Is there actually a link between creativity and bipolar disorder?


When I was younger, a friend of mine (who I can’t say that I’m currently friends with) told me that there was a fine line between intelligence and insanity.  I think she actually said “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity.”  Although I’m currently using the word “intelligence” because I now know that she was referring to me, and suggesting that I was slowly and awkwardly tipping the scales towards insanity.  I think that there is also a fine line between being “creative” and being just plain “weird.”  I think it’s an admirable thing to firmly be in control of your intelligence or creativity and to be able to do something productive in society with those gifts.

I feel that for most of my life I have been a relatively creative person – good at writing and at one point, good at playing the piano and also drawing in art classes.  Learning other languages always came very natural to me.  I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder since I was 19 years old (I turned 30 last week).  So, is there a link between my mental illness and my self-perceived, as well as suggested by other people, creativity?  I do not know.

I do know that over the past 10 years, the several times that I have stopped taking my medication for bipolar disorder – because I felt that I either did not need it or just did not want to take it – any possibility of being creative vanished into thin air, and I ended up more of a non-functioning, weird individual.

Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University, has written some great books.  I have not read the book in the picture at the top of this post, but I understand the general sentiments that are written in the book.  I have read the book pictured below, shortly after I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I would recommend it for anyone interested in finding out more about mental illness – specifically, bipolar disorder.


There are many people – I’ve been told – who have bipolar disorder and who are quite successful in their chosen career path.

My experience so far – aside from my research and readings – has been in mental health clinics where the majority of clients cannot afford their medicine because of their condition.  Many of these people do not work, and would probably be considered the “bottom rung of society” by people who are fortunate to not have to have this experience.

I know there has to be a middle ground between the wildly successful people with bipolar disorder like Jane Pauley (famous journalist), Robin Williams (famous actor), and even Kay Redfield Jamison (famous Psychologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins Medical School), and the other end (where I’m at right now).  It is this middle ground that I am aiming for.

I graduated from college several years ago with a B.A. degree.  Since then, however, it has been difficult to find a job that I am well suited for and where I do not have anxiety attacks.  Like many other “millenials” in this country, I live with my dad.  He lets me live with him because he knows what I have been through and where I have come from in my life.  I’m grateful that he allows me to live with him.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a link between mental illness and creativity?  Possibly.  But probably no more than the link between creativity and the general population.  And for those people who are creative and who also have bipolar disorder, it is important to have their disorder under control in order to enjoy the benefits of being creative.  That is at least what I think.


6 thoughts on “Is there actually a link between creativity and bipolar disorder?

  1. I really enjoyed reading An Unquiet Mind. I hope it is okay but I shared this article on my FB wall and the Greater Killeen Counselor Network wall. I think you have an amazing story. You are also a very gifted writer.

  2. Pingback: The Long Road… | jennifervandyke

  3. Great Article! There most definitely is a link between bipolar disorder and creativity. I do my best work when I’m in the midst of a bipolar bout.
    I believe its because of our revolving thoughts we are able to explore more ideas and do so more freely than others. I make the best of what could be construed as a bad situation. Keep up the good work!

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