The Link Between Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

  • May 21, 2021
Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to put their energy into more creative outlets.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania and depression. These specific experiences of one’s highs and lows are specific to each person, especially due to the fact that there are different types of bipolar disorder. The three main types are Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclomania. Bipolar I consists of at least one manic episode that may or may not be followed or preceded by a depressive episode. Those with Bipolar II experience one or more depressive episodes that last at least two weeks, as well as hypomanic episodes that last at least four days. Hypomanic episodes are basically less severe manic episodes that do not have the psychotic symptoms (like paranoia and hallucinations) that can occur during mania. The third type, Cyclothymic disorder, causes an individual to experience depressive and/or hypomanic episodes for at least two years. The mood shifts in this case are most often less severe than the ones that occur in other forms of the disorder. 

The impulsivity and risk taking that is often associated with bipolar disorder, particularly manic and hypomanic episodes increases the chance for an individual to choose a more creative path. In addition, researchers found that mania has a strong connection and an increase in divergent thinking. Those in a manic state are much more likely to “think outside of the box,” which is characteristic of creative people. Another manic trait that has a correlation to creatives is called “openness to experience,” which is open mindedness to trying new things and an increase in enjoyment when doing these novel activities. This openness coupled with impulsivity is often why manic individuals do things they would typically not do when they were not experiencing an episode, such as cutting all their hair off or learning a new language (among other, more toxic activities). 

Also, bipolar people have higher rates of dedication to their “passion projects” that others would dismiss as side hobbies and sacrifice. They possess perfectionistic/self-critical personality traits that can help them become successful in the creative sphere and  also lead to extremely high ambitions. 

Not every bipolar person is considered creative, and every creative is certainly not bipolar; however bipolar disorder, in all its forms, lends itself quite well to those who choose to work within the creative sphere. 

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