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Is there a genetic link between mental illness and creativity?

Posted on 08-19-15 in Mental Health

Is there a genetic link between mental illness and creativity?

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that creativity and some mental illnesses may share similar genetic markers. The results showed that a higher percentage of individuals with bipolar disorder participated in creative professions when compared to the general populations. Writers also were more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than those in other professions.

Researchers looked at genetic components from over 86,000 Icelanders and found genetic variants linked to an increased risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They then looked for these same variants in a group of over 1,000 members of national societies of artists, actors, writers, musicians and dancers in Iceland. Data revealed that those in artistic societies had a 17 percent higher chance of carrying the variants linked with mental illnesses when compared to non-members.

Kari Stefansson, study author and CEO of deCODE, a genomic analysis company, has stated “The results of this study should not have come as a surprise, because to be creative, you have to think differently from the crowd.”

Researchers also used data from four studies that were conducted in Sweden and the Netherlands. The data comprised 35,000 participants, including people who work in creative professions like music, dance, theater, visual arts and writing among others. The results of these studies found that people who worked in these creative professions had a 25 percent higher chance of having a mental illness than those in other professions.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that people in creative professions had higher rates of bipolar disorder diagnoses. Authors, specifically, presented increased chances of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

Stefansson believes that this study suggesting a link between creativity and mental illness can reveal more about how society perceives mental health and genetics: “[The research] means that a lot of the good things we get in life, through creativity, come at a price…It tells me that when it comes to our biology, we have to understand that everything is in some way good and in some way bad.”

While these studies do not define how strongly mental illness defines levels of creativity, the results of this research does indicate a definite link between mental illness and creative professions.

Whether a person with a mental illness is creative or not, if left undiagnosed, mental health disorders can wreak havoc on an individual’s life. Treatment centers like those provided by Sovereign Health Group can help those struggling with mental health issues, addiction and dual diagnosis conditions. We offer a wide array of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs across the country for in need of top-notch care. If you know someone in need of mental health treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding an effective treatment option.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer