Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mental Illness & Creativity

Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys is considered one of the most creative artists in 20th century pop music. Wilson was the creative force and bandleader of the group. Between 1963 and 1965 he produced 16 singles and nine albums. Their songs were famous for depicting an ideal California youth. The creative component came from Wilson's use of unusual instrumentation and methods of composition. Yet, as his fame grew from his methods so did his psychological issues. It is said that Wilson suffered from unspecified schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar depression - these accounts coming from various people at different stages in his fame. It should also be noted that as he got further into his career, heavy drug accompanied his success. What is clear, Wilson's mental illness progressed as his fame grew. Is there a connection?

As we found in the Andreasen reading Secrets of the Creative Brain, there is a noticeable connection between mental illness and creativity, rather than intelligence and creativity. A study found in the reading done by Lewis M. Terman in the early 20th century found that "having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative." This conclusion was backed by countless other studies that found no correlation between high IQ's and creativity. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what creative is or how to find it, with the use of "little c" to test divergent thinking, and the use of "big C" to examine people who have already created something worthy of recognition. Andreason's study of creative is ongoing as she is attempting to pinpoint exactly what creative is and how to study it. So far, it is reported that the creative subjects of the study and their relatives are found to have a higher rate of mental illness compared to the control subjects and their relatives. Something interesting found in the study is that mental illness and creativity combined have a tendency to be hereditary, meaning people are predisposed to them. In the case of Brian Wilson, he fits the profile of what Andreasen is depicting. Various forms of mental illness as well as music proficiency were evident in his family. As the study progresses, it will become more apparent if the "mad scientist" archetype is necessarily accurate, as well as the impact of genetics. It will be interesting when more studies emerge to see how intertwined mental illness and creativity are, and whether one is an indicator of another.


1 comment:

  1. So many artists-Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Heath Ledger, Charlotte Perkins Gilman-are defined not only by what they create, but by their struggles with mental illness. It seems to me that art is often an outflow of deep emotion, whether positive or negative, so it makes sense that many artists experience conditions that cause them to feel things more intensely, whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar, or drug addiction. Then comes the issue of those who refuse medication because losing the side effects of the mental illness means losing a large portion of the feeling that drives creativity. This seems to be especially common in people with bipolar disorder who are unwilling to give up the high periods to treat the lows. I wonder what would happen to a mentally ill creative's output were they put on an effective treatment plan.


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