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Is there a Link between Creativity and Mood Disorders For generations creative people have dealt with the stigma of mental disorder often attributed to them The mad scientist frenzied artist and profoundly intense writer all have been common judgments of these professions for years Despite the prevalence of these beliefs psychological studies in this field have been sparse and often inadequate To fill this investigative void Ruth Richards and Dennis Kinney Nancy Andreasen and Kay Jamison developed studies to examine the link between creativity and mood disorders more completely and accurately Early studies of this social stereotyping phenomenon were largely anecdotal relying on the unconfirmed psychological diagnosis of creative individuals post-mortem Examples of this include William Blake Lord Byron and Alfred Lord Tennyson who were suspected to have had radical mood swings Painters like Vincent van Gogh Georgia OKeeffe Charles Mingus and Robert Schumann were similarly afflicted Modern writers mental states have also been studied with the aid of verifiable evidence John Berryman Randal Jarrell Robert Lowell Sylvia Plath Theodore Roethke and Anne Sexton were all hospitalized for mania or depression Jamison 1995 Jamison notes that a high number of established artists- far more than can be expected by chance- meet the diagnostic criteria for manic depression or major depressionIn fact it seems that these diseases sometimes enhance or otherwise contribute to creativity in some people Jamison 1995 It is not enough however to rely on frequency alone to support the link between creativity and mood disorders 2 Recent studies have attempted to demonstrate this in a more concrete way with studies of modern artists and writers In 1987 Nancy Andreasen used 30 creative writers 30 matched controls relatives of both groups to demonstrate the rate of mental illness in creative individuals The study was preformed at the prestigious University of Iowa Writers workshop with Andreasen argues represents a reasonably valid cross-section of contemporary American writers Over 15 years Andreasen completed 30 faculty interviews that
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