Doing Life Together

LightbulbWhen you contemplate a beautiful work of art by van Gogh, you sense the genius and creativity behind it. What mind envisions such beauty and is able to capture it on a canvas?

Or how about when you read the famous works of Virginia Woolf or Earnest Hemingway. Both were believed to be brilliant, creative and possibly bipolar.

Creativity requires a person  to think out of box. It taxes the mind from moments of what feel like insanity to the sublime.

The line between madness and creativity can sometimes be blurred. Out of that struggle, musicians produce beautiful sonnets and we are awed. Poets touch our hearts and painters create masterpieces like The Scream.  But is there a price to pay for this type of creative brilliance? Perhaps.

A new study tells us that the van Goghs of the world may have traits of bipolar disorder. Researchers assessed children at the age of eight for IQ. These same children were then assessed for  manic traits (used to diagnose bipolar disorder) at the age of 22-23. Those with high verbal IQs scored highest on the manic traits. This suggests that it could be possible that the genes that express creativity and high IQ may also express manic behavior if the environment is right.

Previous studies have also linked bipolar to high IQ and creativity, especially in those fields where verbal skills are used. This doesn’t mean that having a high IQ is dangerous. A high IQ provides many advantages. But it could mean that given the right environment, those risk factors that contribute to the expression of manic genes could be activated and result in bipolar disorder. And if we know the traits to look for early, we may be able to help some people sooner.

So behind every creative genius isn’t a mental illness! But traits of mental illness could be expressed in some creative geniuses who possess risk factors. Like all genetic predispositions, expression takes the right combination of environmental factors. And even then, those traits can be modified.


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