Creativity and Psychopathology

Creativity and Psychopathology

Creativity and psychopathology rellationship is often widely discussed in media. No surprise because some of the most famous artists really suffered from certain mental ilnesses. In 2012 Swedish researchers conducted a study with a vast sample of 1,173,763 patients. One of their aims was to study whether creativity is associated with all psychiatric disorders or restricted to those with psychotic features. The paper was originally published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Vincent van Gog – Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, January 1889

Sample was that big because they used data from national registers in Sweden from 1973 to 2009. Diagnosis of patients were various psychiatric disorders: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, completed suicide, anorexia nervosa, drug abuse, ADHD. The dataset of patients’ diagnosis were divided into sample of creative professions and control group. Creative professions were defined as scientific and artistic occupations. Creative occupations group also had a sub-group which was defined as authors. This group included people who more or less were professionally engaged in writing.

Researchers found no association between psychopathology and overall creative professions except for bipolar disorder. Authors sub-group suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder more than twice as often as the controls. Also they were more likely to be diagnosed with other mentioned disorders. Even without psychiatric diagnosis authors were more likely to commit suicide.


Kyaga, S., Landén, M., Boman, M., Hultman, C. M., Långström, N., & Lichtenstein, P. (2013). Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-year prospective total population study. Journal of psychiatric research, 47(1), 83-90.

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