Are Addicts and the Mentally Troubled More Creative?

Are Addicts and the Mentally Troubled More Creative?

Are the thoughts in the minds of creative people that lend themselves to creative endeavors also a source of life struggles for writers, painters, musicians and innovators? Research says, yes.

Creativity is often part of a mental illness and addictions with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people. I can attest to that. In my years of active drug use, I was a poet and then a journalist. My writing was always an outlet for underlying frustrations and confusion about “the meaning of life”.  I think we sometimes justify self-medicating because we are somehow “contributing” to the world.

Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found. They were also twice as likely as the general population to self-destruct. The dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.

Troubled minds

  • Novelist Virginia Woolf, who wrote A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse, had depression and drowned herself
  • Fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid, had depression
  • US author and journalist Ernest Hemingway, who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, had depression and killed himself with a shotgun
  • Author and playwright Graham Greene, who wrote the novel Brighton Rock, had bipolar disorder

Statistic show that one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental health problem this year and that these individuals will come from a range of different backgrounds, professions and walks of live. Our main concern is that they get the information and support that they need and deserve.”

Our approach to wellness at Newport Recovery is individualized, which allows for creativity to be channeled in ways that support the treatment process. We recently had an artist who came to us with feelings of hopelessness. We set up a table in her room with art supplies and her favorite books so that during quiet time she could express and embrace her craft while focusing on underlying problems. Her creativity blossomed and she realized that her talents were hers to treasure and cultivate without drugs.


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