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Highly creative artists & poets, such as Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath, were known to have a mental illness. Previously, studies have relied upon ‘historiometry’ to make statistical correlations between mental illness and creativity. However, is it a conclusive claim that individuals who have mental illness are more likely to be creative? There have been ongoing debates on the nature of creativity and mental illness. Studies, which have employed historiometry, tend to make blind correlations where the effect of a possible ‘third’ factor was controlled or removed. In the light of recent studies, the researchers have discarded the bi-directional approach to understand the relationship between mental illness and creativity bolstered on genetic/molecular biology evidence and also on the types of mental illnesses.
Genetic factors based on empirical evidence have claimed a significant relationship between mental illness and creativity. It was found that the probability of being in a creative profession was related to descending a genetic risk of being schizophrenic or suffering from bipolar disorder. In order to know specific gene variants or functions that are associated with this relationship, Keri suggested looking at gene polymorphism (existence of multiple forms of genes). Researches have indicated that the gene components of dopamine, serotonin, and neuroligin one could help us to understand the connection between creativity and mental illness.
Mental illness, such as schizotypy, mood disorders, and alcohol addiction, has been positively linked to creativity. Schizotypy has two types negative and positive. Negative schizotypy usually associated with fields related to science and mathematics, whereas Positive schizotypy is connected to the field of arts. Coming over to mood disorders, it has been found that creativity is at its peak when there’s an evaluation in thoughts. The studies on Alcoholism suggested that creativity increased only in the early phase of an individual’s career how so ever it had a detrimental effect in their late-career phase.
Building on that, Shelly Carson (2001) proposed that common genetic components of creativity and mental illness are expressed as either psychopathological or creative based on the presence or absence of moderating variables. According to her, three factors are common for mental illness and creativity. The factors are as follows: attenuated latent inhibition, novelty-seeking, and hyper neural connectivity. This model provides a common grounds for mental illness and creativity.
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