Are creative people more anxious and depressed? They might be, but their creativity also makes them more resilient in the face of challenges.
According to research published in Scientific American, artists and writers are up to twenty times more likely to develop bipolar disorder and ten times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population.
Similarly, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence research shows that creative people are more anxious than those in other professions. However, they also seem to cope more successfully with challenges.
One of the reasons artists are more prone to anxiety and depression may be their specific personality traits such as sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. But these personal strengths can make a person more resilient, allowing them to better cope with challenges and recover from adversity.
Researchers believe that emotional vulnerability provides an artist with a unique perspective that allows for increased resilience, given their understanding of the human experience of suffering.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults in the United States each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
At the same time, 264 million people of all ages live with depression globally, as the World Health Organization (WHO) data shows.
It is normal to experience worry, stress, or sadness from time to time. However, consult your doctor if your feelings of apprehension, hopelessness, or despair last for an extended period or interfere with your normal daily activities. Anxiety and depression can be successfully treated in therapy, with medication, or a combination.
The Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness
Several studies conducted over the years have suggested a link between creativity and mental health issues. Their findings indicate that highly creative people are more likely to suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.
Many artists have difficulty managing a hectic lifestyle, constant travel, tight deadlines, and harsh criticism. Such ongoing pressures can sometimes lead to anxiety, self-esteem issues, burnout, and depression.
According to one study from the Office of National Statistics in the UK, people who work in artistic occupations are exposed to a higher risk of suicide.
Many psychologists, however, are skeptical of the direct link between creativity and mental illness. Furthermore, there is mounting scientific evidence that being creative improves our mental and physical health. So, how to use creativity to enhance your mental health?
What are the Mental Health Benefits of Creative Expression?
Embracing your creative energy can actually improve your mental health and overall well-being. Namely, studies show that engaging in creative activities can improve brain function and mental and physical health.
Use Creativity to Set Your Feelings Free
Creativity allows you to express and manage your emotions. Artistic self-expression can aid in the processing of painful experiences and coping with trauma and other intense emotions.
The Role of Sublimation
If you want to protect your mind from primitive urges and socially unacceptable desires that could make you anxious or depressed, you sublimate them. In psychology, this is called an unconscious defense mechanism.
The term was introduced by Sigmund Freud and has since been used to describe a mechanism for transforming unwanted impulses and desires into positive and socially acceptable activities such as sports, art, literature, or other forms of creative expression.
For example, you are furious with someone. But, instead of arguing or doing something harmful, you invest your energy into modeling a sculpture or dancing. With each movement, you are channeling your negative energy into something constructive.
Creativity Can Boost Mood and Reduce Anxiety
Research shows that creativity can alleviate stress and anxiety, improve mood, and promote relaxation. For example, painting, drawing, or dancing to music can make the brain produce more serotonin, reducing the level of stress hormones and easing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Creative Expression Nurtures Confidence
Creating something unique provides a sense of purpose and pride, boosting your self-esteem and confidence. In addition, making something new can help you feel more in control, reducing insecurity and self-sabotaging beliefs.
Creativity Improves Cognitive Function
According to studies, creativity is linked to better brain function, improving learning and memory. There are many ways that creativity can also help to prevent dementia, like building up a reserve of cognitive function and delaying future neurodegeneration.
Additionally, engaging in creative activities can help you stay active, strong, and healthy.
Relying on Your Personality Strengths
So how do you use your personality strengths like being empathetic and sensitive to get over anxiety and depression?
Use Your Intuition
Some of history’s greatest minds, like Albert Einstein, regarded intuition as the highest form of intelligence.
We all have intuition but rarely consciously choose to listen to it. Instead, most people prefer to trust only what appears to be rational.
However, creative people have a stronger sense of intuition. While intellect is related to logic, intuition is linked with creativity. It is also the best way to discover yourself.
Going with your gut can help you listen to your feelings, embrace vulnerability, and accept all your emotions. It can promote self-awareness and lead to better self-knowledge.
Treat Yourself with Self-Compassion
Turn your empathy inward and treat yourself with the same consideration and kindness you would give to a close friend.
For example, it is highly unlikely that you would say to a close friend, “Your artwork is terrible.” No one would ever buy that! ” So, don’t use this rhetoric when speaking to yourself.
We tend to be harsh on ourselves, engaging in negative self-talk and self-judgment, punishing ourselves for our mistakes and failures. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to others. With self-compassion, you can learn to speak to yourself with understanding, support, and care. In the long run, self-compassion leads to a better understanding of shared humanity, more accurate self-conceptions, and more resilience.
Summary: Are creative people more anxious and depressed?
So, are creative people more anxious and depressed?
They may be more likely to suffer from mental illnesses because of their personality traits, job demands, stress, and perfectionism tendencies.
However, research indicates that creativity can be a blessing to your mental health. So, learn how to use your creativity and personal resources to improve your well-being and live a more fulfilled life.
In my online therapy practice, I treat creative professionals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and burnout. Please feel free to get in touch. If I’m not the right fit as your therapist, I can help you find someone who is.