Are Creative Brains More Prone to Depression?
Neuroscience has linked mental health disorders and creative minds. Learn how embracing your unique view of the world can help bring your life into balance.
By Esther Rivers / 08.28.2016
Neuroscience shows a link between creativity and mood disorders
Those of us who have experienced depression understand its loneliness, its breathtaking ability to make us feel as if we don’t belong or have no real direction. But science is showing us that there may be more to this frustration than meets the eye. Those with creative brains tend to experience the world in different ways than others.
Evidence is rising to connect creative minds with depression and other mental health issues, but not for the reasons you may think. Though the mad artist and the creative mind have often been associated with mental health problems, science is showing that creatives feel depression due to their brain’s interactions with their environment – not because of their work. Some creative types may feel they are unusually prone to depression, when really we are experiencing quite a natural reaction to the world around us.
Creative brains work on a different level
According to neuroscientist and author of The Creative Brain Nancy Andreasen, less creative types tend to adapt quite quickly to situations and surroundings based on what they have been told by authoritative figures, while those with creative minds experience things quite differently:
“This flexibility permits them to perceive things in a fresh and novel way, which is an important basis for creativity. But it also means that their inner world is complex, ambiguous, and filled with shades of gray rather than black and white. It is a world filled with many questions and few easy answers. While less creative people quickly respond to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority — parents, teachers, pastors, rabbis, or priests — the creative person lives in a more fluid and nebulous world.”
We experience the world with a different viewpoint: we question, ponder, and analyze. This can, unfortunately, lead to feelings of isolation, social alienation, or depression because we are different, and maybe because we feel we are strange or weird. What might seem a ‘normal’ environment, for a creative type, can be stressful and introverted in our complicated approach to society.
We are not alone
Such feelings of isolation are understandable, and there are many people who feel this same way all over the world. We all need to find others like us in order to feel a true sense of belonging.
In the same way that politicians would probably feel uncomfortable and somewhat distressed at a dance school, so too do our creative minds feel disillusioned when it comes to fitting in somewhere we don’t feel we belong. Without the right tools, and the right encouragement and support to aid us in understanding that our differences are what make us special, we can very much begin to give in to the throes of depression.
Embracing your creativity
Andreasen says that there are a few things we should remember when it comes to our creative minds. We must acknowledge our gifts, our talents, and under no circumstance let them go to waste. We need to treasure our talents and nurture them, as if we are tending to a precious garden. If we block out our talents, we are blocking out our true selves, which can lead to severe depression.
We must also embrace our strangeness – because we will likely always seem odd to someone who is less original than we are. Being weird is far more interesting than being normal. And surround ourselves with our people!! Our creativity will flourish, not to mention the fact that we will be loved and supported for exactly who we are.
Andreasen admits that it is far more likely for creative types to be prone to mental illness which comes from “a problem with filtering or gating the many stimuli that flow into the brain.” Some creatives tend to shy from human contact because of highly sensitive personalities. But by understanding and embracing our uniqueness, we are helping to gain some ground in the fight against depression.