. Once stabilized, creative types explore the thoughts and feelings they experience, and express it through art in a way they are unable to do in person.
Living A Great Life With Bipolar Disorder
Whether you’re creative or not, living a great life is possible despite your bipolar disorder. I invite you to join our community by subscribing to this blog and by following us on Facebook. Together, we can learn how to channel your energies and strive to live a great life with bipolar disorder.